PictureIt Rare Book Reader

We bring old books to life. See them again for the first time.

Modeled on similar projects at The British Library and the National Library of Medicine, our “PictureIt” Book Reader puts some of the most beautiful and sought‐after items in our collections into the hands of readers worldwide – virtually.

The first of our treasures accessible in this way is John James Audubon’s Birds of America. Our eight‐volume, double‐elephant folio edition of Audubon’s magnificent work was the first purchase by the Regents for the University Library. The Regents paid $970 – an extraordinary expenditure in 1838 – for the set, a significant act of faith for a university that had yet to offer a single class or construct its first building.

Audubon's original work is on permanent display in the The Audubon Room.

The Library PictureIt project was a collaborative effort between several units and is available for shared use in the Library. PictureIt is a web-based animation program that gives users the sensation of turning the pages of digitized rare materials that would be otherwise difficult, if not impossible, to view or obtain. John James Audubon’s Birds of America was selected as the inaugural PictureIt book for a few reasons.

  • As mentioned, the eight volume set has special meaning as the first purchase for the Library by the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan.
  • The University of Pittsburgh had already digitized all volumes of the Birds of America set and was willing to share the images with the Library.
  • The illustrated plates of this set were intricately completed, making them as much art work as scientific work.
  • The Birds of America's complex images demonstrate the product’s embedded magnification tool which allows users to get up-close and view the details of each illustration.

The animation programming for PictureIt was designed as a template to allow for the easy and quick insertion of other digitized rare materials. The PictureIt project is also under a Creative Commons License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en, which will allow others to use and change the programming with proper attribution to the University of Michigan. As a result, the Library hopes many institutions will post their digitized rare materials using PictureIt as a growing collection of primary source materials available for worldwide viewing.


Copyright Information

Source Code

Volumes Available for Viewing

There are a total of 8 volumes of Audubon’s Birds of America containing a total of 435 images.

Audubon Volume 1 - Wild Turkey Audubon Volume 1 - Wild Turkey   Audubon Volume 1 - Wild Turkey Audubon Volume 1 - Wild Turkey
Volume 1.1 Volume 1.2   Volume 2.1 Volume 2.2
Audubon Volume 1 - Wild Turkey Audubon Volume 1 - Wild Turkey   Audubon Volume 1 - Wild Turkey Audubon Volume 1 - Wild Turkey
Volume 3.1 Volume 3.2   Volume 4.1 Volume 4.2


Page maintained by Pablo Alvarez
Last modified: 06/09/2015