Dan Freidus forwarded these thoughts about a new e-book reader from the University of Michigan intended to allow a more natural online reading experience for rare books. It's called PictureIt, and the debut e-book is
Volume 1 of Audubon's Birds of America
Modeled on similar projects at The British Library and the National Library of Medicine, our "PictureIt" site puts some of the most beautiful and sought‐after items in our collections into the hands of readers worldwide -
The first of our treasures accessible in this way is volume one of John James Audubon's Birds of America. Our
eight‐volume, double‐elephant folio edition of Audubon's magnificent work was the first purchase by the Regents for the University Library. The Regents paid $970 - an extraordinary expenditure in 1838 - for the set, a
significant act of faith for a university that had yet to offer a single class or construct its first building.
I have mixed feelings about it. It's nice to let more people have access to a rare book. (In this case, there are only about 120 sets
extant). But it's nothing like seeing the book. In fact, I find Pittsburgh's own presentation of the same images to be more useful.
And neither compare to the weekly visits I made to the Amherst College Library's Special Collections to see the next page. Of course, even over 4 years I didn't get a chance to see all 435 plates. Eight years of grad school should been enough to see the remainder but I don't think I knew that Michigan also owned a set and they didn't have it on view back then.
To read Birds of America with PictureIt, see:
PictureIt Rare Book Reader
To see the University of Pittsburgh presentation, see:
Audubon's Birds of America
Wayne Homren, Editor
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