Dunedin Public Libraries’ entire Reed Collection of medieval and renaissance manuscripts has been carefully digitised page by page.
An incredible 4904 pages are now available for people to view at Scattered Seeds, the organisation’s online digital archive.
Reed rare books and special collections librarian Julian Smith said a few key pages had been digitised in the past.
“But no-one has ever undertaken the project of digitising the full manuscripts, which is something I’ve always wanted to get done.
“There’s certainly plenty of people in Dunedin that like the idea of being able to see the whole things online.”
There were 13 manuscripts in the collection, the earliest dating from about AD1240 and others crossing the middle to later medieval period and slightly into the Renaissance period.
One in the collection technically fell outside the medieval period, being an 18th century Arabic manuscript, Mr Smith said.
The collection was donated by Alfred Hamish Reed in 1948.
A.H. Reed was a well-known New Zealander and his company Reed Publishing was the biggest publisher in New Zealand for many years, Mr Smith said.
He was remembered for long-distance walking trips, which included traversing the length of New Zealand as well as walking from Sydney to Melbourne in Australia.
“And he did those in very old age, when he was in his 80s.”
He was also a charitable figure.
“He was well known around Dunedin for helping out in churches and in the hospital.”
He was a collector of books and manuscripts, and his great love was the Bible in both written and manuscript form.
Mr Reed’s first gifts to the Dunedin library in 1948 were followed up by donations between 1948 and 1960.
As his company became more successful and he had “a little bit more cash to spare” he was able to contribute more important items to the collection.
“He is such a fondly remembered figure around Dunedin, and plenty of people still living today remember him and know about the collection he gave to the city of Dunedin.
“I think that adds value to the project, that history surrounding Mr Reed himself.”
The project was made possible by the New Zealand Libraries Partnership Programme, administered by the National Library, Mr Smith said.
The digitisation was carried out by a specialist team at New Zealand Micrographic Services.
New Zealand Micrographic Services southern regional manager Stephen Hardman said each individual page was carefully arranged to minimise any potential harm.
The detail of the digitisation was phenomenal, he said.
This enabled researchers to glean all sorts of information from each page.
• Visit dunedin.recollect.co.nz to see the digital archive.