As SFU celebrates 50 years in 2015, it will also mark a much earlier historical milestone—the 500th anniversary of famed Venetian printer Aldus Pius Manutius’ death.
The books are from SFU’s Wosk-McDonald Collection. It contains more than 130 Renaissance-period books printed by Manutius from both classical and contemporary writers such as Homer, Pindar, Cicero, Euripides, Ovid, Plutarch, Aesop, Martial and Sophocles written in Latin, Greek and Italian.
“The first fifty years of printing, from Gutenberg on, books were great big things,“ explains John Maxwell, professor, Publishing@SFU. “You don’t carry something like the Gutenberg Bible, which measured 40 centimetres by 30 centimetres. You have to put it on a lectern or a desk.
“Manutius popularized and perfected the idea that books can be pocket-sized and held with one hand. He made the book mobile and portable, and really introduced scholarship and literacy to a much wider range of people.”
For example, the age and fragility of the Wosk-McDonald Collection requires it to be permanently housed in a climate-controlled room at W.A.C. Bennett Library and unavailable for viewing.
“By ‘digitizing’ them, we are making these books public for the first time in centuries,” says Maxwell.
Digitizing will take place throughout July using a specially-designed scanner. The book rests on a 30-degree cradle and a glass pane holds the pages open while two DSLR cameras above “scan” the book, taking high quality photographs.
The project is expected to launch online in August 2015 as part of the annual Public Knowledge Project conference, August 11 – 15 in Vancouver.
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