The National Library of Israel (NLI) and Google have announced that 120,000 books from the NLI collection are going online for the first time, as part of an historic collaboration.
The books include all of the NLI's out-of-copyright books which have not yet been digitized. About 45% of them are in Hebrew and other Hebrew-letter languages such as Yiddish and Ladino, with the rest of the works in a variety of languages, including Latin, English, German, French, Arabic, and Russian.
The digitization process now underway is complex. State-of-the-art shipping containers meeting strict climate-control and security requirements transport the books from the National Library in Jerusalem to the Google digitization center in Germany via Rotterdam. Following the digitization process they come back to the National Library of Israel Jerusalem, home to the world's largest collection of textual Judaica. The process is expected to be completed in about two years, with thousands of books sent, scanned and returned each month.
The Google Books project includes over 40 million books from over 70 great libraries in the United States, Europe, and Japan, as well as from thousands of publishers. It includes books in over 400 languages, including Hebrew. NLI's contribution will significantly increase the percentage of Hebrew texts available through Google Books.
Some of the NLI books digitized by Google as part of the collaboration include:
1. Phaedo or On the Immortality of Souls, Prussia, ca. 1860
Moses Mendelssohn's first book, originally published in German in 1767, was one of the most widely read books of its time. This is its first translation into Hebrew.
2. The Interpretation of Dreams, Zhovka, 1853
According to the cover page, this composition was originally published by Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel (1604-1657). It discusses the significance of dreams from a Jewish perspective, drawing upon the Talmud, the Zohar, and Western philosophy.
3. Tales of the wise men of Greece, or, Words of the Sages, Vilna, 1864
Yehuda Leib Ben Zev, an early adherent of the Haskalah movement, compiled short biographies and summaries of the worldviews of ancient Greek philosophers from Solon to Zeno. The book is written in Hebrew, with a vocalized Yiddish translation on the side "for the masses of our people who do not understand Hebrew."
4. Sefer Me'Am Loez, Livorno, 1823
Sefer Me'Am Loez is a collection of Midrash, homiletical teachings of the sages on the Bible, written in Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish. The first edition was published in 1730, and the last edition in 1897. It enjoyed huge popularity among Ladino-speaking Jews, and is considered by many to be the crown jewel of Ladino literature.
5. The Five Books of Moses: Tzena U'rena, Sulzbach, 1785
The Tzena Urena is a Yiddish translation and adaptation of the Torah, first written in 1509, intended primarily for women who were typically not educated enough to study the original biblical text. This edition features beautiful woodcut illustrations.