The Junius Institute Digitization Initiative

The Junius Institute is pleased to announce its ability to digitize rare books. There are many far-sighted goals for this local digitization initiative. This initiative advances scholarship and critical study of the sources through the public use of early modern works via high quality digital images. Rare book digitization is a key strategic decision for research institutions, archives, and libraries as they grapple with preservation of rare sources and presentation of the same. Digitization allows both. Digitization also transforms a catalog database from a record to a venue. It is an opportunity to present rare book holdings seamlessly in the local library catalog, increasing access and deepening usability, even allowing institutions the ability to efficiently track usage and interest in rare sources. Thirdly, our ability to digitize rare books is a local initiative with global implications for students and scholars everywhere. Given the rise of tablet and mobile computing in developed and developing countries, the presentation of primary sources in a form that is easily accessible for a wide array of devices can form the basis of global institutional collaboration, expediting the goal of fostering a true exchange of learning. These points are not wishful thinking, we have already received requests and suggestions regarding the Post-Reformation Digital Library from universities, institutions, and academies around the world regarding the particular curricular needs of their students and faculty.

Isaac Junius, Antapologia (1640)

There is also the reality that there are treasures of early modern theology and philosophy tucked away in smaller institutions and private collections. A digitization initiative can be scaled to other institutions, archives, and private collections as a way to build a consortium of truly invaluable sources. One example that we are proud to present is a piece by Isaac Junius simply entitled the Antapologia, or thoughts on the 16 heads of the Remonstrants. Through the generosity of a private owner, we are able to make it available to you. According to Worldcat this piece is housed primarily in Europe and, as far as we are aware, is unavailable in digital form for free. We encourage you to take a moment and browse our version of it here. And yes you may download it in .pdf form.

At the core of the digitization project is an automated digital photography device developed over the past 24 months by an interdisciplinary team I had the privilege of spearheading (several specialists in engineering design, robotics, automation, and computer programming). In particular this device expedites the digitization of rare books while respecting the fragility of their age in a new and innovative way. You can see some of its initial results here. The presentation format is another testimony to David Sytsma’s programming wizardry and is the Junius Institute’s adaptation of a publicly available book viewer. Together we hope we have created a process and result that meets the needs of teachers, scholars, and students in a relatively cost-effective way.

Unprecedented access to primary sources through print media once changed the face of education and shaped all of society in early modern Europe. Now we live in an age where unprecedented access to primary sources through digital media is changing the face of education and all of society in ways only dreamed of a decade ago. We invite you to consider a few things. We are looking for individual and institutional partners who are interested in advancing initiatives of this nature. You might think that is way beyond your means or your contact list, but in my experience scholars and students are a creative and innovative bunch of people. You can be a part of this initiative in a variety of ways: (1) You can sign-up to receive our updates and e-mails. (2) You could fully or partially sponsor the digitization of a particular rare book. (3) You can be the link to put us in contact with individuals or institutions that have a similar vision and desire to advance scholarship through digital means.

We look forward to providing you updates on initiatives of this sort as well as displaying the results in the days ahead.

Maney Journals and EEBO

Maney Publishing is offering a free period of two week access to its journals in philosophy and religion. These include Reformation and Renaissance Review, Political Theology, and Reformation. Details here.

So, if you don’t have regular access, take the time now to go get, for instance, Richard A. Muller’s “Not Scotist: Understandings of being, univocity, and analogy in early-modern Reformed thought” from the latest RRR. [Update: You’ll need to sign up to get access to Maney’s journals first at the “details” link above. Then you should have access to RRR content, including Muller’s article.] It won’t be available during the free period, but I’m also the guest editor for a forthcoming issue of RRR on the legacy of the Italian reformer, Peter Martyr Vermigli. So keep a lookout for that.

Also, the Renaissance Society of America has announced that its members will now have full access to EEBO. So for the price of RSA membership, you can get access to this important primary source collection.

Our Informal Anniversary

Our research curator David Sytsma is teaching the doctoral methods course at Calvin Seminary this fall, and he recently passed on that he was discussing the increasing availability of sources that have come to be in the last five years in a recent class session.

He then went digging through some old emails, and found that the original finding list that would grow to become the PRDL, first in wiki and later in the current PRDL 2.0 format, was circulated in October 2008, just over five years ago. You can read more about the transition and development of PRDL in this piece from the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

David, who directs the PRDL project, writes further, “Looking back through the email thread, it was Jordan who suggested on Nov. 7 that we start a wiki and think about forming a digital research center.” So this day a sort of informal five year anniversary for the beginning of the PRDL and now the Junius Institute!

PRDL now covers over 4,500 authors, with listings of more than 85,000 volumes. Take a look at the original finding list to see where it all began, a short five years ago.