Royal Society of Chemistry

Educating future generations of scientists is an important role for the Royal Society of Chemistry. British Library Imaging Services digitised hundreds of thousands of documents from the historical collection allowing a new generation to access this treasure trove of material.
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British Library Imaging Services have backed up their reputation with a quality service to deliver scans and metadata

Despite only taking its current name in 1980, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has over 170 years of history. With this comes a fountain of knowledge and archival resources at its disposal. British Library Imaging Services digitised over 750,000 items from the RSC’s archive, making them available to the society’s members and the wider public online.

The Royal Society of Chemistry required a supplier “who could deliver a high-quality economic project” to digitise their unique collection of chemical resources.  Richard Kidd a Publisher at the RSC was delighted that British Library Imaging Services had “backed up their reputation with a quality service to deliver scans and metadata”.  The partnership allowed the RSC to fulfil their ambition of making their “Historical Collections more accessible to members and a new worldwide audience”.


“Going through the historical collection of the Royal Society of Chemistry and being able to bring it back to life” was a huge motivation for Project Leader Linda Grant. “Working through the resources and then being able to see them available on the RSC website is a rewarding feeling after the work put into the project”. Items from the digitised collection include the Davy Bookcase and Sir Henry Roscoe’s collection, as well as minutes from the Society’s meetings dating back over 100 years.

Glass lantern slides formed a significant part of the collection and these too were digitised and made available online. The British Library has specific equipment that enabled it to deal with this rare request and so was able to provide excellent quality reproductions of the images on these slides.

After the success of this project and the quality of products delivered, Imaging Services and the RSC are looking at working together again to digitise more items from their historic collection.

Key points

  • Over 750,000 items from the Royal Society of Chemistry historical collection have been digitised as part of the project
  • Records from over 200 years ago have been opened up to new audiences online, including works from the bookshelves of 
  • Sir Henry Roscoe and Sir Humphry Davy
  • Specialist equipment was used to produce high-quality reproductions of over 1,000 glass lantern slides

Case studies

…"We were delighted with the British Library service offering onsite photography at our convenience: it was efficient and enjoyable, and produced the most beautiful images." John Sunderland, Friends of Malmesbury Abbey…

Malmesbury and its Abbey, had one of the most important libraries in Europe in the Middle Ages, and the famous historian William was from Malmesbury. The Friends of Malmesbury Abbey commissioned the British Library to digitise four volumes of the bible, known as the Malmesbury Bible earlier this summer.

…This project makes a number of our most important globes available beyond the British Library’s Reading Rooms and exhibition galleries, to a wider audience and in a more imaginative way than ever before.…

Using 3D photography, the British Library’s rare and fragile collection of historical globes have been digitised and made available for the public to discover via augmented reality.

…"British Library Imaging Services are uniquely placed to supply quality digital images of back catalogue and rare material"…

British Library Imaging Services and Taylor & Francis have a long standing partnership which sees Imaging Services supply digitised copies of the Taylor and Francis back catalogue.