Digitization at the Library

Book Digitizations

We have a growing collection of digitized books, comprising more than 1.400 titles. We digitize mostly rare books, but also modern specimens. The total number of scans as of 2020 is nearly 350.000. A distinguishing feature is that all volumes can be integrated into digital platforms using the IIIF API. The digitized series are listed below.

Rare Books

For some time now we are digitizing the guide books of Rome from 1475 to 1950 (shelf numbers beginning witg Dg). As for illustrations, these are sometimes repetitive or cursory. A lot of generally unknown and sometimes obscure place names. Some volumes are hard to access to OCR (type and paper quality).

  • Volumes digitized: ca. 280 (out of nearly 1000 total) or 80.000 scans
  • Metadata format: Marc21XML, abbreviated CSV
  • TOC format: partially as XHTML (maybe later TEI)
  • OCR format: AltoXML & JSON

Accessible singularly as IIIF Manifest. For the data alone, please check the databases (below).

Travel Literature

We are starting to digitize the travel literature of Italy from 1550 up until 1930 (shelf numbers beginnning with Fa). Most volumes are sparsely illustrated, with a lot of modern (recognizable) place names. Theya are relatively accessible to OCR. Here's the numbers:

  • Volumes digitized: ca. 75 (out of more than 800 total) or 30.000 scans
  • Metadata format: Marc21XML, abbreviated CSV
  • TOC format: partially as XHTML (maybe later TEI)
  • OCR format: AltoXML & JSON

The volumes are accessible singularly or as a collection (IIIF Manifest). Again, for the data alone check the databases (below).

New Acquisitions

Newly acquired rare books -- which for the most part are not yet digitized -- are listed here. This is a good starting point if you want to keep yourself informed of our ongoing rare book acquisitions in the fields of guide books (Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany) and 20th century colonialism.

SQLite Data Bases

We have various SQLite databases we maintain mainly for internal production.

Library Holdings

An SQLite with the complete library holdings - not only digitized items - as of 2020-12 with the most important metadata including to 3 keywords per topic (person, corporation, place, subject) and their relevant GND identifications. With a bit of ingenuity the relevant keywords can be georeferenced and mapped onto Italy (using, eg, the ISTAT data, which is included in the package).

  • Number of items: 1.000.000 (sic!)
  • Number of items with keywords: 59.000
  • Columns: 40 incl. keywords
  • Other content: Geonames Italy, Comuni Italy, Regioni Italy with respective polygons
Rara Holdings

An SQLite with the rara holdings only - not only digitized items - as of 2020-12 with the most important metadata (no keywords). Added are information about provenance.

  • Number of items: ca. 21.000
  • Columns: 25
  • Other content: provenance data (acquisition, exlibris)
Rara Restoration

Complete database for all Rara volumes documenting status reports and eventual interventions during the restoration project 2017-2020. The difficutly in assessing the meaning of all this information lies in the inherently complex description. Language: Italian.

  • Number of items: 19277
  • Number of images: ca. 55.000
  • Columns: more than 60 (sic!)
OCR of Digitized Items

We have an SQLite with crude OCR results (tesseract) for every digitized book (travel reports, guide books, etc. except Echaurren). The table comprises only filename/shelf, line and OCR-string.

  • Number of OCR lines: 270.000.000 lines
  • Number of Pages: 350.000
  • Number of volumes: 1200
  • Filesize: ca. 1.7GB (sqlite), 3.3GB (json)
Pablo Echaurren

SQLite database of the digitiez Pablo Echaurren collection (vd. infra) with short metadata (author, title, year, publisher, editor &c.) and indices e.g. for keypersons.

  • Items: 1044 items (39 digitized Vinyl disks digitized as FLAC)
  • Indices: curated indices for authors, keypersons, illustrators, publishers, series
  • Number of columns: ca. 60 (incl. 35 tracks)
  • OCR: soon
Toponyms of Rome

We also have - as a left-over from the LVPa project - nearly 800 georeferenced toponyms of the city of Rome. These cover the antique and the modern city. Columns are name and latlon for the simple toponyms plus the old LVPA data with references. Sorry, points only - no vector so far.

Book Projects
Schlosser: Die Kunstliteratur

In 1924 Julius von Schlosser published his »Die Kunstliteratur«, a collections of primary sources for the history of art. Of the ca. 1400 cited titles, most are owned by our library and have been digitized. The transcription of the »Die Kunstliteratur« with direct links to all digitized sources is here.

Schudt: Le Guide di Roma

Ludwig Schudt's »Le Guide di Roma«, published in 1930, lists nearly all known guide books of Rome. The publication has been transcribed and all sources cited by him have been linked to digitized specimen - most of them from our own extensive collection.

Leosini: Monumenti storici artistici della citta di Aquila

Finally, there's a new project coming about the artistic treasures of the town of L'Aquila, developed in partnership with the university of l'Aquila. The transcription of Leosini's »Monumenti storici artistici della citta di Aquila« from 1848 will be accompanied by an exhaustive comment and its cited monuments located on a interactive map. The website is only a mock-up.

Pablo Echaurren

This archive comprehends more than 1.000 pieces of pamphlets, sketches, photographies and printed materiel from the collection of Pablo Echaurren, mostly from 1965-1979. A special website is being prepared. An announcement will be made in spring 2021. For the data, vd. supra.

Early Texts on Perspective

We have collected some early printed and manuscript texts about the theory of perspective, with relevant modern documentation. Originally this was intended as a place for collaborative editing (using the annotate.it toolkit). The toolkit is no more, but the documents are still open.

Place Names of Rome

The data here exposed come from the -- now defunct -- LVPA Project by Andreas Thielemann. Exemplary guide books of Rome were manually indexed and all better known place names registered. The result was a database covering the most famous place marks of Rome -- more than 1.100 toponyms -- with more than 15.000 direct links into our digitized volumes.

Geographic Metadata Mapped

The data here comes from our bibliographic data stored in the OPAC - or better, the catalogue of our consortium. Specific keywords have been extracted - municipalities in Italy and some selected places in Rome - and mapped onto a map of Italy.

Sketchbook Georeferenced

A sketchbook containing original watercolours held by the library has been digitized and its panoramic views (mostly of the Naples bay area) georeferenced. The result has been visualized using the Mapbox Storyboard template and as traditional Pop-Up. Both solutions have been overlayed onto a 3D terrain model. A third way to deal with the same task of adding geo informations, but also annotations done by researchers has been done in an enhanced IIIF-manifest. Simply open a standard Mirador3 viewer (e.g. this ) and load the Manifest file from here .

Digital Cartography

We've georeferenced some of the (better) maps of Rome, Latium and the Abruzzi from the library material. The results are quite nice, even more when overlayed on top of modern maps. They are collected here:

Surface Scans

Digitizations of surfaces (paintings, leather bindings, et al.) proved to be very interesting. A deeper look at the surface allows for better understanding of the production technique, of restorations and environmental damage. Some examples are collected here:

Transparency Scans

Digitizations of watermarks proved to be a technical challenge. Initially we thought it would be possible to eliminate the surface print (ink) using a filter, but not only the watermark is visible in a transparency scan but the paper structure (pulp) also. Some examples are collected here:

3D Object Digitizations

3D scans of our rare book collection proved to be a good approach to present the materiality of our objects. A good example is the 1493 german edition of Hartmann Schedel's »Buch der Chroniken«. We've also done some digitizations of frescoes from rock sanctuaries in the Abruzzi region, too (»Santa Maria dell Ritornata« near Civita d'Antino). All digitizations have been executed using photogrammetry.


All of our digitized volumes are accessible using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting . The Getty is using this API to include our collection into its Research Portal . The use of our API is free.


All of our digitized volumes are accessible using the International Image Interoperability Framework . This allows harvesting of volumes and -- even more importantly -- single scans bypassing traditional HTML interfaces. The use of the IIIF API eliminates the cumbersome download process and facilitates distributed research.


All of our digitized volumes are accessible using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting . The Getty is using this API to include our collection into its Research Portal . The use of our API is free.


All digitized works are released — if not explicitely stated otherwise — under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence of Creative Commons.

You are free to:

  • download the scans (jpeg, tiff, pdf),
  • copy and redistribute the scans in any medium or format,
  • transform and build upon the scans.

Under the following terms:

  • you may not use the material for commercial purposes (n.b. the use of our material for scientific articles does not constitute commercial use and is is expressly allowed),
  • you must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
    In particular, you have to cite the source as follows:

Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History

Even if you transform or build upon the scans, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.


Our mail address is:

Bibliotheca Hertziana - Max Planck Institute for Art History
Via Gregoriana, 28
I-00187 Rome

You'll find more information on our website.

For general questions please contact PD Dr. Golo Maurer , for technical inquiries please contact Dr. Klaus E. Werner .