Digitizing Shakespeare’s Second Folio

March 21st, 2016

Shakespeare Second Folio SetUp

By Jesse Henderson

In April we will be releasing to the public a digital surrogate of our copy of Shakespeare’s Second Folio in the UWDC. The digitization of this volume happened last fall, and took place over the course of 17 separate sessions from Sept. 21 – Oct. 15. The Special Collections Library did a blog post on the process at the time. It was a rigorous task: each day we brought the book down from the vaults on the top floors of Memorial Library; each day we spent around 20-40 minutes setting up the book on the copystand and capturing device-level color targets (which preserve the capture characteristics of that particular day); each capture took about 5 minutes; lastly, at the end of each day we returned the book to the vaults. During a 7-hour session, we were able to capture around 80 images.

Currently, our studios are equipped with BetterLight Super 6K-HS Digital Scanning Backs. As described on the BetterLight website: digital scanning backs “do not capture an image of the subject in front of the camera all at once, but rather by physically moving … a[n] image sensor smoothly across the image plane, building up the image one line per color at a time. [Such scanners] are typically used only for photographing relatively stationary subjects illuminated by continuous light.” Our 5 minute capture time for the Second Folio included the time the sensor traveled from the top of the book to the bottom; the 25-50 seconds for the image to open in Photoshop (yes, it varied quite a bit); and the time for the photographer to get up from the computer, delicately remove the glass, turn the page, replace the glass, and return to the computer to activate the next capture.

This equipment has served our needs well for almost 12 years, but after going through the process of reformatting this rare book, we decided that it may be time to upgrade in order to efficiently digitize more rare and special collections. We are currently in the process of researching newer, faster, higher quality equipment – equipment that may increase our capture rate from 80 images per day to close to 500 images per day! Stay tuned for updates on this process.

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