On stage, he announced that he had cooperated with the library to produce a digitised version of their two Leonardo da Vinci notebooks, the BL’s Codex Arundel and his own Codex Leicester (which he bought for $31m in 1994). The upgraded “Turning the Pages 2.0” system enables direct comparisons to be made between the two notebooks.
Microsoft has also announced that it will provide £40,000 for four UK public libraries to digitise some of their most important material. Libraries will be invited to apply for the funding.
BL chief executive Lynne Brindley described the Leonardo project as “making history”, but the new offering has its restrictions. Microsoft is initially allowing the BL to provide the Codex Leicester on its website for six months (hopefully, this may be extended). To view it requires Vista software, so only a small proportion of computers will be able to access it (software may later become available to enable non-Vista computers to be used).
However, only 114 of Arundel’s 580 pages are available in the new format. It is also surprising that London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, which owns the Codices Forster, is not participating (the V&A produced its own digital version for its Leonardo exhibition which closed in January).
Microsoft and the BL have developed a close relationship, following an agreement signed in November 2005 under which the company undertook to help fund the digitisation of 100,000 19th-century books. We can reveal that this assistance was worth £1,250,000, which must make it one of the largest sponsorships ever received by the BL (see p22). Microsoft also provided £100,000 for the development of the “Turning the Pages 2.0” system.