Princeton University has announced a new digitized collection that will go perfectly with your July 4th. Materials from the Sid Lapidus ’59 Collection on Liberty and the American Revolution have been digitized and are now available at http://pudl.princeton.edu/collections/pudl0076. The collection contains at this writing 179 items — books, phamplets, etc. There being only 179 items this collection is fairly easy to browse, but a nav on the left allows you to narrow down your browsing by contributor/creator, language (five of the works are in French), subject, genre (including pre-1800 works and “Controversial Literature”), and more.
If you remember history class many of these works are going to look familiar. There’s Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason,” and “Common Sense,” Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the laws of England,” and John Adams’ “A defence of the constitutions of government of the United States of America”. (Other notables include John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin.) Item pages include information on the date, printing, physical description, and in-library location, but click on “View Item,” to see the item completely digitized.
I don’t know the name of the solution they’ve implemented to show the digitized works but it’s great; You can view thumbnails of the pages, zoom in on individual pages, and flip page and forth. I never had to wait for items to load. There are some items in the collection that are not books (for example, an image of Benjamin Franklin) and those have a slightly different setup, with panning tools and the ability to do serious zooming (these did take a while to load, but the level of zoom was very high) as well as the ability to download entire prints and also super-zoomed areas.
It is worth noting that in addition to information related to the American Revolution, the site also has an extensive collection of anti-slavery materials, including Ottobah Cugoano’s “Thoughts and sentiments on the evil and wicked traffic of the slavery and commerce of the human species : humbly submitted to the inhabitants of Great-Britain,” The Parliment of Great Britain’s “Report from the committee of the whole House … to consider … measures … for the abolition of the slave trade” from 1792, and many items from the Society of Friends.
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