The manuscripts and the first printed books of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, their digitization and putting them on line

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    Network's integration Year: 2020
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    Digitalization platform STCN

The project

The Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire Sainte-Geneviève is one of the richest in Paris in terms of manuscripts and old printed books after those of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Bibliothèque Mazarine.  The Library’s Reserve, whose collections have been labelled CollEx (Collection d’Excellence pour la Recherche) since 2019, contains nearly 1,000 manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the beginning of the era, including 400 illuminated manuscripts and 1,500 incunabula. They are the heirs, on the one hand, of the former abbey, founded in the 6th century and which was the seat of a school in the 11th century, revived in the following century by the Victorins; on the other hand, of the restoration of the institution by the Augustins de France congregation in the years 1620-1640, which made Sainte-Geneviève one of the richest ecclesiastical establishments in the kingdom of France. In the 18th century, it was further enriched by prestigious funds, such as that of Charles-Maurice Le Tellier, Archbishop of Reims.

This literary and book heritage has already been partially reproduced, in the form of black and white microfilms, by the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (CNRS). However, since 2010, the institute has been engaged throughout France in a systematic campaign to digitize the collections directly. This initiative, supported by the Ministry of Culture within the framework of a general agreement with the CNRS, concerns not only municipal libraries, but also university libraries. It aims, on the one hand, to reproduce the volumes in colour and to archive the images permanently, and, on the other hand, to make them freely available online for all audiences on the portal of the Virtual Library of Medieval Manuscripts (BVMM, https://bvmm.irht.cnrs.fr/), which offers the ease of viewing and interoperability made possible by the IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) technology developed by Stanford University and which is gradually being adopted by major conservation institutions throughout the world. As is the case at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the online availability of digital images goes hand in hand with that of the microfilms themselves digitized, so as to provide complete documentation of all the work done on the books.

The Réserve de la Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève offers, in Paris, the opportunity for a large-scale pilot project in digitization and heritage enhancement. It will allow the implementation of new instrumentation (cradle and microfilm digitizer, 3D scanner for bindings), with an estimated downtime of approximately 30 months. The overall budget for the operation is supported by the DIM STCN and its partners for the equipment, and by the BISG and the IRHT’s Image Department for the operation.


Responsables scientifique du projet
François Bougard
Gilles Kagan
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Graphic design & development: Julienne Richard & Simon Bouchard