Birmingham Special Collections goes over to the Dark Side (a bit)

Drat.  The Mingana library in Birmingham have had a mental breakdown of some kind.  They used to sell colour digital images of sub-publication standard for 1GBP (about $1.50) a go.  These were really very good for research purposes, although of course a journal publication would need better quality.

I asked them about copies of the Combefis book (see previous post).  I learn today that they’ve increased the charge to 2.50GBP, plus another 25% for fun; i.e. 3.10GBP, around $5 a go. 

I need 14 pages.  That would have been 14 GBP, which is a lot, when you consider it is merely pressing a shutter 14 times, but I would have paid it.  But there’s no way I would pay nearly 50 GBP for the equivalent of 14 photocopies!

This is really disappointing.  The Birmingham Special Collections people, who own the Mingana library, are people who I watch with interest, because they really do have some innovative ideas.  They’ve led the way in putting Syriac mss online, and making them freely available.  They introduced this system of £1 photographs of manuscripts, which is clearly the way to go.  They allow us to bring our cameras in and photograph, which makes them heroes in my view; we really ought to get all the Mingana mss photographed.  And they are nice, helpful people.  I approve of these guys.

And then they do something like this.

I can only imagine that need for money — a chronic need in all libraries — led some minor official at a meeting to look at this.  Probably they were selling quite a few of the £1 images.  And the same official, with the official lack of imagination, supposed that a 210% increase would generate 210% more money.  Of course it won’t; it will kill the sales dead.

No doubt they looked greedily at the charges demanded by libraries like the Bodleian, not realising that hardly anyone ever buys any of those overpriced images.  You don’t make money by charging the earth and scaring the punters away. 

How we need a public body to regulate these charges!

This may mean that I shall have to abandon the idea of using the Combefis fragment in my Eusebius book.  But if I do, there will be some pretty trenchant words in a footnote, saying who and why, for the benefit of posterity.  First against the wall, of course, will be the Bodleian.


In the meantime, let’s see if I can find a library that (a) has a copy and (b) will sell me a reproduction at some reasonable price.

UPDATE: Durham University want £15 a photo — which is sick –, the Bodleian we know about, and the only other copy here in the UK, held in the British Library, well… their website has been redesigned and I can’t find anything.  I wonder if there are any copies in the USA?


2 thoughts on “Birmingham Special Collections goes over to the Dark Side (a bit)

  1. says that there are copies in the US at Emory U., Notre Dame, U of South Carolina, the General Theological Seminary, UC Berkeley (in the LAW LIBRARY??), and Harvard (at the Divinity School library). There are also several copies in Germany and the Netherlands.

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