May 19, 2022

New: “Beautiful Books” Added to Stanford Digital Repository

From ReMix: The Stanford Library Newsletter:

Sixteen volumes selected from among the Libraries’ “beautiful books” were recently added – approximately 1,400 images in all – to the Stanford Digital Repository, where anyone can now view Renaissance artistic visions of the fall of Troy, see the universe as Galileo showed it to his contemporaries, hear Dr. Johnson pitching his idea for the first serious English dictionary, and admire one of the last magnificent examples of the golden age of English fine printing just before WWII.

As with all of Stanford’s rare and antiquarian books, the printed originals of these digitized volumes are cataloged in SearchWorks and can be requested for viewing in the Special Collections reading room. Now, via each item’s PURL (persistent uniform resource locator, which ensures that these materials are available from a single URL over the long term), researchers can work with digital as well as original printed editions. Scholars have discovered, though, that each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and often find it useful to consult both in their work.

Rare books curator John Mustain, who selected items for the repository, explained the origin of the “beautiful books” designation: “In fact, the naming of this project was done without extensive thought and deliberation. The first book scanned, the 1483 edition of Pliny’s letters, was done before the beautiful books project (or its name) had been fully conceived. After the job was finished, a colleague, Stu Snydman (manager of digital production and web application development), told me that the Pliny was a beautiful book, and he suggested that we scan more such items, scan them as a formal project, books with marginalia (as the 1483 Pliny has), books with interesting provenance, books esteemed for their beauty. When I asked him what we would call the project, he answered without pause “Why not ‘beautiful books’?” In this way the project was launched and the name chosen.”

Learn More About the Beautiful Books Project and DIRECT Links to the Digitized Volumes

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.