Klencke Atlas KARAccording to a report on document conservation in The Art Newspaper, the British Library is one quarter of the way through one of its biggest digitization projects – literally. The British Library is digitizing the Klencke Atlas, the world’s second largest, and one of some 50,000 maps and atlases formerly owned by King George III. The BL plans to put the whole collection online for open access once the process is complete.

As the call for papers for the upcoming conference on the British Library’s collection, “Transforming Topology,” explains, “the British Library holds the world’s most extensive and important collection of British topographic materials, including George III’s King’s Topographical Collection, currently being re-catalogued. There are hundreds of thousands of images and texts, including unique compilations of prints and drawings, rare first editions, maps, extra-illustrated books, and handwritten notes across the collections: all of which exhibit the broad range of forms and subject matter which topographical material can take. Using the BL’s main online catalogue and typing in ‘George III, views’ will give you a taste of what is available.”

The Klencke Atlas held the title of the world’s biggest atlas until 2012, when it was superseded by a modern publication. It is about 6 ft. 3 in. (1.9 m.) across when opened, and about 5 ft. 9 in. (1.75 m.) high. It has 37 maps on 39 sheets of various continents and countries, and was originally presented to King Charles II in 1660. George III donated it to the British Museum in 1828.

According to the report, much of the digitization work is being funded, not by the British Library itself, but by London’s Daniel Crouch Rare Books, “a specialist dealer in antique atlases, maps, plans, sea charts and voyages.” However, a further £500,000 ($738,815) will be needed to complete the project. A big sum, maybe, but with a big purpose.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.