The British Library receives more than one million visitors a year
Thousands of pages from one of the world’s biggest collections of historic books, pamphlets and periodicals are to be made available on the internet.
The British Library has reached a deal with search engine Google about 250,000 texts dating back to the 18th Century.
It will allow readers to view, search and copy the out-of-copyright works at no charge on both the library and Google books websites.
The library gets more than a million visitors a year.
The works selected to be digitised date from between 1700 and 1870, and the project will take some years to complete, with Google covering the costs of digitising.
Among the first works to go online are a pamphlet about French Queen Marie Antoinette and Spanish inventor Narciso Monturiol’s 1858 plans for one of the world’s first submarines.
Google has similar partnerships with about 40 libraries around the world.
Library chief executive Dame Lynne Brindley said the scheme was an extension of the ambition of the library’s predecessors in the 19th Century to provide access to knowledge to everyone.
“The way of doing it then was to buy books from the entire world and to make them available in reading rooms.
“We… believe that we are building on this proud tradition of giving access to anyone, anywhere and at any time.
“Our aim is to provide perpetual access to this historical material, and we hope that our collections coupled with Google’s know-how will enable us to achieve this aim.”