DPG makes a categorical distinction between bound and unbound objects primarily because of the different techniques required for digitization. Unbound archival materials are usually straightforward to digitize - they are simply placed on a copy stand and photographed, and sometimes carefully flattened with glass if needed and if safe for the object.
Bound objects, however, pose many additional challenges. Digitization of even seemingly-simple modern and non-fragile bound books is complex because most bindings do not open flat. Fragile pages and bindings and text or information extending deep into tight gutters are among the most common problems, and every bound volume is unique.
DPG has imaging devices and methods specifically developed to handle bound material of most varieties. As with all material types, many factors are considered carefully when deciding a digitization device and approach - including the desired display behavior, the physical characteristics of the item including type of binding, fragility, and so on.
Click on images to see objects in full resolution.
15th-Century Illuminated Manuscript
This is a beautiful example of one of the many ancient, medieval, and early modern manuscripts held by Stanford University Libraries Department of Special Collections that DPG has digitized, many more of which can be seen in the Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern Manuscripts at Stanford Spotlight exhibit.
In most cases, volumes like these can not safely be opened so that both sides lay flat at the same time. The left and right pages are imaged separately and are visually combined in the online viewer. A portion of the facing page is included in the page images so that an individual page image can be viewed on its own while maintaining the visual context of the book, and to ensure that no information is being cut off in the images.
Dante's Divine Comedy and a glimpse at the digitization process for rare books
DPG staff Kylee Diedrich and Abigail Watson digitize this 1491 edition of Dante's Divine Comedy. Digitizing rare books is a meticulous, hands-on process - there is no automation and great care is taken with every page.
Rare Books & Manuscripts
Selections from Department of Special Collections Manuscript Collection and Rare Books Collection digitized by DPG
Cannery Row: Original pencil manuscript
Our approach to digitization is to capture the physicality of the objects as best as possible while primarily ensuring the writing or other content is fully legible and usable.
This object started its life as unbound note paper, and was later hard-bound to help preserve it and to make it more accessible and usable for researchers - but, perhaps losing some of the essence of the original object as Steinbeck knew and handled it.
Digitization is similar - we can't really communicate the physical experience of handling the object, but we do the best we can to convey the physicality while focusing primarily on readability/usability.
Modern history: The Negro Travelers' Green Book
One of the main goals of digitization is to broaden access to items held by Special Collections, and one of the most gratifying aspects of our work in DPG is enabling the sharing, in full, of items like this that help bring history - especially recent history that is still very much relevant today - to life, and not just for researchers, but for the general public as well.
DPG digitized the entire short run of this magazine made by and for Japanese Americans, from the archived papers of James Omura, who was editor of the magazine and later an outspoken critic of Japanese-American internment during World War 2. The final issue, titled "War Edition", still contained general-interest articles about movies and fashion, and came out in February 1942, the same month Executive Order 9066 was signed authorizing internment.
Carolee Schneemann Scrapbook
Carolee Schneemann was an American painter and multimedia artist. Many of her complex, visually interesting, and uniquely-challenging-for-digitization notebooks and scrapbooks have been digitized by DPG. See more: Carolee Schneemann papers
Large Digitization Project: Chinese rare books
DPG digitized a selection of Chinese rare books - 210 volumes from 26 titles from the holdings of the East Asia Library and the Bowes Art & Architecture Library - in a collaboration with the National Central Library of Taiwan (NCL). The selections were digitized over the course of a 6-month project, resulting in over 33,000 individual images.
The Chinese rare books were imaged using the device seen below, here being operated by DPG staff member Abigail Watson. Many bound items can be imaged using this device, which uses two of the same high-resolution camera used on the imaging station seen earlier - capturing both pages at the same time. This very efficient device is not suitable for every bound item, but is gentle enough to be used on many rare and old books. Besides its efficiency, this device's design also lets us image books that would be very difficult or impossible to image otherwise because they are bound tightly or otherwise are difficult to hold open for imaging.
Varied collection, imaged as spreads
This collection, of the planners/diaries and other effects of CIA operative George White, presented a number of challenges including objects stuck inside of the bound items. Because of the way the diaries are bound and because writing frequently extends all the way into the center, we imaged these items as spreads and are presenting them as such. This collection is frequently requested for viewing from Special Collections, making it a great candidate for digitization - it can now be viewed online and handling of the fragile originals is reduced. (Except in rare cases, objects that have been digitized do remain available for in-person study in the Special Collections reading room, including this collection.)
Large Digitization Project: Dime Novels
DPG has digitized over 850 dime novels, at the time of writing, from Stanford Libraries' collection of over 8,000 dime novels. This is part of a large project involving other institutions with similar dime novel collections, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
These items were mass-produced very inexpensively, and those that survived to end up in collections such as Stanford's are very fragile - much more fragile, in fact, than items like medieval manuscripts and other antiquarian materials that DPG handles - and pose many unique challenges to digitization.
Digitization allows access to materials like this that are too fragile to be handled safely for general viewing and research.
Different items within a collection can be displayed together in Searchworks. View all of the issues of Nick Carter Stories that DPG has digitized here. See all of the dime novels that DPG digitized here, including the many newspaper-format story papers.
Note that many dime novels and story papers are extremely dated, and regularly contain racist imagery and text. They are an interesting and valuable window into the unfortunately common attitudes of regular people at the time, being much more raw and unpolished than the literary works of the period that have stood the test of time and are still commonly read today. Dime novels were cheap entertainment for the masses and much like television today, they reflected the attitudes and beliefs of the people who consumed them in great numbers.
Late 19th and early 20th century Asian diaspora books published in San Francisco
Early works by Yone Noguchi
These are the first published works by Yone Noguchi, poet and father to noted sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi.
Noguchi's poems were first published in the San Francisco magazine The Lark, issues 15 and 17. This collection of issues of The Lark was bound together very tightly, making it impossible to image the entire page.
Stanford's copy of Seen & Unseen was gifted by Noguchi to Joaquin Miller, who was a friend to Noguchi - Noguchi lived in a cabin on Miller's estate in the Oakland hills, which is now a park named after Miller.
Book of Chinese folk songs
This book of Chinese folk songs was published in San Francisco in 1915, and features a beautiful cover. Because the binding is very pliable and in good condition, we were able to image the pages as spreads, which we felt in this case better captured the physical object. This book reads right to left (RTL), which is fully supported by the online viewer.
Book with inserted loose items (ephemera)
This book, "The Representative Men of the Philippines", contained several inserted items, possibly used as bookmarks, and a large photo print. When the book was cataloged, the inserted items were removed and housed separately in archival envelopes, but their original positions within the book were noted - so when DPG digitized the book, we were able to place the items back inside the book where they had originally been found. They were also photographed separately and included at the end.
Item with circular/spiral binding
The nature of circular/spiral-bound items allows us to easily image them as a spread (if they are not too large), and we then have the option when cropping the images to do a perfect split down the center - the left and right pages are separate images, but join back together perfectly in the viewer.
This option is unique to circular bindings because of the buffer that the spirals provide - with other items imaged as spreads, such as the George White diaries shown earlier, it is nearly impossible in post-processing to create that perfect split down the middle.
Oversized archival document bound at top
From Stanford University Archives. "Bound object" does not just mean books, and DPG has worked on materials featuring many types of binding.
Bound object that is no longer bound
This sample book of paint colors and designs for locomotives was originally bound, but the binding no longer exists. In most cases we will take the pages out to image one by one, as seen here, rather than leaving them in a stack.
Browse all bound objects: