Digitizing the Klencke Atlas, one of the world’s largest books

Date:18 May 2017 Author: Nikky Knijf Tags:, ,

Digitizing a book is as easy as scanning it. Yes, there are some considerations if the book is quite thick or worn, but none of these come close to the challenge of digitizing the Klencke Atlas – one of the world’s largest books.

The atlas is named after Professor Johannes Klencke, a teacher of philosophy and son of a Dutch merchant family. Klencke presented it to King Charles II following his restoration to the English throne in 1660. At the time Klencke was representing a consortium of sugar merchants who wished to gain favourable trade agreements with the King.

“And what better gift to give a king than a giant atlas,” writes the British Library. “…its binding bearing tooled symbols of the nations the king claimed as his dominions: England, Scotland, Ireland, and France.”

The Klencke Atlas is a composite atlas, containing 41 copperplate maps. All the maps are rare, writes the British Library, because they were fitted with protective backboards – a practice that was uncommon at the time.

The atlas must have made an impression, because it was placed in the king’s cabinet among his most prized impressions. In the same year Klencke was also made a baronet – a title with no real value other than giving its bearers the ability to use the prefix “Sir”.

Until 2012 it was the world’s largest atlas. (In the same year Millennium House published the bigger Earth Platinum.) When opened, the 350-year-0ld Klencke Atlas measures 176 centimetres in height and 231 centimetres in width. So it’s easy to understand why digitizing it wasn’t easy. The cumbersome atlas was mounted on a very large book stand and captured, page by page, with high-resolution photography. Watch the time-lapse of the process above!

It is available to view online on the British Library’s website, simply click here to browse through the pages.

If you’d like to know more about the history of the Klencke Atlas, watch this video compiled by the BBC. You’ll even see how difficult it is to move the atlas around!

The beauty of maps, featuring the Klencke Atlas

Source: This is Colossal

Images credit: British Library

Video credit: BBC

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