Hidden treasures at National Library of Medicine
“The 175-year-old National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Md., is best known these days for its PubMed database, the pre-eminent digital catalog of the biomedical literature. But like many digital giants, the library has its dusty analog past — otherwise known as a closet full of stuff.
“Many of the 450 color prints in ‘Hidden Treasure’ record the efforts of generations of anatomists to recreate the body in two-dimensional printable form. In 1543, the great Vesalius thought a pair of statuesque paper dolls might do the trick; his readers could cut out little paper organs and paste them in the right places. An 1835 British obstetric text used paper flaps instead, with one set coyly tracing the progress of a pregnancy under a woman’s dress; at the end of the volume, a pair of pop-up hands performs a forceps delivery.
“Fifty years later American students could flip open dozens of doors on a life-size cardboard manikin and pretend to dissect or, if they preferred, to operate. Opening still other doors illuminated the disastrous effects of alcohol, narcotics and tight corsets on the human body.”
From Abigail Zuger’s article in the New York Times, Art and Artistry of Our Anatomy
Books can learn, too
“Books are very different objects than buildings, because they embody human purposes in very different ways. We see the hand of the architect in a building, and discern her mind, but books seem, to many of us anyway, to have a more intimate relation to human consciousness. We are usually more sensitive to authors’ intentions than to those of architects. (Whether that should be the case is another story.) All that said, books had to learn too and always have. Homer’s epics had to learn Roman ways: Virgil taught them. Sophocles’ Antigone had to realize, during World War II, that it was fundamentally about the French Resistance. The novels of Jane Austen, written as popular entertainment, have been shoehorned into academic contexts, and have been recalcitrant and slow learners, always insisting on being sources of delight. And don’t get me started on the Bible and Shakespeare.
“Viewed in this context, electronic reading is simply another stage in the education of books, and maybe not one of the more eventful ones. Of course, that will depend on what we mean by ‘book.‘”
From Alan Jacobs’ article in The Atlantic, How Books Learn
Ebooks now the most popular format for adult fiction
“Print books still dominate, but ebooks made up 15 percent of all trade book sales in 2011. That’s one finding from BookStats 2012, a new report from the Association of American Publishers and Book Industry Study Group. In addition, digital is now the most popular format for adult fiction — making up 30 percent of sales in that category in 2011 and beating individual print formats like hardcover and paperback. Despite the massive growth of digital, though, bricks-and-mortar stores are still the largest sales channel for publishers.”
From Laura Hazard Owen’s article in paidContent, Ebook sales way up in 2011; overall trade sales roughly flat
British Library and Qatar Foundation announce digitization project to transform our understanding of Middle Eastern history
“The £8.7 million project was announced this morning at the British Library’s flagship building in St Pancras, London. Its plans will digitise more than 500,000 pages from the archives of the East India Company and India Office, in addition to 25,000 pages of medieval Arabic manuscripts – all of which will be made freely available online for the first time.
“The digitisation will take place over the next three years at the British Library, in close cooperation with the new Qatar National Library, and much information will be available in both Arabic and English. Once live, the site will also offer users the opportunity to add their own Gulf-related stories and memories, enabling them to contribute to the online resource, whether by sharing images of mementoes and old photographs, or by recounting the stories their grandparents once told them. In this way, historical items from living memory will be added to the archive of items dating back several centuries.
“The project also encompasses the digitisation of thousands of pages of medieval manuscripts that demonstrate the significant influence of Islamic scholars in the fields of science, medicine, mathematics and geometry. Together, these resources will illuminate centuries of fascinating Arab history and culture and massively boost understanding of the rapidly-changing Gulf region and its place on the world stage.”
From the British Library’s press release, Transforming our understanding of Middle Eastern history: The British Library and Qatar Foundation unveil project to digitise half a million pages of archive material