From the U. of Illinois News Center:
Among librarians and booksellers, hymnals and children’s books are infamous for their low survival rate, as a result of overuse and abuse. So when the staff at the University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library found an eight-page unbound copy of the ABCs and common prayers published in 1536 – more than 450 years ago – they immediately ran the title through several international databases to see if any other libraries had a copy. None did.
That meant the lengthily titled little book, “The ABC with the Pater noster Aue, Credo, and .x. comaundementes in Englysshe newly translated and set forth, at the kyngs most gracyouse commandement,” would be sent to the library’s Digital Content Creation lab to be scanned and uploaded to Project Unica, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s initiative to preserve and share books that exist as sole survivors.
Valerie Hotchkiss, the director of the RBML, says the Project Unica website already has more than 280 of these lone volumes online, with more scanned and waiting to be uploaded. She recently opened Project Unica to other university libraries to share their unique books on the site.
She predicts that Project Unica will eventually have more than 2,000 books from Illinois alone – all available free of charge, online, for anyone who wants to see these “supremely rare” items. The ability to share the library’s treasures so generously makes Hotchkiss happy.
“It makes me feel better about security, about preservation, all that,” Hotchkiss said. “And for somebody halfway around the world to have access to these books that exist in only one copy – I think that is terrific.”
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