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University of Oxford
Director of University Library Services and Bodley's Librarian

From Gutenberg to Google: the case of the Bodleian Library, Oxford

Presentation to the Union League of Philadelphia, 18 October 2005

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From Gutenberg to Google

Portrait of Johann Gutenberg

Johann Gutenberg's use of movable type, in 1454, to print his magnificent 42-line Bible proved to be a seminal moment in human history. From that day to this, the printed book remains one of the key technologies of all time, and belongs right up there with the invention of the wheel in antiquity, and the microchip in modern times.

Bodley miniature

Over a century after Gutenberg, in 1598, the Elizabethan diplomat Thomas Bodley began to refound Oxford's University Library at his own expense; and by that time several generations had already experienced the social and religious upheavals brought about the explosion of the printed word; the Roman Catholic Church had been shaken to its foundations by the Protestant Reformation; and the ground had been laid for the flowering of new learning that we now know as the Enlightenment.

Born in 1545 into a zealous English Protestant family, the young Thomas Bodley experienced at first hand those first effects of the Gutenberg revolution.

Portrait of 'Bloody Mary'

Thomas's Bodley's father John was one of the leaders of the Reformation in England; and when Roman Catholicism was briefly restored in 1553 by Queen 'Bloody Mary', John Bodley was forced to flee from persecution to the safety of Protestant Geneva. And it was there, in Geneva, that the young Thomas Bodley received his early formal education.

Portraits of Calvin and Beza

With eminent teachers such as John Calvin and Theodore Beza, and with ready access to a wealth of Protestant printed books, the young Thomas Bodley was well tutored in the new learning, while his father John continued to work for the Protestant cause in exile.

Geneva Bible

Perhaps the greatest contribution that John Bodley made to the Reformation was his financing of the Geneva Bible, which can lay claim to being the second most influential printed book in 16th-century England, after William Tyndale's 1526 English New Testament. Small wonder, then, that when his family returned to England after the accession of Elizabeth I, the teenage Thomas had already come to understand in a very personal way the importance of the printed book in the advancement of the Protestant cause.

Oxford in the 1560s

Not long after his return to England, Thomas was sent to further his education in the University of Oxford. By the late 1560s he could read Greek, Latin and Hebrew; he had graduated with a master's degree; he had become Fellow and Bursar of Merton College; and he had been appointed both Proctor and Orator of the University. A long and successful academic career had opened up before him.

But greater things, and a more challenging life, beckoned to him.

Portrait of Sir Francis Walsingham

In his early 30s, Bodley was recruited to the Elizabethan diplomatic service by England's Head of State Security, Sir Francis Walsingham. In those troubled times, perhaps even more than today, the diplomatic service had a direct connection with the world of international espionage; and Bodley became, in effect, one of Walsingham's principal 'spymasters', under the cloak of various ambassadorial appointments in Europe.

Bodley's autobiography

It's clear that Bodley signed what we in England today would call 'the Official Secrets Act'; for when the mature Sir Thomas came to write this autobiography in later years, he discreetly glossed over his involvement in European espionage by writing simply that he had been for many years "in the publique service of the State". The intriguing story of Bodley's work for Queen Elizabeth has yet to be told; and we only glean occasional insights into his efforts to keep the threat of Roman Catholicism at bay.

But Bodley's enduring love of books, and his awareness of their importance, is clearly shown by the fact that, in 1598, at the age of 53, when he had newly retired from the diplomatic service, Bodley wrote 'out of the blue' to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford to offer his help to restore the University's dilapidated library.

Duke Humfrey's Library empty

For over 50 years - as Bodley knew very well from his own time in Oxford - the University's library room, above the great Divinity School, had lain empty and waste, its ancient manuscript books having been dispersed by the reforming zeal of Henry VIII's fiercely Protestant son, King Edward VI.

Needless to say, Bodley's offer was accepted by the University with alacrity. And so the foundation of a new printed-book library for Oxford began, in 1598, at Thomas Bodley's expense.

Duke Humfrey's Library restored

From 1598 to 1602, Bodley spent a huge amount of money (which he had inherited both from his father and from his deceased and wealthy wife) on restoring the late Duke Humfrey's Library for his alma mater. And this is what the renovated library would have looked like when it opened its doors in 1602.

Portrait of Thomas James

But as well as restoring Oxford's Library physically, Sir Thomas also appointed and paid for his own Librarian, Dr Thomas James, and he drew up firm statutes for his new library. And he did all this as a conscious effort to further the new Protestant learning, by creating a library of printed books not just for the University of Oxford, but also for what he called the whole "Republic of Letters", with the much wider aim of promoting the new learning for the benefit of all.

Bodleian Library logo

Sir Thomas also used his influence at court to establish the Bodleian as England's first library of legal deposit, by negotiating an agreement with the Stationers' Company in 1610, by which the Library is still able, almost 400 years later, to claim a copy of every book printed in the United Kingdom. Knighted for his services to the country, Bodley showed himself to be the ideal benefactor by bequeathing the remainder of his large estate at his death in 1613 for the noble purposes of the library which he had founded.

Pictures of the Bodleian

But in all this, it's important to underline that none of what Sir Thomas did could have been achieved without Johann Gutenberg. Duke Humfrey's original library - which was donated to Oxford in the 1440s - had contained only about 400 volumes, most of which were ancient manuscripts. By complete contrast, the newly-founded Bodleian Library contained many thousands of printed books, and it was immediately recognised as one of the largest public and scholarly libraries in the world.

Yet even that magnificent beginning has since been dwarfed by the proliferation of the printed book during the intervening centuries. For today, the Bodleian Library sits proudly at the centre of a university library system containing over 12 million printed books; and it is rivalled only in the academic library world by the similarly extensive printed collections of Harvard.

The book is dead!

And yet, today, the futurologists and the technology gurus tell us that the printed book is dead. "Move over Gutenberg", they say; for surely his 15th-century technology has been upstaged by the 20th-century invention of the computer, and by the advent of the Internet! And, surely, the age of the monumental, ever-expanding, physical library of printed books is over!

'The book is dead!' Or is it

So, do you believe those siren voices? Do you believe that the printed book is dead, and that the great library collections of the world are doomed to extinction?

I ask the questions in that stark and challenging way just so that I can give you my own equally categorical answer. Because, in Oxford at least, our firm answer is 'No'. And we say, from our own experience, that the physical printed book is very far from dead, and that we are confidently looking forward to another 400 years of the Bodleian's continued existence!

But why do we say that? How can we - in the face of all the staggering advances in digital and other communications technologies - how can we believe that the book is not yet dead, and that libraries like ours still have a long-term future? Well, let me explain…

The principle of co-existence

And first of all, I want to highlight an often disregarded principle that operates in the world of human communications. It's what I call the principle of 'co-existence'. Or perhaps a simpler term would be the notion of 'overlap'.

Wyclifite manuscript Bible

I want to illustrate this principle by rolling the clock back first to 1454.

Until Gutenberg, handwritten manuscript books like this one were the dominant media type of the Middle Ages. And yet, in spite of the dramatic changes brought about by Gutenberg and his successors, the printed book did not entirely replace the handwritten manuscript as a communication medium. (This, for example, is a manuscript Wyclifite Bible that actually postdates Gutenberg.)

Gutenberg Bible

Indeed, if you look at Gutenberg's printed Bible, it should be blindingly obvious that this first printed book was designed, consciously and deliberately, to look and feel like an illuminated manuscript. The big difference, of course, was in the economics of its production. It would have taken dozens of scribes many years to produce a manuscript version of Gutenberg's Bible, and it would have cost a small fortune. Gutenberg, on the other hand, could print hundreds of books like this in a matter of months, and at a fraction of the cost.

So it was because of the speed and the comparative cheapness of its production that the printed book caught on as quickly as it did; and the explosion of new ideas that it triggered was based on the simple fact that the printed book was 'fitter' for the wide and rapid dissemination of ideas than the more labour-intensive manuscript.

Co-existence at work…

And yet the manuscript did not cease to have its own proper functions. There were many purposes for which the handwritten manuscript was 'fitter' than even the printed book; and those purposes still exist today. Did you know, for example, that a recent study has shown that, notwithstanding all the e-mails and text messages that now fill the virtual ether, the total quantity of physical letters posted each year is also rising? And how many of you, in this audience tonight - with all your cell phones and Blackberries and lap-tops - how many of you do not have a pen or a pencil in your pocket or your purse? How many of you never put pen to paper, or never use notelets, or writing pads? And how many of you have children who are not taught to write as well as to use a computer keyboard?

I ask these questions just to illustrate that the principle of 'co-existence' is still at work, and that we live - like all previous generations - in a world of overlapping communications media. It's a principle that has operated throughout the Gutenberg revolution…

Picture of mss collections

And I can illustrate this fact further by pointing to the co-existence, in my own great library, of vast collections of manuscripts, sitting alongside all the millions of printed books. And these collections of manuscripts also continue to grow.

It's true, of course, that many of us - myself included - spend a great deal of time poring over our latest high-tech machines; but we are still a very long way from the science fiction world of uniquely virtual communications, and I'd be willing to bet that all of you still own more pens and pencils than electronic gismos…

Someone writing on paper

There's something psychologically agreeable about the direct contact between the pen and the paper. And the manuscript is still fitter for certain purposes. The love note; the shopping list; the birthday card; the letter of condolence; the post-it note and the personal memo; and even, for many professional writers, the ease and flexibility of drafting and crafting a literary piece, flowing directly from the brain and through the hand, to the virgin paper.

Beethoven manuscript

Can you imagine a 21st-century Beethoven producing a manuscript like this one on anything other than a sheet of paper? 'Fitness for purpose' is in there somewhere; and the principle of co-existence still clearly operates.


And the same thing applies also in the midst of all the advances of the digital world. The microchip and the computer have not made Gutenberg obsolete. The virtual book is virtually unreadable for any length of time; and browsing a book is so much easier when you can hold it in your hands. There's something enduringly effective about print on paper, by contrast with print on screen.

I well remember, too, the fanfare, several decades ago, that trumpeted the near arrival of the paperless office. But I'll tell you this: if you'd had money to spare ten years ago, you might have done better to invest it in the manufacturers of paper than in the summer insects of the dot.com revolution! You might not have made a quick fortune; but at least your money would have been safe!

Workstation with printer

Of course, we've all become used to having almost instantaneous access to mountains of electronic information at our finger-tips. But what do most of us do when we want to keep our own copies, or to read an electronic text at length? We print it out!

And not for nothing has Google, one of the biggest Internet companies, recently set up what I believe will become one of its most successful spin-off enterprises - and it's called Google Print!

Screenshot of Google Print

This is the beta test site of the new Google Print service. And Google are investing multi-millions in this venture because they're smart enough to recognise that print-on-paper, for certain purposes, will continue to co-exist with print-on-screen for as long as people find the printed word that much easier to deal with in hard copy. (I'll say more about Oxford's relationship with Google in a little while; but I mention Google Print just now to underline this important point: that the printed word on paper is very far from dead. Gutenberg's original means of production may be moving on; but the Googles of this world show us very clearly that the printed word on paper still occupies an important place alongside the world of virtual communications.)

Pictures of four great libraries

But where do all the great libraries of the world fit into the new digital environment? Do they have a future at all? Are these wonderful, often ancient, buildings, condemned to become merely the curious relics of a bygone age?


Will libraries like the Bodleian simply be pushed to the margins of the post-modern world, as more and more of the information needs of the 21st century are supplied across the global digital networks?

Bodleian catalogue hall

Well that's certainly not how we see our future in Oxford! Far from it! Instead, we see a long and exciting future for us, as we harness the new digital technologies to transform the support we provide for all aspects of scholarly endeavour.

And why do we think this? Why do we believe that libraries like the Bodleian can look forward so confidently to many more years of successful service in a world where intellectual communication is becoming so pervasively dependent on the computer?

Book sales/production graphs

Well first of all, because we are certain, on the basis of our experience as an institution of legal deposit and record, that the printed book itself is far from dead. Like Mark Twain in 1897, the printed book in the year 2005 could be forgiven for smiling and saying: "Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated"! The book as object, I can assure you, still has a lot of mileage left in it.

In fact, by a strange kind of irony, the computer age is actually increasing the amount of printed material being published and sold. In our libraries in Oxford, for example, we are adding to our collections an average of 1,000 printed items every single day, and we need an additional three linear miles of shelving every year to house it all.

Visitors in Bodleian quad

In Oxford, too, there are no signs that our libraries are being visited and used any less in this digital age. Quite the opposite in fact. I can assure you that there are very many people for whom the Bodleian Library is still a physical Mecca.

Map of libraries in Oxford

Four centuries on from Sir Thomas, our physical holdings have grown way beyond anything that our Founder could ever have envisaged, with satellite libraries and storage sites all over the city and beyond it (those are the buildings marked in red on this map of Oxford).

Bodleian item being digitised

Of course, in this electronic age, the value of a world-class library is no longer measured simply by the size of its holdings. With information in digital form bringing such huge changes into the world of human communications, the continuing value of the Bodleian will be judged by the extent to which it builds on its unique heritage by developing a completely new paradigm of electronic access to all the knowledge that it contains in physical form. And this is one of the reasons why 'digitisation' is now as much a part of library life in Oxford as it is anywhere else in the developed world.

Library's Web page

Our Library website, for example, of which this is the home page, is believed to be one of the most extensive of its kind.

Web page of Subject List of electronic resources

And this is the page where all our electronic catalogues and the hundreds of reference databases that we offer to our readers are sorted and listed by broad subject areas. Just one click on any of these lines, and you're away into an electronic Aladdin's Cave of digital information!

Quotation on the hybrid library

And it's in this context that we in Oxford are using the term 'hybrid library' to describe the integration of our physical holdings with electronic access to our newer virtual collections.

So forgive me for quoting myself in reading with you this definition of 'the hybrid library':

"The dominant user view of a library is of a physical space. But libraries are services which provide organised access to the intellectual record, wherever it resides, whether in physical places or in scattered digital information spaces. The 'hybrid' library of the future will be a managed combination of physical and virtual collections and information resources."

So that's what we're building now in Oxford. Like many other major libraries, we see ourselves working more and more as a 'hybrid' operation, using modern technology to manage and provide access to very large (and still growing) collections of both print and non-print materials.

So, what have we got out there on the virtual shelves of our digital library? What are we providing, electronically, to make it possible for the Oxford mountain to come digitally to Mohammed (wherever in the world Mohammed may happen to be)?

CD version of the Bodleian's Pre-1920 Catalogue

Well, of course, as you can imagine, we've had to put an awful lot of effort into the conversion to machine-readable form of our vast manual catalogues. And this was one of our earliest efforts: a CD-ROM version of the Bodleian Library's pre-1920 Catalogue of Printed Books. This was published in 1993 and marketed by the Oxford University Press. But we have since put the whole thing up on-line, and we've integrated it into our main library information system, which we call OLIS.

OLIS home page

And this is the home page of OLIS - the Oxford Libraries Information System - in which we have made a major investment of resources in the last decade or so. And via OLIS it is now possible for readers with access to a networked terminal anywhere in the world to gain 24x7 access to information about most of Oxford's printed holdings.

OLIS record/search result

The system now contains many millions of records, of which this is a typical example. The display provides the basic bibliographical information to identify the precise item you're looking for; it tells you at a glance how many copies we have in Oxford, and exactly where they are physically located; it tells you whether or not they are currently out on loan; and three years ago we successfully linked these catalogue records to an automated stack request system, which enables you to pre-order any materials held in closed stacks. And you can do this online, even when the Library is closed.

Title page of a manuscript finding aid in EAD format

But we're also using the new technology to enrich the catalogue database with other important information about our collections. Having made such enormous strides with our book records, we've also turned our attention to the mammoth task of converting to digital form the vast number of manual records describing our manuscript and archive holdings. And the slide displayed here illustrates the international standard format (known as EAD) which we are now using to make electronic finding aids for many of our unique research materials available for easy searching on the Web.

Digitised image of a printed Caxton advertisement

And beyond all this provision of electronic descriptions of our library holdings, we're also creating digital versions of many of the original materials themselves. (This, for example, is a digital version of one of only two surviving printed advertisements used by William Caxton in 1479 to publicise his books at Westminster.)

EEBO search page

And in order to put this kind of digital conversion work on a production basis, we embarked several years ago on a partnership with the University of Michigan, to digitise many of our 17th and 18th century printed books.

EEBO item display

And the result of this partnership is the commercially successful EEBO database (Early English Books Online), through which we have already made printed books like this 17th-century Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews available online to users throughout the world.

You'll gather from all of this, I hope, that our long-term strategy is, in effect, to re-create the Bodleian as a digital library, as a new and complementary service alongside our provision of personal access to the physical collections. And that's why we see a rosy future for us as a 'hybrid' library, moving seamlessly along with the new technology, and re-interpreting Sir Thomas Bodley's vision of a library for the world…

Google Print image

And it's into this long-term strategic development context that our most recent digital partnership - with Google - fits so perfectly. In December last year, as you may know, we signed a three-year (renewable) agreement with Google under which, at its own expense, the Internet giant is digitising over a million of our 19th-century printed books. And once our Google unit in Oxford is working at maximum capacity, it will be capable of digitising up to 10,000 books a week, and the building of our digital library will continue to advance very rapidly, with large numbers of our printed books becoming universally searchable via the Oxford OLIS system and through the Google Print service.

From Gutenberg to Google

But before I show you some more of the electronic treasures that we're making available to the world, I want to offer just a few more reflections on the philosophical and practical implications of the core of our subject tonight (From Gutenberg to Google), by which I'm assuming that we mean 'from the age of the hand-printed book to the world of the electronic text'.

I've already highlighted the principle of 'co-existence', or 'overlap' in the different methods of recording and sharing information. And I've also explained the concept that we have of the 'hybrid' library in the Oxford context, which is such a key part of our strategic planning for the Bodleian's future development.

But I want to make it clear that we don't regard the 'Google deal' as the end of this long process of building the library of the future. Instead, we see the mass-digitisation of our printed collections as one important part of the long, and evolutionary, process of updating Gutenberg's legacy by the application of the latest information technology. Digitisation, in our view, is not replacing Gutenberg so much as modernising it.

The application of computers in libraries: from mechanisation, to automation, to information, knowledge and digital asset management

We've come a long way from the time, 30 years ago, when we referred to the application of computers in libraries by the ugly name of mechanisation. The rise of the Internet in the last decade has totally transformed the information landscape; and things could hardly be more different now than they were when I had my own first experience of library computing in the 1970s.

In the 1970s we introduced the mechanisation of acquisitions processing, of cataloguing, and of the circulation of library stock. By the 1980s we were talking about automation, as computers began to be applied to the indexing and abstracting of information within the physical materials in our library collections. But both mechanisation and automation were simply ways of describing the use of computers to help us do more effectively what we had always done before.

But then in the 1990s - with the rise of the Internet, and the development of a lot of really smart communications technology - we started to do really new things; and we began to see the emergence of what Cliff Lynch has called "a whole set of discontinuities" in the world of human communications - a set of thorny challenges which have come about because of the new and different things that the technology now makes possible.

And because of these 'discontinuities', the word automation is no longer good enough to encapsulate the massive implications of the issues with which we are now having to grapple. So now we tend to talk about 'information and knowledge management', or about 'digital asset management'.

The 'discontinuities' of communications in the Internet age

And the discontinuities that the present stage of this long evolutionary process in human communication since Gutenberg are throwing up are not just about libraries. They're about the whole nature of publishing, about the cycle of authoring, publication, and reading. They're about economic issues: about big business, and about control; they're about complex legal issues (like Intellectual Property Rights and copyright). They're also about social issues, about censorship, about freedom of information, and even about pornography and obscenity.

All of these big new 'discontinuities' seem certain to cause radical shifts in the communications landscape at the societal and global levels. So at an institutional level, we're preparing ourselves for the major changes that will come as the implications of all these discontinuities are worked out.

Whither (wither?) Gutenberg and whither (wither?) libraries?

So how does all this relate to the Gutenberg legacy and to the likely library of the future? What is the future of the printed book and of the monumental libraries that have collected it for centuries?

Well, it was the New York Yankees' famous catcher Yogi Berra who once said: "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future!" And we are not foolish enough in Oxford to state categorically what will come next. But we can say for certain that the future for printed books and libraries will be different; and we can also say with confidence not only that it will be deeply digital, but also that (thanks to the enduring principle of co-existence) it will be at least partly physical.

The Web, the Internet, and the nanocube

Of course, unlike the libraries that we have built over the centuries, which are carefully selective, well-organised, and which occupy physical spaces, the Internet is staggeringly undiscriminating, catholic (with a small 'c'), and above all, chaotic. Apart from its servers, and the terminals we need to use it, the Internet occupies no physical space. In storage terms, the materials it contains are getting smaller; and nanotechnology is bringing us closer to the time when we may see the realisation of Richard Feynman's prediction - made over 40 years ago - that all of the recorded information in the world will ultimately be capable of being written "in a cube of material two-hundredths of an inch wide - which is the barest piece of dust that can be made out by the human eye".

But if we can envisage the possibility of Feynman's all-embracing digital nanocube, it's fairly certain that we're still a very long way off from actually having it. And, until we do, our main task in libraries will continue to be to provide ever-improving access, both virtual and physical, to our expanding collections of knowledge-based resources.

Illustration of electronic networks and information resources

And it's already the case that many of our library services are provided in virtual information spaces, networked 24-hours a day across the globe. Behind the historic physical infrastructure of our library buildings sits the kind of technical infrastructure illustrated here. You may not be able to see much of it; but it already exists, and it's there to serve the modern electronic information needs of our library patrons.

The History of Political Discourse Web page

And, because such information can be searched with growing ease and efficiency, there are already many new possibilities for study and research in the digital environment which could not have been dreamed of only a few years ago.

And here's an example of just one of the new forms of research resource that has emerged in recent years. It's a virtual research project called 'The History of Political Discourse', and it's now offering a virtual Master's degree course in ways that have only just become possible.

And our own Oxford Digital Library is just one more piece of the worldwide effort to carve out a managed information clearing in the jungle of the Internet.

Ask a Librarian

And in this context, we believe, the need for librarians, and for the collections and services which they manage, will most definitely not go away (or even, in my view, diminish).

Librarians may increasingly be thought of as 'information brokers'; libraries may increasingly be rebadged as 'information services', and the management of library collections (and access to them) may be based more and more on digital technology; but their physical existence will continue, and, certainly in places like Oxford, will continue to grow, and grow physically. We need have no fear of being replaced by Feynman's nanocube! There's definitely a lot more for us all to do, as real flesh and blood people, within physical spaces made of bricks and mortar, as we engage with our continuing task of developing hybrid paradigms of access to the printed word.

So let me conclude my presentation tonight with a few more tasters from the electronic collections in Oxford - all of which are freely available to anyone with a networked computer anywhere in the world.

ILEJ project home page

And here's a glimpse of what we've been doing about newspapers. This is the home page of what we call the Internet Library of Early Journals. It's a digitized collection of a substantial number of volumes from some of the key journals of the 18th and 19th centuries;

Page from the Gentleman's Magazine from the 1740s

and the easily searchable index takes you smoothly to pages like this one, from the Gentleman's Magazine, where the topic under discussion is the value of the dollar in relation to the pound sterling in the American plantations of the 1740s. It tells you, among other things, that £100 pounds was worth 170 dollars in Pennsylvania (that's more or less the rate you'd get today); but the same English money would have been worth 1400 dollars in North Carolina. So if you were an English gentleman in 1740, your money would have gone a lot further in North Carolina!

Home page of the Digital Shikshapatri

We've also invested a lot of time and energy in creating a critical mass of digitised manuscript material which is of crucial importance to historical scholarship; and we're systematically putting this material up on the Web as high-resolution images like this one, which is set of Web pages devoted to the key manuscript text of the 19th-century Indian religious leader, the Lord Swaminarayan.

Blow-up of the Digital Shikshapatri

And this is an example of an image from that manuscript, the whole of which is available to scholars and to the millions of the Swami's devotees throughout the world.

Images of Magna Carta and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

And here are two more examples of important English historical texts we've digitized: these are an Anglo-Saxon Chronicle dating from the 10th century, and the Bodleian's copy of Magna Carta, dating from 1217.

Digitised version of John Speed's Oxford

The Bodleian Library also has outstanding collections of antique maps; and there are now many hundreds of these in digital form, like this John Speed map of Oxford, from the early 17th century;

Map of 18th-century BostonMap of 18th-century Boston

and this late 18th-century map of Boston, which you can peruse at leisure on the Internet. (Hands up those of you who know where Mount Whoredom is in 21st-century Boston!)

Digitised manuscript Mendelssohn score

Or if music is your particular interest, then you can examine this digital surrogate of an original Mendelssohn score;

Mendelssohn notebook

or you can enjoy at your desktop, anywhere in the world, this electronic version of Mendelssohn's notebooks, in which the great composer has sketched himself at the organ with Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's Consort, in the 1840s.

Broadside Ballads home page

Or, if 18th or 19th-century street ballads are of interest, you can access this important Bodleian Web page, where you can search and call up the largest collection of such materials in the world.

Nelly Bly broadside

The collection includes broadsides like this one, for example, from the Crimean War period, when you could buy ballads like this in the street for a penny.

Toyota City transport browser

Or, if you're interested in the history of transport, and you want access to the thousands of digitised images from our John Johnson Collection of printed ephemera, you only need to connect to this Bodleian Web page;

Image of New York City elevated railway

and if you click on railways, you will soon find yourself admiring and poring over this fascinating image of the New York City elevated railway as it was in the late 1800s. (I'll leave any New Yorkers among you to work out exactly where this impressive piece of hardware may be today!)

Bodleian Shop home page

And, yes, just in case you were wondering, we're also deeply into e-commerce in the Bodleian; and thanks to this little piece of enterprise the Bodleian Shop is now reaching into markets we never even dreamed of!

Portrait of Thomas Bodley

And talking of dreams, I'm tempted to wonder what the Bodleian Library's Founder might have thought about the Digital Revolution and all the huge changes which it's bringing into the Library which he established so long ago. He would almost certainly be staggered by it all; but I also like to think that he would approve of our re-interpretation of his dreams, since all that we're doing is designed to maintain the relevance, and the accessibility, of the institution which he created.

Portrait of Gutenberg and Gutenberg Bible

But my concluding words are reserved for Johann Gutenberg, and for his amazing achievement. Because I hope I've convinced you, on the basis of our experience in Oxford, that Gutenberg is still a very powerful force in the modern communications world. And, although his legacy is undoubtedly being transformed by the Googles of the 21st century, I think we can say without fear of contradiction, that "Gutenberg is alive and well, and living in libraries like the Bodleian!"

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for allowing me to be here to talk to you this evening, and thank you for your attention!

Reg Carr
18 October 2005