British Library launches Treasures app on Android

Here’s a bit of high-brow news for you to get the week off to a good start. The British Library has announced a smartphone app it’s calling Treasures – which documents “over 100″ of the library’s finest historical pieces.

You get high-res images, videos and commentary, with highlights being some handwritten drafts of novels from the likes of Dickens and Jane Austen. Here are a couple of screenshots. They’re from the iPhone version…

british library treasures android app 1 british library treasures android app 2

…because it costs £2.39 (discounted to £1.19 until Jan 24) on Android and we’re not really that keen. Here’s the extremely verbose press release – a better list of content is online here.

British Library Launches First Smartphone App

World treasures now available for discovery on mobile devices and iPad globally

Home to the world’s knowledge and some of the rarest and most unique written and printed treasures, the British Library will launch its first smartphone app on 10 January 2011. Created in conjunction with Toura, a leading technology platform for mobile guides, the ‘Treasures’ app, will present a rich selection of the items featured in the Library’s Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery, providing the opportunity for interaction with the Library’s collections at home, on the move or within the Gallery itself.


Treasures will be available across multiple mobile platforms including iPhone, Android and iPad. It will provide a truly multimedia experience including over 100 of the Library’s greatest collection items, 250 high-definition images, over 40 videos providing expert commentary, textual interpretation for deeper understanding, as well as up to date information about the Library’s current exhibitions.

Through the app users will experience an up close and personal experience with some of the Library’s most unique items, such as the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the world’s oldest bible Codex Sinaiticus, Nelson’s Battle Plan, written before his victory at Trafalgar, Galileo’s letters and Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks. Expert commentary is provided on many of the items and users can watch, for example, videos of explorer Ben Fogle talking about Scott’s Diary and Linguist David Crystal discussing the 1,000 year old poem Beowulf.

Literary highlights include Charles Dickens’s handwritten draft of Nicholas Nickleby and Jane Austen’s teenage writings, while key historical documents include 2000-year-old Oracle Bones from China and an original Magna Carta of 1215. The section devoted to music includes manuscript scores from some of the best-known classical composers, such as Handel, Purcell, Mozart and Schubert, alongside hand-written lyrics by The Beatles.

Christian texts include the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Gutenberg Bible. Other faiths are represented by the Golden Haggadah, Sultan Baybars’ Qur’an, and Buddhist, Daoist, Hindu, Sikh and Zoroastrian manuscripts. The scientific documents explore fields such as astronomy, botany, zoology and medicine. They include manuscripts, notebooks and letters that reveal some of the key scientific developments of all time, including Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, and Copernicus’s and Galileo’s findings on the structure of the cosmos.

Treasures will be available for download globally on iPhone and iPod Touch, in the iTunes App and in the Android Marketplace for £2.39 (US $3.99). The HD version is available for download globally for iPad for a price of £3.49 (US $5.99). More information can be found at http://apps.toura.com/british-library/treasures or http://www.bl.uk/app

The Library is also offering an introductory price of £1.19 (US $1.99) for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android smartphones, and £2.39 (US $3.99) for iPad until 24 Jan.

Frances Brindle, British Library Director, Strategic Marketing & Communications commented: “Access to our collections through mobile technologies is an exciting initiative for the Library. We are delighted to be able to make our unique collection items available to a wider audience via this interactive app in such a dynamic format. The Library is committed to increasing access to its collections and broadening the reach of our services and this app demonstrates our commitment to engaging with the mobile community.”

“Toura is proud to be partnering with the British Library to bring its first mobile app to life,” explained Toura’s CEO Aaron Radin. “With Toura technology enabling the Treasures app, the British Library’s impressive body of knowledge will have a global reach – opening up the doors for unprecedented learning and discovery through dynamic video, images, text and audio features across all mobile platforms.”

The Library hopes to develop Treasures in the future with further enhancements and will update the content as its exhibition programme changes.

3 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Timbo

     /  January 10, 2011

    Isn’t the British Library a publicly owned place that’s free to visit as such? Surely an app like this should be free?

    Reply
    • Apps can be fairly expensive to commission, so they’re probably trying to cover their costs.

      Reply
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