Google Digitizing Israel National Library Collection

Israeli National Library official holds a text of Rabbi Isaac Abarbanel from the 15th century, published in Amsterdam in 1739, at the library in Yerushalayim. (AP Photo/Patty Nieberg/File)

The National Library of Israel is working with Google to digitize 120,000 books from its extensive collection of Jewish texts and upload them to the internet for public use.

The library said in a statement this week that its contribution will significantly increase the percentage of Hebrew texts available on Google Books.

The National Library has already begun transporting 50,000 books to Google’s digitization center in Germany using climate-controlled shipping containers. Another 20,000 will be scanned in-house due to their rare or fragile nature.

The writings being digitized range in subject: a Hebrew book for school children with Yiddish translation and a news article from Berlin on the history of the Jews in Cochin, India.

“As the national library for both the State of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide, we see it as a central element of our mission, especially now in the digital age, to open, free, universal access to as many Jewish and Hebrew texts as possible to be used and enjoyed by diverse audiences across the globe,” said Dr. Yoel Finkelman, curator at the National Library of Israel.

This collaboration is part of the library’s 450 Years of Hebrew Printing project, which aims to digitize its extensive collection of maps, manuscripts, photographs, historic press and books. The undertaking is sponsored by Israel’s Ministry of Yerushalayim and Heritage and other donors.

Roughly half of the texts, which date from the 18th to 20th centuries, are in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino, while the rest are in Latin, English, German, French, Arabic and Russian.

The whole process is expected to take around two years, after which all out-of-copyright Hebrew books will be available online and free to the public. The original books will be returned to the library in Yerushalayim.

“It’s exponentially increasing the books from our collection that are being digitized,” said Zack Rothbart, a spokesperson for the National Library.

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