Zeutschel Scanners Making a Priceless Print Collection Made Timeless

The Bodleian Library is Oxford University’s principle library. Four hundred years old, it is home to many valuable and historic items, among them the John Johnson Collection – a collection of printed ephemera which is widely recognised as one of the most important in the world.

The library was determined to put the contents of the collection online, allowing them to share this invaluable resource with researchers, while conserving it for posterity. A unique partnership was developed between the Bodleian Library, Capita and the online publisher ProQuest, to make it happen.

John Johnson, Zeutschel Scanner

The Solution

The objective was the creation of an online collection of 65,000 items (approx. 150,000 images). The collection spans a vast range of loose and bound printed materials, up to A1 in size, and including posters for theatrical performances, broadsides relating to murders and executions, books, prints and advertisements.

In order to achieve the objective, the originals, in all their varying formats and sizes, needed to be expertly handled and scanned to a high quality of 600dpi x 600dpi without any image interpolation, before being made available to view online. The library, ProQuest and Capita were able to combine their knowledge and expertise to achieve the desired high quality result.

  • The Bodleian Library individually barcoded each item during the cataloguing stage and Capita developed an indexing program which integrated the library’s database and barcodes at the point of scanning, thereby eliminating the risk of indexing errors.
  • Capita arranged the secure weekly transportation of batches of material to one of its secure sites, where they were stored in temperature and humidity-controlled conditions.
  • Using sophisticated and specialist scanning equipment, Capita scanned the entire collection as 24bit colour. All text was captured digitally via OCR (optical character recognition) – a task made more challenging by the fact that text was often presented in different orientations on the same page.

To reflect the sensitive nature of the originals, the process required specialist features including a cold lighting system which minimises exposure to UV, and angled book supports to support bound material during scanning (reducing pressure on book spines). Rigorous QA procedures were also in place.

Today, researchers are able to view 150,000 high quality, fully searchable images of rare and unique materials online which document many aspects of everyday life in Britain over the last three centuries.

The benefits

This partnership delivered a range of benefits to ProQuest and The Bodleian Library including:

Conserving the originals

With access to the collection now online, researchers are less likely to need to see the fragile originals, which helps minimise the risk of damage to them.

Improved reputation

By making access to its collections easier, the Bodleian Library is better serving its users and hence enhancing its reputation.

Key outcomes

  • Specialist high quality colour scanning of 150,000 archive images
  • Digital capture of unique collection for web viewing
  • OCR (optical character recognition) created for each image to facilitate easy, accurate searching for users
  • Barcode recognition facilitates indexing