Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Systema Saturnium
Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology
Smithsoniam Institutional Libraries

The Systema Saturnium written by Christiaan Huygens was digitally published in 1999 by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. The entire book, a 1659 edition originally published by Adriani Vlacq, has been digitized and is available to read and examine. This single book is listed as a collection on the Dibner Library home page and was digitized with help from the Smithsonian. All aspects of the book are photographed including the covers, blank leaves, diagrams, and book plates and notes on the front flyleaves.
An introduction explains why this particular book and edition was chosen for digitization. One of the reasons for digitizing this specific book is that this edition has two out of order bound and misprinted pages. This book appears to be historically important to the Dibler Library collection and was part of an effort to digitize historical items relating to science and the history of science. The introduction, by Ronald Bradsher, explains the impact of Huygens discoveries and assertions for 17th century astronomy. This work was revolutionary in the 17th century because Huygens indicates he has proof regarding the nature of the rings and moons around Saturn.
The metadata for this collection is displayed on the first page including the author, publication date, Dibner Library call number, collation formula, and a hyper link to the introduction for the collection. The design on the title page of the Systema Saturnium as also photographed with raster imaging and may have been combined with some form of ORC, or re-typing of the title page text and full title of the work (Systema Saturnium, sive de causis mirandorum Saturni phaenomenon, et comite ejus planeta novo, which translates as “On the matter of Saturn's remarkable appearance, and its satellite, the new planet” taken directly from the collection introduction).
I accessed this collection first from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL) digital collections page, but later was able to find the digital collection and the physical book through Dibner Library. Accessing this collection must be done through the SIL and typing in ‘Saturn’ brings up this collection at this url:
This collection is the last listed and upon entering the collection the user is confronted with a sort of ‘home page’. This functions as the table of contents for the collection and every page has a ‘home’ link at the top right. The digitization metadata is provided on this home page and includes the date of digitization, the involved institutions, and the clear label “digitized edition”. The collection is divided into three groups: introduction, the reproduced text, and a list of plates and illustrations. The text opens with the two representations of the titles page and from there a user may choose the ‘next page’ function or select a page from a drop down menu. The list of plates and illustrations is ordered by page number and clicking on the page number will take a user to that page. The reproduced images of the pages are very large and did not fit well on my monitor. I tried changing my monitor display but the problem is the static menu bar containing the ‘back’, ‘home’, and ‘next’ functions along with the drop down menu. The images are very clear and easy to decipher, even without zoom capabilities. It is possible to copy and save pages from this collection.
The only issue I had was with finding this collection consistently. The Dibner Library has digital collections and they are accessible from their home page. However, many of their digital collections are routed through the SIL search page. In trying to learn more about how to access Dibner digital collections and to determine who maintained the links and home pages I briefly looked at a different digitized book from the Dibner library. This collection was of Alber Van Helden’s Huygen's Ring, Cassini's Division, and Saturn's Children, published in 2004. This collection has no metadata and is simply a PDF of the entire book. It is classed as a collection under the same search terms as the Huygen collection although they are very different in information content and appearance. This indicated a lack of standards and digital consistency within the Dibner Library and the SIL. Although Van Helden’s work was a lecture it is presented as a print medium but captured very differently than the Huygen book.
The audience for this collection was unclear, although based on the style and tone of the introduction I would suspect that is primarily used for researching the history of science. The collection is written in Latin (I believe) and there are no translations of the text within the collection, excepting some small passages in the introduction. The book this collection centers around is available for check out at the Dibner Library and they have several copies.

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