The Universal Digital Library Project

The Universal Digital Library Project has completed the digitization of 1.5 m books, mainly those whose copyrights have expired. A scan through the list of some books (on India, for example), makes one feel as if one is walking down the dusty aisle of an Indian university library. Most of the books are evidently old, belonging to the late 19th to early 20th century, and that adds to the charm. In the ruthless bombardment of millions of words online each day, these books take one to a different time and space where each word was chiseled with care.

The only problem with the books is that these are available as scanned .tiff image of each page. It would be much better from a readability point of view to have them as a single file, and still better if these were OCRed and available as search- friendly text or .pdf files. I am sure that eventually this will be so. Nevertheless till then having such a huge collection available at one’s fingertips is not too bad either.

Among some of the books I found is Colloquies on Simples and Drugs of India, a book by a 15th century Spanish physician Garcia da Orta, as also the memoirs of Babar and an account of Hsun Tsang’s travels in 7th century India. A random browsing of the book The Bankruptcy of India (1886), a critical work on British rule in India by HN Hyndman brought up these lines:

At any rate, we have no right to claim that we have benefited the country unless evidence has been given that the mass of the people of the country are really better off under our domination than they are under native rule. That is the test of all governments, whether native or foreign. Do they or do they not secure increased welfare for the body of the people governed?

There is but one way in which to answer this question, or to learn to appreciate our true relation to India; and that is by the careful study, without a tinge of national prejudice, of the real history of India and our connection with the country. To do this effectively calls not only for industry but also imagination. (Page 3 of Introduction, italics by blogger)

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Link to Ulib via The Hindu

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