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The British Library, the UK's national library, and Google announced Monday that they had agreed to digitize 170 year's worth of history in 250,000 out-of-copyright books.
Google will cover the costs of the project.
The first works they plan to scan online will "range from feminist pamphlets about Queen Marie-Antoinette (1791) to the invention of the first combustion engine-driven submarine (1858,) and an account of a stuffed Hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange (1775,)" according to the British Library's press statement.
Those are just some of the idiosyncratic details of the collection. But the library notes that the period 1700-1870 saw:
... the French and Industrial Revolutions, The Battle of Trafalgar and the Crimean War, the invention of rail travel and of the telegraph, the beginning of UK income tax, and the end of slavery. It will include material in a variety of major European languages, and will focus on books that are not yet freely available in digital form online.
Once online, the materials will be searchable and downloadable.
Google's exclusive access to some of the collections of U.S. libraries prompted one of the major complaints by public access advocates against its U.S. book scanning efforts.
Those efforts fell apart earlier this year when a federal district court judge rejected the settlement between Google, The Authors' Guild and the Association of American Publishers. The parties have until July 19 to negotiate a new one.
Meanwhile, Google has already finished digitizing the public domain contents of one of the UK's great libraries, Oxford University's Bodleian.