Web Magazine for Information Professionals

ILEJ: Internet Library of Early Journals

Hugh Wellesley-Smith turns back the clock with a description of the Internet Library for early journals digitisation project.

The Internet Library of Early Journals (ILEJ) project aims to offer expanded access over the Internet to digitised page images of substantial runs of out of copyright 18th and 19th century journals and to evaluate them in terms of use and acceptability. A part of the eLib Digitisation Programme, the project has been funded for 2 years starting on 1 January 1996. It is being run by a consortium of 4 institutions - the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the John Rylands University Library of Manchester and the University Libraries of Leeds and Birmingham. Oxford and Leeds are the joint lead sites.

The journals to be digitised are three 18th century titles: the Gentleman's Magazine, the Annual Register and the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society; and three 19th century titles: Notes and Queries, The Builder and Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. The initial aim is to digitise at least 20 consecutive year runs of each title to provide a critical mass of material. This may be expanded to include longer runs and/or other titles within the available resources.

The project will explore various aspects of the digitisation, retrieval and display processes. Both paper originals, using the recently available PS3000 Minolta scanner, and existing microfilm copies will be used for image creation. One of the challenges of the project will be how best to digitise material of the age of these journals. Preliminary investigations have already revealed problems resulting from show-through, foxing, page alignment and variable type face weight. The project will provide an opportunity to assess the effects of resolution, data compression and the use of black/white and grey scales on problems like these.

Much improved indexing will result from using OCR'd full-text with fuzzy matching software, existing electronic indexes and the creation of electronic versions of printed indexes. Access to the material will be provided via the World Wide Web, with Leeds hoping to use newly released Excalibur EFS WebFile software. Once material is available on the Internet, evaluation of the project will start and will include the collection of feedback from users in the four metropolitan areas and elsewhere and also from voluntary reference groups.

The project maintains a Web Site at http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ilej/ which, amongst other things, contains contact details.