Worth a long look

rom the always stunning I Love Typography, a short overview on early printing, but more importantly a plan to chart the development of typography from the incunable on with images from special collections from the University of Amsterdam.

Not to knock any of the nice manuscript sites too much, but Amsterdam’s special collections deserve thanks and praise for allowing so many images to be put up on flickr. While some images are marked clearly with all rights reserved, many can be shared and remixed under a creative commons license. Not only does this feel more open than collections that limit viewing to their own web pages (and in some cases viewers) it allows teachers, researchers and artists to explore type in different ways, not to mention comments and queries from the public.

It would be nice to see a similar approach become feasible for large manuscript repositories. Accessibility allowed the Staffordshire hoard to become a public marvel. Part of that comes from treasure being more visual than text, but I don’t know of too many recent manuscript finds that have made their way on to flickr. The more likely scenario to be played out is: fragment discovered, academic who finds it claims it as his/her territory, years later an edition with one or two black and white images is published in an expensive and relatively inaccessible journal, the world continues to turn in indifference.

The only comparable manuscript collection (with a flickr stream allowing you to have its images on your iphone, for example, allowing you to discuss them with colleagues at conferences immediately and easily) that I know of is the Walters Art Museum which is gradually mounting its Islamic collection (with some pictures of the Archimedes palimpsest). More please!

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