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Rare Book Digitization Project


The holdings of the Rare Book Collection are selectively captured in digital format to support research through broader access to the collection and to advance scholarship without requiring handling of the original in every case.  The Library enables remote access to these digital surrogates through its web site and through the Harvard Library portal in order to highlight and promote its rare and unique materials.   While serious scholarship still requires consultation of the originals in many cases, digital access is anticipated to facilitate new approaches to research and new opportunities for comparison and collaboration.

First Year

In 2012-13 the Library embarked on the first year of a multi-year project to digitize selected rare materials for free access through the web.  In spring 2013 we digitized 14 titles in 35 volumes.

The rare items chosen for our inaugural year vary dramatically in size from the tiny Paintings of flowers, butterflies and insects (4 inches tall with only 8 leaves of plates) to Détail des nouveaux jardins à la mode (21 volumes with some foldouts larger than 30 inches tall).  This online exhibit documents the titles selected in 2013.

Click on a thumbnail image to retrieve a larger image and citation.  Click on the citation to move directly into the HOLLIS catalog.  Each HOLLIS record provides an “Internet Link” to the digital copy where it can be browsed from cover to cover, or where focused study can be expedited through the use of page sequencing at the left of each screen.  Exceptional magnification possibilities can be used to examine details of each page.


Exhibit Items

Document Actions

Rare Book Collection

The Rare Book Collection is available by appointment only

Monday to Friday
9:30 a.m.12:30 p.m. and
2:00 p.m.–4:30 p.m.

Closures in 2014–15
December 24–31, 2014
January 1–4, 2015
January 19
February 16
May 8
May 25
July 3–4
September 7
October 12
November 11
November 26