THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Digital scholarship blog

7 posts categorized "Rare books"

24 January 2017

Publication of Quarterly Lists: Catalogues of Indian Books

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The Two Centuries of Indian Print project is pleased to announce the online availability of some wonderful catalogues held by the library, generally known as the Quarterly Lists. They record books published quarterly and by province of British India between 1867 and 1947.

Digitised for the first time, the Quarterly Lists can now be accessed as searchable PDFs via the British Library's datasets portal, data.bl.uk. Researchers will be able to examine rich bibliographic data about books published throughout India, including the names and address of printers and publishers, publication price and how many copies were sold.

 

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Our next steps will be to OCR the Quarterly Lists to create ALTO XML for every page, which is designed to show accurate representations of the content layout. This will allow researchers to apply computational tools and methods to look across all of the lists to answer their questions about book history. So if a researcher is interested in what the history of book publishing reveals about a particular time period and place, we would like to make that possible by giving them full access to this dataset.

To get to this point however, we will have to overcome the layout challenge that the Quarterly Lists present. Across all of the lists we have found a few different layout styles which are rather tricky for OCR solutions to handle meaningfully. Note for instance how the list below compares to the one from the Calcutta Gazette above. Through the Digital Research strand of the project we will be seeking out innovative research groups willing to take a crack at improving the OCR quality and accuracy of tabular text extraction from the Quarterly Lists. 

The Quarterly Lists available on data.bl.uk are out of copyright and openly licensed for reuse. If you or anyone you know are interested in using the Quarterly Lists in your research or simply want to find out more about them, feel free to drop me an email; Tom.Derrick@bl.uk or follow more about the project @BL_IndianPrint

You can read more about the history of the Quarterly Lists, in a previous blog I wrote last year.

03 November 2016

Quarterly Lists: Digitally Researching Catalogues of Indian Books

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As well as digitising rare early printed Indian books, the Two Centuries of Indian Print project is making available online some wonderful catalogues held by the library, generally known as the Quarterly Lists, recording all books published quarterly and by province of British India between 1867 and 1947.

The catalogues will complement the Bengali printed books and I’d like to use this blog to share a bit more about what the Quarterly Lists are and what we are doing to make them as accessible as possible for researchers of book history who want to apply digital research methods to explore their rich contents.

Firstly, a little more about the origins of these catalogues. With the passing of The (Indian) Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 it became mandatory for all books published in provinces of British India to be sent to the provincial secretariat library for registration.  Both the India Office Library and the British Museum Library in London, later to be united in the British Library’s collection, were separately given the privilege of requesting books from these lists free of charge in what amounted to a colonial legal deposit arrangement. The act was passed with the aim of recording the ever growing number of publications originating from the various printing presses throughout India, its purpose political as well as archival.  Not all works that issued from the presses were recorded in the lists and only a small percentage were actually deposited in the London collections.  The library curators in London selected only those works which they thought were important or interesting.  The Quarterly lists were originally published as appendices in the official provincial newspapers, such as the Calcutta Gazette (below).

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Although Independence brought an end to the arrangement for depositing publications with the India Office Library and British Museum Library, the practice of publishing catalogues of registered printed books continued until the late 1960s.

Now digitised for the first time, the Quarterly Lists will be made available as searchable PDFs via the British Library's new datasets portal, data.bl.uk, in November. Researchers will be able to examine a rich bibliographic data about books published throughout India, including the name and address of printers and publishers. If you are interested in accessing this collection please contact Tom.Derrick@bl.uk

Our next steps will be to OCR the Quarterly Lists to create ALTO XML for every page, which is designed to show accurate representations of the content layout. This will allow researchers to apply computational tools and methods to look across all of the lists to answer their questions about book history. So if a researcher is interested in what the history of book publishing reveals about a particular time period and place, we would like to make that possible by giving them full access to this dataset.

To get to this point however, we will have to overcome the layout challenge that the Quarterly Lists present. Across all of the lists we have found a few different layout styles which are rather tricky for OCR solutions to handle meaningfully. Note for instance how the list below compares to the one from the Calcutta Gazette above. Through the Digital Research strand of the project we will be seeking out innovative research groups willing to take a crack at improving the OCR quality and accuracy of tabular text extraction from the Quarterly Lists. 

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If you or anyone you know are interested in using the Quarterly Lists in your research or simply want to find out more about them, feel free to drop me an email; Tom.Derrick@bl.uk or follow more about the project @BL_IndianPrint

 

04 July 2016

Two Centuries of Indian Print: Enhancing Scholarly Research

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Tom Derrick will be working as a Digital Curator within the Digital Research Team at the British Library on a project titled ‘Two Centuries of Indian Print’. This project will digitise rare Bengali printed books and provide opportunities for innovative research at the intersection of Digital Humanities and South Asian studies. He Tweets @tommyid83, and can also be contacted by email at Tom.Derrick@bl.uk.

 

Only a week into my new role I can already see the benefits of the work that the digital research team delivers. I attended a fascinating presentation of the two latest BL Lab award-winning projects. I was impressed to see how young researchers are collaborating with the digital research team here to find innovative methods to open up new avenues for their own research as well as for other academics and the general public.      

I have joined the British Library from a digital publisher of historical primary sources and am excited to use my experience engaging with researchers to facilitate academic interrogation of the Two Centuries of Indian Print project data. This two-year pilot will make, freely available online, digitised Bengali books drawn from the extensive South Asian printed book collection at the British Library along with a selection from SOAS. The books digitised as part of the pilot will span 1801-1867, the bulk of which are religious tracts. It is part of a wider initiative by the British Library to catalogue and make available printed Indian books in 22 South Asian languages, covering 1714-1914.

 Ab_Haval  Ab haval, a poetical account in Gujarati on the disastrous floods at Ahmadabad, 1875

 

Over the course of the next two years, I'll be engaging with researchers, particularly in the fields of South Asian studies and Digital Humanities, to explore the opportunities and challenges involved in applying digital research methods and tools to this newly digitised collection. A key area I'll be looking at is how to ensure the metadata and digitised text produced will cater to the needs and interests of an academic community interested in performing large-scale data analysis. This will involve finding an optimal solution to making the Bengali script machine readable so the full text can be searched and ‘mined’ by researchers. We'll also be developing a series of workshops to provide academics and professionals from Indian institutions, particularly the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector, to gain new skills to support digital research.  

Sanskrit_Hymn_2 Illustration from an early printed edition of the Adityahṛdayam, a devotional hymn in Sanskrit to the Sun God, seen here on his chariot drawn by seven horses, Bombay, 1862

 

It is a privilege to be here working for the British Library, an institution I have always admired for its mission and core values and I am proud to support that continued effort through stimulating an international community of researchers to access what will prove to be a fascinating collection. We’ll be posting further blogs describing the progress of the project, so watch this space! If you have any questions about the project or ideas relating to innovative use of the collection, please do email me at Tom.Derrick@bl.uk

28 January 2016

Book Now! Nottingham @BL_Labs Roadshow event - Wed 3 Feb (12.30pm-4pm)

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Do you live in or near Nottingham and are available on Wednesday 3 Feb between 1230 - 1600? Come along to the FREE UK @BL_Labs Roadshow event at GameCity and The National Video Game Arcade, Nottingham (we have some places left and booking is essential for anyone interested) and:

 

BL Labs Roadshow in Nottingham - Wed 3 Feb (1200 - 1600)
BL Labs Roadshow at GameCity and The National Video Game Arcade, Nottingham, hosted by the Digital Humanities and Arts (DHA) Praxis project based at the University of Nottingham, Wed 3 Feb (1230 - 1600)
  • Discover the digital collections the British Library has, understand some of the challenges of using them and even take some away with you.
  • Learn how researchers found and revived forgotten Victorian jokes and Political meetings from our digital archives.
  • Understand how special games and computer code have been developed to help tag un-described images and make new art.
  • Find out about a tool that links digitised handwritten manuscripts to transcribed texts and one that creates statistically representative samples from the British Library’s book collections.
  • Consider how the intuitions of a DJ could be used to mix and perform the Library's digital collections.
  • Talk to Library staff about how you might use some of the Library's digital content innovatively.
  • Get advice, pick up tips and feedback on your ideas and projects for the 2016 BL Labs Competition (deadline 11 April) and Awards (deadline 5 September). 

Our hosts are the Digital Humanities and Arts (DHA) Praxis project at the University of Nottingham who are kindly providing food and refreshments and will be talking about two amazing projects they have been involved in:

ArtMaps: putting the Tate Collection on the map project
ArtMaps: Putting the Tate Collection on the map

Dr Laura Carletti will be talking about the ArtMaps project which is getting the public to accurately tag the locations of the Tate's 70,000 artworks.

The 'Wander Anywhere' free mobile app developed by Dr Benjamin Bedwell.
The 'Wander Anywhere' free mobile app developed by Dr Benjamin Bedwell.

Dr Benjamin Bedwell, Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham will talk about the free mobile app he developed called 'Wander Anywhere'.  The mobile software offers users new ways to experience art, culture and history by guiding them to locations where it downloads stories intersecting art, local history, architecture and anecdotes on their mobile device relevant to where they are.

For more information, a detailed programme and to book your place, visit the Labs and Digital Humanities and Arts Praxis Workshop event page.

Posted by Mahendra Mahey, Manager of BL Labs.

The BL Labs project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

22 January 2016

BL Labs Competition and Awards for 2016

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Today the Labs team is launching the fourth annual Competition and Awards for 2016. Please help us spread the word by tweeting, re-blogging and telling anyone who might be interested about it!

British Library Labs Competition 2016

The annual Competition is looking for transformative project ideas which use the British Library’s digital collections and data in new and exciting ways. Two Labs Competition finalists will be selected to work 'in residence' with the BL Labs team between May and early November 2016, where they will get expert help, access to the Library’s resources and financial support to realise their projects.

Winners will receive a first prize of £3000 and runners up £1000 courtesy of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation at the Labs Symposium on 7th November 2016 at the British Library in London where they will showcase their work.

The deadline for entering is midnight British Summer Time (BST) on 11th April 2016.

Labs Competition winners from previous years have produced an amazing range of creative and innovative projects. For example:

(Top-left)  Adam Crymble's Crowdsource Arcade (Bottom-left) Katrina Navickas' Political Meetings Mapper and (Right) Bob Nicholson's Mechanical Comedian.
(Top-left) Adam Crymble's Crowdsource Arcade and some specially developed games to help with tagging images
(Bottom-left) Katrina Navickas' Political Meetings Mapper and a photo from a Chartist re-enactment 
(Right) Bob Nicholson's Mechanical Comedian

A further range of inspiring and creative ideas have been submitted in previous years and some have been developed further.

British Library Labs Awards 2016

The annual Awards, introduced in 2015, formally recognises outstanding and innovative work that has been carried out using the British Library’s digital collections and data. This year, they will be commending work in four key areas:

  • Research - A project or activity which shows the development of new knowledge, research methods, or tools.
  • Commercial - An activity that delivers or develops commercial value in the context of new products, tools, or services that build on, incorporate, or enhance the Library's digital content.
  • Artistic - An artistic or creative endeavour which inspires, stimulates, amazes and provokes.
  • Teaching / Learning - Quality learning experiences created for learners of any age and ability that use the Library's digital content.

A prize of £500 will be awarded to the winner and £100 for the runner up for each category at the Labs Symposium on 7th November 2016 at the British Library in London, again courtesy of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The deadline for entering is midnight BST on 5th September 2016.

The Awards winners for 2015 produced a remarkable and varied collection of innovative projects in  Research, Creative/Artistic, Entrepreneurship categories and a special Jury's prize:

(Top-left) Spatial Humanities research group at the University Lancaster,  (Top-right) A computer generated work of art, part of  'The Order of Things' by Mario Klingemann,  (Bottom-left) A bow tie made by Dina Malkova  and (Bottom-right) work on Geo-referenced maps at the British Library that James Heald is still involved in.
(Top-left) Spatial Humanities research group at the University Lancaster plotting mentions of disease in newspapers on a map in Victorian times,
(Top-right) A computer generated work of art, part of 'The Order of Things' by Mario Klingemann,
(Bottom-left) A bow tie made by Dina Malkova inspired by a digitised original manuscript of Alice in Wonderland
(Bottom-right) Work on Geo-referencing maps discovered from a collection of digitised books at the British Library that James Heald is still involved in.
  • Research: “Representation of disease in 19th century newspapers” by the Spatial Humanities research group at Lancaster University analysed the British Library's digitised London based newspaper, The Era through innovative and varied selections of qualitative and quantitative methods in order to determine how, when and where the Victorian era discussed disease.
  • Creative / Artistic:  “The Order of Things” by Mario Klingemann involved the use of semi-automated image classification and machine learning techniques in order to add meaningful tags to the British Library’s one million Flickr Commons images, creating thematic collections as well as new works of art.
  • Entrepreneurship: “Redesigning Alice” by Dina Malkova produced a range of bow ties and other gift products inspired by the incredible illustrations from a digitised British Library original manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground by Lewis Carroll and sold them through the Etsy platform and in the Alice Pop up shop at the British Library in London.
  • Jury's Special Mention: Indexing the BL 1 million and Mapping the Maps by volunteer James Heald describes both the work he has led and his collaboration with others to produce an index of 1 million 'Mechanical Curator collection' images on Wikimedia Commons from the British Library Flickr Commons images. This gave rise to finding 50,000 maps within this collection partially through a map-tag-a-thon which are now being geo-referenced.

A further range of inspiring work has been carried out with the British Library's digital content and collections.

If you are thinking of entering, please make sure you visit our Competition and Awards pages for further details.

Finally, if you have a specific question that can't be answered through these pages, feel free to contact us at labs@bl.uk, or why not come to one of the 'BL Labs Roadshow 2016' UK events we have scheduled between February and April 2016 to learn more about our digital collections and discuss your ideas?

We really look forward to reading your entries!

Posted by Mahendra Mahey, Manager of British Library Labs.

The British Library Labs project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

 

12 November 2015

The third annual British Library Labs Symposium (2015)

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The third annual BL Labs Symposium took place on Monday 2nd November and the event was a great success!

The Labs Symposiums showcase innovative projects which use the British Library's digital content and provide a platform for development, networking and debate in the Digital Scholarship field.

The videos for the event are available here.

This year’s Symposium commenced with a keynote from Professor David De Roure, entitled “Intersection, Scale and Social Machines: The Humanities in the digital world”, which addressed current activity in digital scholarship within multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary frameworks.

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 Professor David De Roure giving the Symposium keynote speech

Caroline Brazier, the Chief Librarian of the British Library, then presented awards to the two winners of the British Library Labs Competition (2015) – Dr Adam Crymble and Dr Katrina Navickas, both lecturers of Digital History at the University of Hertfordshire.  

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(L-R): Caroline Brazier, Chief Librarian; Competition winners Katrina Navickas and Adam Crymble; Dr Adam Farquhar, Head of Digital Scholarship 

After receiving their awards, it was time for Adam and Katrina to showcase their winning projects.

Adam’s project, entitled “Crowdsourcing Arcade: Repurposing the 1980s arcade console for scholarly image classification”, takes the crowdsourcing experience off the web and establishes it in a 1980s-style arcade game.

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Presentation by Dr Adam Crymble, BL Labs Competition (2015)  winner 

Katrina’s project, “Political Meetings Mapper: Bringing the British Library maps to life with the history of popular protest”, has developed a tool which extracts notices of meetings from historical newspapers and plots them on layers of historical maps from the British Library's collections.

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Presentation by Dr Katrina Navickas, BL Labs Competition (2015)  winner 

After lunch, the Symposium continued with Alice's Adventures Off the Map 2015 competition, produced and presented by Stella Wisdom, Digital Curator at the British Library. Each year, Off the Map challenges budding designers to use British Library digital collections as inspiration to create exciting interactive digital media.

The winning entry was "The Wondering Lands of Alice", created by Off Our Rockers, a team of six students from De Montfort University in Leicester: Dan Bullock, Freddy Canton, Luke Day, Denzil Forde, Amber Jamieson and Braden May.

 

Video: Alice's Adventures Off the Map 2015 competition winner 'The Wondering Lands of Alice'

This was followed by the presentations of the British Library Labs Awards (2015), a session celebrating BL Labs’ collaborations with researchers, artists and entrepreneurs from around the world in the innovative use of the British Library's digital collections.

The winners were: 

BL Labs Research Award (2015) – “Combining Text Analysis and Geographic Information Systems to investigate the representation of disease in nineteenth-century newspapers”, by The Spatial Humanities project at Lancaster University: Paul Atkinson, Ian Gregory, Andrew Hardie, Amelia Joulain-Jay, Daniel Kershaw, Cat Porter and Paul Rayson.  

The award was presented to one of the project collaborators, Ian Gregory, Professor of Digital Humanities at Lancaster University.

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Professor Ian Gregory  receiving the BL Labs Research Award (2015), on behalf of the Spatial Humanties project, from Dr Aquiles Alencar-Brayner

 

BL Labs Creative/Artistic Award (2015) – “The Order of Things” by Mario Klingemann, New Media Artist.

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Mario Klingemann receiving the BL Labs Creative/Artistic Award (2015) from Nora McGregor

  

BL Labs Entrepreneurial Award (2015) –“Redesigning Alice: Etsy and the British Library joint project” by Dina Malkova, designer and entrepreneur.

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Dina Malkova receiving the BL Labs Entrepreneurial Award (2015) from Dr Rossitza Atanassova

 

Jury’s Special Mention Award – “Indexing the BL 1 million and Mapping the Maps” by James Heald, Wikipedia contributor.

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James Heald receiving the Jury's Special Mention Award (2015) from Dr Mia Ridge

The Symposium concluded with a thought provoking panel session, “The Ups and Downs of Open”, chaired by George Oates, Director of Good, Form & Spectacle Ltd. George was joined by panelists Dr Mia Ridge, Digital Curator at the British Library, Jenn Phillips-Bacher, Web Manager at the Wellcome Library, and Paul Downey, Technical Architect at the Government Digital Service (GDS). The session discussed the issues, challenges and value of memory organisations opening up their digital content for use by others. 

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Panel session (L-R): George Oates; Jenn Phillips-Bacher; Paul Downey; Mia Ridge

The BL Labs team would like to thank everyone who attended and participated in this year’s Symposium, making the event the most successful one to date – and we look forward to seeing you all at next year’s BL Labs Symposium on Monday 7th of November 2016!

Posted by Mahendra Mahey, Manager of British Library Labs.

The British Library Labs Project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

05 October 2015

British Library Labs Symposium (2015)

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The BL Labs team are excited to announce that the third annual British Library Labs Symposium (2015) is taking place on Monday 2nd November 2015, from 09:30 –17:00 in the British Library Conference Centre, St Pancras. The event is free, although you must book a ticket. Don’t delay, as last year’s event was a sell out!

The Symposium showcases innovative projects which use the British Library’s digital content, and provides a platform for development, networking and debate in the Digital Scholarship field.

This year, Dr Adam Farquhar, Head of Digital Scholarship at the British Library, will launch the Symposium. This will be followed by a keynote from Professor David De Roure, Professor of e-Research at the University of Oxford and Director of the Oxford e-Research Centre. The British Library’s Chief Librarian, Caroline Brazier, will then present awards to the two British Library Labs Competition (2015) winners, who will follow with presentations on their winning projects.

After lunch, Stella Wisdom, Digital Curator at the British Library, will announce the winners of the Alice’s Adventures Off the Map competition, which challenged budding designers to use British Library digital collections as inspiration in the creation of exciting interactive digital media.

Following, the winners will be announced of the British Library Labs Awards (2015), which recognises projects that have used the British Library’s digital content in exciting and innovative ways. Presentations will be given by the winners in each of the Awards’ three categories: Research, Creative/Artistic and Entrepreneurial.  

The afternoon will end with a thought provoking panel session discussing the issues of opening up digital content for memory organisations, chaired by George Oates, Director of Good, Form & Spectacle Ltd.

The Symposium will conclude with a networking reception in the Chaucer and Foyer area.

Don’t forget to book your place for the Symposium today!

For any further information, please contact labs@bl.uk

Posted by Mahendra Mahey, Manager of British Library Labs.

The British Library Labs Project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.