A digital renaissance: partnering with the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage

The Renaissance, Europe's period of cultural, political and scientific rebirth, began in Florence around 600 years ago. At Google we're interested in a (small “r”) renaissance of a different kind — a digital one. Since the launch of Google Books, we’ve been working with libraries and publishers around the globe to bring more of the world's books to more readers around the globe. Any school child should be able to access the works of Petrarch, Dante or Vico (or, if they're so inclined, Machiavelli). In the case of these more famous authors, this is already largely possible, but what about the work of Guglielmo il Giuggiola or Coluccio Salutati? We want all of the great literature and writings of Italy to be accessible to the general public.

Today we’re announcing an agreement with the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage that will push this vision forward. Working with the National Libraries of Florence and Rome, we’ll digitize up to a million out-of-copyright works. The libraries will select the works to be digitized from their collections, which include a wealth of rare historical books, including scientific works, literature from the period of the founding of Italy and the works of Italy's most famous poets and writers. It marks the first time we’ve ever joined forces with Italian libraries, and the first time we've worked with a ministry of culture.

Around Europe and the rest of the world, we are effectively witnessing a digital renaissance, with an increasing number of organizations running ambitious and promising book digitization projects. We're not the only ones who have seen the need to bring the world's books into digital form. Digitization of books is a tremendous undertaking, requiring the joint effort of a great number of public and private stakeholders. For this reason, we’re supportive of many other efforts at digitization, such as the European Commission's Europeana. We want to see these books have the broadest reach possible — the books we scan are available for inclusion in Europeana, of which the Florence Library is a founding member, and other digital libraries. The more of the world's historical, cultural treasures we can bring online, the more we can unlock our shared heritage.

We believe today’s announcement is an important step, and we look forward to working with more libraries and other partners. We envision a future in which people will be able to search and access the world's books anywhere, anytime. After all, Antonio Beccadelli and Anastasius Germonius — like Shakespeare and Cervantes — are part of our human cultural history.