Rare and ancient written works go online

National libraries from more than a dozen countries, in coordination with the United Nations’ education agency, put some of humanity’s earliest written works online April 21 with their launch of the World Digital Library, a web site in seven languages — English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian — that leads readers through a trove of rare finds. Among these are a 1562 map of the New World; the only known copy of the first book published in the Philippines, in Spanish and Tagalog; an 11th-century Serbian manuscript; and the oracle bones — pieces of bone or tortoise shell heated and cracked and inscribed that are among the earliest known signs of Chinese writings. The online archive also contains early photographs, films, and audio tracks. Aimed at researchers, educators, and students worldwide, the site provides page-by-page viewing of the original works, scanned in by the national libraries that took part in the project, often with multilingual narration by curators. http://www.wdl.org