Preview: City of Antwerp and Google put more than 100,000 books online

City of Antwerp and Google put more than 100,000 books online

The City of Antwerp and Google signed an agreement to digitise a large portion of the collections of the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library and the Plantin-Moretus Museum. This entails more than 100,000 works from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century that will be made freely accessible in the coming years via Google Books and the library catalogues of both institutions. The books to be scanned are no longer subject to copyright.

"The collection of the Heritage Library is composed of a total of roughly 1.5 million volumes, and is consulted daily in our reading hall by many scientists, students and enthusiasts. The fact that Google will digitise around 85,000 works will greatly increase the findability of our collection and encourage more to consult it. The whole world will quite literally gain access. Of the 85,000 selected books in the Heritage Library, approximately 40,000 were printed abroad: many thousands of books come from France, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom. It not only illustrates the national but also the international dimension of our collection", says An Renard, director of the Heritage Library.

About 22,500 works have been selected for digitisation from the Plantin-Moretus Museum collection. The Plantin-Moretus Museum is the home and printing-publishing house of the Plantin-Moretus printing family. The museum is listed on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Sites list and houses an exceptional art collection, including portraits by Rubens and an ancient print shop. More than 25,000 old prints are kept in the historical libraries and the new depots. "Our venerable library contains not only the most complete collection of Plantin and Moretus prints in the world, but also many rare old European prints. Our collection is therefore invaluable for scientific research. The digitisation will give this research a phenomenal boost. The scanned books will be made full-text searchable: Researchers can search them easily, quickly and specifically. Google will scan both old and modern prints until 1894. Doing so, we are realizing a major catch-up in the digitisation of our collection, one of our major policy objectives", says director Iris Kockelbergh of the Plantin-Moretus Museum.

Antwerp's Alderwoman for Culture Nabilla Ait Daoud acknowledges the importance of this project for the city. "Antwerp has always been a true city of books. As early as the sixteenth century, many printers were active here, with Christophe Plantin at the very pinnacle. He succeeded in becoming the largest publisher in the world. But even throughout the subsequent centuries until today, Antwerp still lives and breathes literature. Consider the many writers, publishers and bookshops that were and still are active in the city. The collaboration with Google Books is a fantastic way to grant the products of all their efforts, our printed heritage, a second digital life."

Google digitises only publications that are no longer subject to copyright. with the exception of everything that has already been digitised in other libraries. "We are the third partner in the Low Countries with which Google collaborates, after the Ghent University Library and the Royal Library of the Netherlands. Across the world, Google has digitised numerous collections, including the university libraries of Stanford, Harvard and Oxford, among others. It is therefore remarkable that tens of thousands of books from our collections can still be added to Google Books", says Renard.

Contact us
Nadia De Vree Perscoördinator Cultuur, Stad Antwerpen
Karen Werkhoven Marketing & communicatie, Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience
About Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library

The Hendrik Consciene Heritage Library offers a quiet place to study and read, right in the city centre. The library has collected and preserved Flemish cultural heritage in manuscript and print spanning more than five centuries, making it a major research library for anyone wishing to dig into Antwerp's history, Dutch en Flemisch literature or the history of Flanders. In the reading room you can request and browse the library's impressive collection totalling more than 1.5 million volumes. These include manuscripts, early editions, historical newspapers and magazines, als well as contemporary books and periodicals up to the most recent publications.

However, the Heritage Library's must-see venue is its historical Nottebohm Room, situated in the oldest part of the library and considered one of the most beautiful library rooms. Besides being a book storage facility and exhibit space, the Room is also the library's treasury where some of the highlights from the collections are kept on permanent display.