Story: “UBC Library digitizes William Shakespeare’s First Folio”

This post was originally published by the University of British Columbia Library.

Photo by Phoebe Chan (UBC Library Communications and Marketing)

UBC Library has made its first edition of William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies openly accessible to the public by publishing a digitized version of the volume online through Open Collections. The process to digitize the First Folio took more than a year to facilitate due to the Folio’s age and fragility.

The First Folio arrived at UBC in September 2021 and almost immediately, work with UBC Library’s conservator Anne Lama began in order to plan for its 2D digitization.

“Digitization is not as simple as photocopying a document, especially when it concerns a valuable artefact. There is so much to prepare behind-the-scenes. One step concerns the assessment of the document, and setting it up for safe manipulation, to check that the document can handle the operation without further damage,” says Lama.

The fragility of the Folio’s binding and the small margins made digitizing some of the text a challenge, notes Lama. The team had to create a balance between maintaining an opening large enough to get a clean capture of all the text into the margins, while limiting stress on the volume’s external hinges.

Robert Stibravy, Digital Projects Librarian at UBC Library, worked closely with Lama to determine the safest way to digitize the material, and completed the primary captures using a dedicated book scanner, with the help of Digital Initiative assistant Marina Botnaru. Thanks to funding provided by UBC Library’s Giving Day campaign donors,  Stibravy was also able to hire a student to do image editing, quality control and other post-production tasks, accelerating the work further and ensuring the final product adhered to the Digitization Centre’s high standards of quality. To make image editing easier in post-production, Lama placed green fabric behind the First Folio on its custom book cradle, in order to create a distinct background.

Read the full story on the UBC Library website.