How to Digitize a 357-Year-Old Atlas That’s Nearly 6 Feet Tall


Atlas Obscura

May 8, 2017

Archives and libraries are often tasked with digitizing old books in their collections to preserve them and make them more accessible to the public. Most, even very large volumes, fit in scanners created just for books, but what happens when you need to scan one that’s nearly six feet tall? If you’re the British Library, you get creative and set up a special studio to photograph the titanic Klencke Atlas. Two inclined platforms support the sides of the tome, while two people hold up reflectors to evenly illuminate the pages for a camera mounted above. The resulting photographs reveal incredible detail—and some incredible gaps in geographic knowledge in the 17th century, considering much of North America, Australia, and Antartica had yet to be charted when the atlas was completed in 1660.


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