April 22, 2009

United Nations Opens World Digital Library

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and several national libraries have launched the World Digital Library, a website that allows visitors to browse through some of humanity’s earliest written works online.

The site, four years in the making and in seven languages (English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian), provides page-by-page viewing of the original works, scanned in by the national libraries that took part in the project, often with multilingual narration by curators.

Included is a manuscript from ancient Japan that is believed to be the first novel ever; a 1562 map of the New World; the only known copy of the first book published in the Philippines, in Spanish and Tagalog; an 11th-century Serbian manuscript; and the oracle bones — pieces of bone or tortoise shell heated and cracked and inscribed that are among the earliest known signs of Chinese writings.

James H. Billington, the U.S. Librarian of Congress, who heads the project, says the project is ready to expand as other national libraries join in with the 32 libraries and research institutions already involved.

[via Yahoo Tech]

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