Self-service photographing of manuscripts at Leiden

I am rather excited to learn that Leiden university library apparently allows readers to photograph manuscripts themselves!  Details here:

They don’t allow flash (understandably) or tripods (less so).  But this is great news!

If anyone would like to try this out and see how it works, I think we would all be interested.

The reproductions department doesn’t seem to have heard of supplying microfilms in PDF form, tho. I’m querying that with them.


4 thoughts on “Self-service photographing of manuscripts at Leiden

  1. Roger: As far as I can say off the top of my memory, that’s the case with the BNF in Paris, the Biblioteca Histórica de la Universidad Complutense in Madrid, the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome, the National Library of Naples — I’ve taken photos of manuscripts in all those libraries. And some archives increasingly allow readers to take their own photos on certain conditions. I guess that’s a trend on the rise in libraries holding manuscripts and early prints. We should all be happy about that.
    I’m coming to Leiden in May so I’ll check how things are dealt with there.

  2. Wow! I am most interested to hear that you can take photos in the BNF! What did you do? How does it work?

    Thank you also for the others on the list. The Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples is on my list as well.

    I agree that this is a trend on the rise. It’s probably a question of realism; everyone carries mobile phones, all mobiles have cameras, therefore pictures will be taken. Libraries are not prisons and such cannot be prevented. Staff cannot pat down visitors; libraries that think they can will get away with it only until some female student screams “indecent assault.” Far better, therefore, to manage what will happen, and retain some control over it and the pictures. It is, anyway, impossible to take publication quality photos without proper lighting. But those of us who just want a copy of the text can manage fine.

    Again, very, very interested in this one.

    I’ve never been to the Madrid library. That’s separate from the Escorial, is it?

  3. So sorry for getting back on this so late—travel, moving into a new town for one month only, usual stuff, you know.

    In BNF I took photos of Hebrew manuscripts (which, incidentally, is my branch of research). If manuscripts are microfilmed, you aren’t supposed to be allowed to take pictures, not even to have a direct look on the actual manuscript, but you can easily get around this useless procedure by claiming you need to examine the manuscript for codicology or some material detail.
    I know you can also take photos of books in the general reading rooms. I looked up something on that specific regulation in the BNF’s website to no avail. But I saw people who did it.

    I agree with you that you need proper lighting for decent results. But some basic lighting just works fine for watermarks on paper manuscripts as well as for ink or some parchment textures (all those things are part of the codicological method, of course). And it’s definitely OK for reading the texts!

    The Biblioteca Histórica ‘Marqués de Valdecilla’ of the Complutense University is definitely a separate thing from El Escorial: ‘Marqués de Valdecilla’ is in Madrid’s city centre and run by the University; El Escorial is some 70 km far from Madrid and run by the State as one of the royal sites of Spain. More importantly, ‘Marqués de Valdecilla’ is open from 9 am to 9 pm five days a week; El Escorial, from 10 am (actually 10.10ish am) to 2 pm (actually 1.45ish pm) six days a week. The ‘Marqués de Valdecilla’ holds all books, manuscripts and printed, along with maps and some astronomical devices, that are older than 150 years and belong to the Universidad Complutense (founded around 1508 by Cardinal Cisneros). The library catalogue, including manuscripts, incunabula, post-incunabula (the actual quality of those reproductions is quite inconsistent) and digitzed old books by Google is here.

    Oh, and congratulations for your good work! Keep it done! There’s a bunch of grateful people around—yet a bit too quiet perhaps.

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