The first US site of "Turning the Pages," a remarkable
program developed at the British Library, is the National
Library of Medicine (NLM), in Bethesda, Maryland. On March
16, 2001, the NLM will unveil a digitally browsable
"Elizabeth Blackwell's Curious Herbal", published between
1737 and 1739.
"Turning the Pages" uses computer animation, high-quality
digitized images, and touch screen technology to simulate
the action of turning the pages of a book. "The sensation
of actually leafing through a rare volume is uncannily
real," said NLM Director Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D. "It
reveals the significance and beauty of rare volumes in a
way never before possible, and we are grateful to the
British Library for creating the system and letting us be
the first to use it in this country," he added.
Besides looking at the beautiful drawings by moving a
finger across the screen and moving forward or backward in
the volume, the "reader" can touch an icon on each page and
zoom in on any portion of a page as desired. The U.K.
Design Council voted the "Turning the Pages" system a
"Millennium Product," leading to it being displayed at the
Department of Trade and Industry.
The first book in the U.S. to be available this way, the
Blackwell herbal has a curious history. It is notable both
for its beautiful illustrations of medicinal plants and the
fact that Elizabeth Blackwell undertook its creation and
publication to raise money to satisfy her husband's debts
and have him released from debtors prison. Color plates
depict 30 plants ranging from the common dandelion, used as
a diuretic, to the tomato, which was brought to Europe from
the Americas and thought to be good for inflammations.
Lynne Brindley commented: "Our Library has worked closely
with the National Library of Medicine since 1966 when it
was the first International MEDLARS Center. The British
Library was the first organization in Europe to offer
MEDLINE as an online service in the mid 1970s. It gives me,
therefore, particular pleasure to continue this close
association through the project to digitize Elizabeth
Blackwell's Herbal and to bring the Library's award-winning
Turning the Pages technology to the U.S. We look forward
to further digital collaborations."
This is the first of several volumes for which the NLM
plans to employ this technology. The second will be
Vesalius's "Humani corporis fabrica" ("on the construction
of the human body"), which is illustrated with detailed,
precise anatomical drawings made from dissections carried
out personally by the author. This is the first truly
modern anatomical text.
The National Library of Medicine, a part of the National
Institutes of Health, is the world's largest library of the
health sciences. The address of the Library is 8600
Rockville Pike in Bethesda, Maryland. The ceremony will be
in Building 38A, the Lister Hill Center. The Library has an
extensive Website at http://www.nlm.nih.gov that provides a
great variety of information for the public and for health