ILEJ, the "Internet Library of Early Journals" was a joint project by the Universities of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford, conducted under the auspices of the eLib(Electronic Libraries) Programme. It aimed to digitise substantial runs of 18th and 19th century journals, and make these images available on the Internet, together with their associated bibliographic data. The project finished in 1999, and no additional material will be added. See Final Report for conclusions of the project.

The core collection for the project are runs of at least 20 consecutive years of:

Three 18th-century journals

  • Gentleman's Magazine
  • The Annual Register
  • Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society

Three 19th-century journals

  • Notes and Queries
  • The Builder
  • Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine

The 20-year runs were considered the minimum to provide a critical mass of material as perceived by the user. This core may be expanded by the addition of longer runs and/or other titles within the resources available. The project explored variables in the digitisation, retrieval and display processes which could affect both cost of image and index creation and the acceptability to the user. The variables were:

  • image creation: from both paper originals and existing microfilm copies. The effects of resolution, data compression and the use of black/white and grey scales were assessed
  • indexing: effective indexing is essential to user acceptability. The alternatives which were explored are OCRd full-text, both with and without fuzzy matching software, existing electronic indexes and the creation of electronic versions of printed indexes. The use of OCRd full-text is a major source of added value for some of the journals.
  • access to indexed images: from a World-Wide-Web platform.

Information was gathered on who used the service, how frequently and for what purposes and on the acceptability of images and indexes to users. The intended outcome was firm evidence and recommendations on the technological, economic and user acceptability aspects of digitisation which could serve as a basis for the development of a national digitisation programme for out-of-copyright journals.

Why these Journals?

The ILEJ project is concerned exclusively with key early British journals. The six titles were chosen according to a set of criteria which included:

  • perceived user demand in the United Kingdom higher education sector.
  • wide subject range, covering science and technology as well as the arts.
  • diversity of typefaces, print and paper quality.
  • diversity of article formats and page size.
  • use of illustrations (line-drawings and half-tones).
  • availability of copies in the consortium libraries.

Journal Profiles

Annual Register started in 1758, an annual survey of European and world events from a British perspective, but including biographical notices, parliamentary and legal reports, and some book reviews, divided into topical sections with chronological sub-divisions.

Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine started in 1817 (as a Tory rival to the Whig Edinburgh Review), a medium for imaginative literature, publishing English poetry, essays and especially prose fiction, and pioneering the presentation of European literature (particularly German) to a British audience.

The Builder started in 1843, a mine of information on domestic and foreign building developments from the perspective of the architect, engineer, constructor and art historian, including accounts of new buildings, materials, processes and books, and articles on ancient monuments and other historic buildings.

Gentleman's Magazine started in 1731, a Britain-focused miscellany of information about people, places and events, including news summaries, parliamentary reports, biographies and obituary notices, poems, essays, and a register of current publications.

Notes and Queries started in 1849, "a medium of intercommunication for literary men, artists, antiquaries, genealogists, etc.", carrying brief reports of completed research on humanities and related subjects and questions inviting answers in subsequent issues.

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society started in 1660, initially as a forum for the publication of scientific papers of both a general and a specialized nature, although increasingly a learned journal carrying refereed papers from established scientists.