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Taiwan Finishes Rare Book Digitisation with U.S., U.K. Libraries

The National Central Library of Taiwan (NCL) has completed the digitisation of over 30,000 pages of rare Chinese books in collaboration with the libraries of Oxford University and Stanford University. The cooperation with the Stanford University Libraries focuses on the digitisation of a selection of classic ancient Chinese books and documents in several categories, including Confucian classics, history, philosophy and literature.

A selection of 210 volumes from 26 titles in the holdings of the East Asia Library and the Bowes Art & Architecture Library were digitised by Digital Production Group (DPG) and then delivered to NCL for its Rare Books Database in November to complete the project.

These newly available rare books will be very useful to scholars working on Ming-Qing period scholarship, literature and history. The collaborative digitisation project with the Bodleian Library, the main research library of the University of Oxford, includes a valuable collection of ancient Chinese books and manuscripts, according to the NCL statement.

To replenish Taiwan’s resources for Chinese studies, the national central library has focused on digitising rare books in the collections of libraries abroad by coordinating with foreign libraries. The library has established a bilaterally beneficial international coordination model that helps it gain access to the resources of rare books and documents located abroad. Since the launch of the international digitisation of rare books and documents, the library has digitised 3.2 million pages of important rare Chinese books in 4,700 types.

– Tseng Shu-hsien, Director General, NCL

Since NCL embarked on a collaboration with the Library of Congress of the United States in 2005, it has collaborated with several major libraries and institutions in the world, including the University of Washington Libraries; the Library of the University of California, Berkeley; and Princeton University Library to digitise rare Chinese books and documents in their collections under the international digitisation project. Other libraries that have cooperation ties with NCL include the University of Toronto Libraries, the University British Columbia Library, and Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

These traditional woodblock-printed books are unique and valuable pre-modern Chinese resources. As Professor Ronald Egan, an expert in Chinese pre-modern literature commented on the project, “they belong to a wide range of topics and fields, including local gazetteers, scholarly studies of Chinese classics and historiography, historical phonology, literary collections, and anecdotal works.

This was the first mass digitisation project imaged primarily on equipment that DPG recently acquired from Digital Transitions, called the BC100 Dual Copy System. The BC100 is a book capture system that uses two overhead cameras, a pneumatic glass platen and a book cradle to create FADGI 4 star quality images at efficient production rates.

With production beginning in May of 2020, a goal for this international collaboration was to create a close and accurate estimate of how long it would take to complete digitising the requested selection of books. The team was able to deliver well over the original agreement, providing a total of 33,613 pages ahead of schedule.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, Taiwan is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia. It has sustained a high-growth economy in the past few years, charged by rapid industrialisation and exports. Meanwhile, the digital market and e-commerce are also expanding in Taiwan.

Under the “National Digital Archives Program” and the “National Science and Technology Program for e-Learning”, various kinds of archives are kept in Academia Sinica, the National Palace Museum, National Taiwan University and many other public and private cultural institutions in Taiwan have been digitised. These two Taiwanese programs have successfully integrated the development of different fields in science, humanities, economy, and technology.


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