Reflections by award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett, author of many books about the sea
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Thursday, October 28, 2010
LLOYDS LIST NOW ONLINE
The digitization revolution is truly great for historians. While looking at a faithful reproduction on the computer screen is not at all the same as handling wonderful old documents, complete with additions made by old archivists (see the penciled comments made by the editor John Hawkesworth in the margins of the log of the Dolphin kept by Captain Samuel Wallis in 1767, for instance), it is a million times better than nothing at all.
Maritime historians in particular should be enlivened to learn that the "Bible" of shipping news in 18th and 19th century England, Lloyds List, is now online. Not only can you see it as it happened (without paying the one pound, ten shillings, annual subscription charged in 1826), but the text is searchable.
This is courtesy of the Hathi Trust, which runs a massive digital archive named after the Hindi word for "elephant," reputedly the animal with the longest memory.
HathiTrust is headed by Director John Price Wilkin, who has led large-scale digitization initiatives at the University of Michigan for more than a decade. This is also the university which, with Indiana University, provides much of the funding for this massive archive. Currently, it has digitized 2,465,961,400 pages, equivalent to 83 miles of books and journals, including the results of the Google Book Search Project.