UBC Library has made its first edition of William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies openly accessible to the public by publishing a digitized version of the volume online through Open Collections. The process to digitize the First Folio took more than a year to facilitate due to the Folio’s age and fragility.
The First Folio arrived at UBC in September 2021 and almost immediately, work with UBC Library’s conservator Anne Lama began in order to plan for its 2D digitization.
“Digitization is not as simple as photocopying a document, especially when it concerns a valuable artefact. There is so much to prepare behind-the-scenes. One step concerns the assessment of the document, and setting it up for safe manipulation, to check that the document can handle the operation without further damage,” says Lama.
While the process took time and required meticulous attention to detail, Robert Stibravy, Digital Projects Librarian at UBC Library, is already looking back on it fondly. “Safely digitizing books, in general, is a very slow process no matter how rare [the volume] is. We move at a speed that takes into account the safety of the material as the primary consideration.”
The digitization of the Folio represents a major milestone in UBC’s digital media plan for the volume and aligns with a mandate to ensure digital access to this rare cultural treasure. “Given the widespread interest in Shakespeare and the First Folio, we wanted to make a beautiful, high-resolution digital version of our copy available for instruction, research, and pure personal enjoyment to people not just here at UBC, but across the globe,” says Chelsea Shriver, Rare Books and Special Collections Librarian at UBC Library.
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