A year of wonder with British Library Digitisation Services

Digitising a Tiger Who Came For Tea

2018 has been another busy year at British Library Digitisation Services, with internal and external projects, helping to open collections to new audience and make heritage digital. Whilst we are excited by what is set to come in 2019, we just want to take a look back at some of the fascinating material we have worked with throughout this year.

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Digitising Diaries

This year the British Library hosted James Cook: The Voyages, an exhibition marking 250 years since the Endeavour set sail from Plymouth. Ahead of the exhibition the British Library Digitisation team worked tirelessly to prepare digital collections which could be viewed around the world, while the exhibition was on display in St Pancras. These items can be viewed on a dedicated webpage.

One of the items which stood to attention the most was the diaries of James Cook. The digitisation process featured on the Library’s social media feeds; take a look to find out more.

As part of #MuseumsWeek British Library Social Media channels also gave an insight into what it takes to be an Imaging Technician in our Boston Spa Studio

British and French Illuminated Manuscripts available online

Illuminated Manuscript example

Over the past two years, we have been working alongside the Bibiliotèque nationale de France on a project to make 800 manuscripts from the period 700-1200 online for the first time. Sponsored by the Polonsky Foundation, teams from both libraries have worked together to digitise, fully catalogue and make available online 400 manuscripts from each collection.

The illuminated manuscripts are available to view now, on the Bibliotheque nationale de France’s multi-lingual website where you can view manuscripts side by side, and find manuscripts by date, language, place of origin, author or subject, and you can also view them on the British Library pages.

A Tiger who came to the British Library

Digitising a Tiger Who Came To Tea

You may have noticed the free Cats on the Page exhibition now running at the British Library in St Pancras (until 17th March 2019). Exuberant and playful? Or more mysterious and threatening? Cats come to life in books, manuscripts and artwork to captivate and inspire. This exhibition renews your acquaintance with familiar favourites including Mog, Winnie and Wilbur, and T S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, while meeting some new friends from around the world. As they prowl the pages, these feline characters are sure to delight all ages – and especially anyone who loves cats!

But did you know that earlier in the year, we had a very big cat, a Tiger, who came to Tea at the British Library? Ahead of an exhibition celebrating the book’s 50th anniversary, we digitised the original artwork for ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ for Seven Stories. This year was also the authors Judith Kerr 95th birthday!

One does not simply walk into the British Library and digitise materials


This year we have worked with the Tolkien Society too and plunged into Middle Earth. The Tolkien Society is an educational charity and literary society devoted to the study and promotion of the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of all time classics, The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Our fellowship of Imaging Technicians digitised back issues of Mallorn, Amon Hen and Anduril, publications named after phenomena in Tolkien’s Novel. The archives are available to Tolkien Society members around the world and provide a rich resource of material and research about Tolkien and his works.

From the Tablet to the Digital world

Digital images on screen

Tablet has multiple meanings to different people, from the biblical connotations of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments to the latest mobile devices. In our sense, we are talking about the Catholic newspaper, The Tablet. The British Library has made The Tablet’s digital archive searchable so that researchers and subscribers around the world will be able to use the materials.

The impressive archive stretches back to 1840 and provides an invaluable resource for the scholars of the 19th and 20th century. The publication includes a rich commentary of events and issues affecting society. We are delighted to have been able to open this collection to the world and make The Tablet truly digital!

Guards Magazine

Cover of the Guards Magazine Victory Number

We digitised the archive of The Guards magazine – covering the years 1862-2012. This included a Victory Edition of the journal published at the end of the 1st World War and is of particular interest given the centenary of the end of the War. There is a dedication from the Prince of Wales, wishing the magazine the same success that it had before the war and personal pieces from senior members of the Household Brigade giving insight on the 1st World War. The magazine is created by serving or former members of the Household Division and in thus respect provides a personal view of life in the army.

There is more to come


All these highlights are on top of our regular digitisation projects which are on-going.  We continue to digitise newspapers as part of our Heritage Made Digital program, EThOS and these digitisation and of course our regular imaging orders from you!

If you have any queries about digitisation at the British Library, or want to know how British Library Digitisation Services can help open your collections to the world, please contact us and we’ll help make your heritage digital!

Case studies

…"Onsite photography at our convenience produced the most beautiful images."…

The Friends of Malmesbury Abbey commissioned the British Library to digitise four volumes of the bible, known as the Malmesbury Bible earlier this summer.

…British Library have backed up their reputation with a quality service to deliver scans and metadata…

The British Library brought thousands of items from the Royal Society of Chemistry’s archives back to life and introduced them to new audiences