The Cardiff Rare Books Collection
A further exciting prospect of the Cardiff Rare Books acquisition lies in the opportunities it provides in bringing together rare and unique archival materials into a 21st-century context, in light of recent advances in the digital remediation of cultural artefacts. Issues regarding preservation and accessibility are at the forefront of current debates about literary capital, and are driving policies that are shaping the new canons of the digital age. Cardiff University has had a long-standing record in combining traditional literary scholarship with digital humanities, particularly in a number of research projects based in the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research (CEIR) since its inception in 1997. The Cardiff Rare Books collection will enable CEIR to expand beyond its typical focus on the long nineteenth century and illustrated works, and to apply expertise in bibliography, textual scholarship and digital humanities across a much wider literary corpus in new and transformative ways.
Scholars and archivists are already working to digitise material from the Cardiff Rare Books for easy access by members of the public. As part of a Wolfson Foundation grant to the University Library Service, SCOLAR has purchased two forty-inch touchscreen kiosks and Turning the Pages software to show, in full-colour, some of its oldest and rarest documents. The touchscreens allow readers to ‘touch’ pages of the digitised rare books, so that users can turn the pages in real-life 3D mode, zoom in, magnify images and admire some of the magnificently illustrated books and manuscripts in our collections—which are rarely seen by any but the most serious researchers. Some of the works which can already be read using the devices include a 14th-century music manuscript, a 15th-century illustrated history, a 16th-century Bible, a 17th-century atlas and an 18th-century edition of Shakespeare, complete with its 300-year-old handwritten annotations. This ground-breaking technology, used in Cardiff for the first time ever in Wales, enables the community to discover the fascinating historical research collections in the University Libraries.