ProQuest to digitise 70,000 volumes from BnF’s collection of European books as part of Early European Books programme

ProQuest and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) in Paris are joining forces to expand access to the Library’s rich historical treasures. As part of its Early European Books program, ProQuest will digitize about 70,000 volumes from BnF’s collection of European books printed before 1700. The collection, which is world renowned for its breadth and quality, includes 3,000 works printed before 1501, providing researchers with simple, online insight into early European history and culture.

“When we speak to users of Early European Books around the world, the Bibliothèque nationale de France is one of the most-requested sources of content,” said Mary Sauer-Games, ProQuest Vice-President, Information Solutions. “This collection represents centuries of effort to acquire and preserve books on all manner of subjects. It is thrilling for us to be able to work with such a prestigious institution and to make this content easily available to researchers across the globe.”

The BnF’s collection is vast and wide-ranging, containing many rare or obscure texts on subjects from literature and history to science and engineering, from law to aesthetics and art criticism, from politics to philosophy and theology. The books themselves come in many forms, with popular chapbooks (which were widely distributed but rarely preserved) at one end of the spectrum and luxury editions aimed at a wealthy, courtly audience at the other. Landmark works include early editions of French writers such as the poet Clément Marot and the historian Philippe de Commynes; the first editions of major scientific texts including Christiaan Huygens’ Horologium oscillatorium (Paris, 1673) and Pierre de Fermat’s collected works (Toulouse, 1679), among many others. Many important printers and booksellers will be covered by this project, such as Sébastien Cramoisy, Antoine Vitré, Augustin Courbé, Claude Barbin, and the houses of Coignard and Ballard.

The BnF is the fifth major library to participate in ProQuest’s groundbreaking Early European Books. The company launched the initiative with the Danish Royal Library, Copenhagen and the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze in Italy. Digitization operations are currently also underway at the National Library of the Netherlands and at the Wellcome Library in London. In each case, ProQuest has set up a scanning studio on site at the library and uses state-of-the-art technology to create high-definition color images of every page, including the often-lavish bindings and covers.

Through the Early European Books project, ProQuest is building an increasingly comprehensive survey of printing in Europe to 1700 by digitizing and bringing together the holdings of major rare book libraries.

Early European Books collections are available for purchase by libraries worldwide and are delivered via a multilingual interface which allows powerful searching of the detailed indexing, as well as cross-searching of the well-known Early English Books Onlinedatabase, with its facsimiles of 125,000 books printed in English or in the British Isles between 1473 and 1700. Books from the Bibliothèque nationale de France will be included in a number of Early European Books collections, starting with the newly released Collection IV.