da Vinci’s Notebooks Digitized: For Some Eyes Only

For the first time in 500 years the text of both of Leonardo’s notebooks are available to be viewed side by side. This “electronic reunification” as the Chief Executive of the British Library Lynne Brindley put it of the Codex Leicester, purchased in 1994 for $30.8 million by Bill Gates, and the Codex Arundel which is housed in the British Library, is a product of the British Library program Turning the Pages 2.0.

When viewing the Notebooks with Turning the Pages 2 “people can rotate and move the notebooks on the screen, and turn on a magnifying glass to see the text and schematics close up. The pages turn as they would in real life, lifting and curling as the computer casts dynamically rendered light and shadows upon them.

Sounds amazing.

The catch:

“The program works only in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
It requires underlying technology built into Windows Vista, or available as a downloadable add-on for Windows XP. And people trying to run the program on hardware more than two years old might be out of luck: Among other things, it requires a full gigabyte of memory.”

This is not public access. This is restricted access and a great example of the potential pitfalls when the for-profit sector starts mingling with public archives. How many people with computers will not be able to view this historic display? How much money does MSFT stand to make with the all required upgrades for the people that have to see it? Think about all those da Vinci scholars with 2 year old computers who use Firefox!

As Blogaulaire points out in a comment to one of my recent posts that this is a tricky and complex issue and that without the private sector there wouldn’t be much opportunity for the public sector. “There is great value in the exchange between private persons who take a personal interest in portions of the heritage” “Without people…’leaking’ the knowledge they have gained in the private sector, there is a public that would be left high and dry by the public sector.”

After all Bill Gates is sharing his copy of the codex.

Our challenge then is to find the money for the public sector so that no one is “left high and dry.”

Luckily The British Library still has plenty of great stuff digitized in the Turning Pages 1.0 “for viewing on less-capable machines.”

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