Antique library arrives on desktop

March 18, 2004, vol. 29, no. 6
By Diane Luckow

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Imagine browsing through some of man's earliest printed English language books right at your own desk - or anywhere else you choose.

It's as easy as point and click now that the SFU library has access to the early English books online database.

“It's incredible,” says English associate professor Paul Budra. “It's like having a vast, virtual antique library on your desktop. It's a great boon to anyone studying the late medieval period, the Renaissance and beyond.”

Such priceless literature has previously been available only by scrolling through microfilm or by visiting the tomes in person wherever they may reside in the world. Now, SFU students and faculty can view the digital image of each actual page of the approximately 100,000 early English books in the collection - everything from the first books published in English in the late 1470s through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare to 1700. The ability to see exactly how the early books' pages look is useful not only for researchers of English literature but also those in history, philosophy, linguistics, theology, music, fine arts, education, mathematics and science.

“It's like walking into the great rare book collections in the world,” says history associate professor John Craig, who notes that it levels the playing field so that all researchers can easily access thoughts from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

A key feature is the ability to enter in keywords. For instance, enter the word divorce and the database will cite all 68 books in which this word occurs.

To provide this expensive resource, the SFU library joined with some of the members of a consortium of western Canadian university libraries.

To access the database go to antique library.

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