With the recent dedication of the Berry-Baker library, Dartmouth's preeminent research collections are now combined with the College's extensive and innovative digital resources. The Digital Library at Dartmouth and its Digital Publishing Project (DPP) helped create the three sites detailed here. It will continue to expand its offerings in the coming years, connecting scholars with the technology that puts powerful new tools at their fingertips.
Until recently, one of the most important works by one of the most important minds in the history of astronomy went virtually unread, buried in the archives of the Russian Academy of Science in St. Petersburg. The 500-page manuscript, written in the 1460s by the astronomer Regiomontanus, may have been one of the principal texts leading to the Copernican revolution in 1543, when a sun-centered cosmology was proposed. Though the cosmos Regiomontanus described was earth-centered, his manuscript may provide an important link between the ideas of medieval Arab astronomers, such as Nasir Al-din Al-tusi and those of Copernicus himself. Titled Defensio Theonis or The Defense of Theon, the book is a polemic that attacks contemporary astronomy and surveys the entire range of problems related to Ptolemy's astronomy, the Greek theory still reigning in fifteenth-century Europe when Regiomontanus wrote his manuscript.
Kremer and his colleague, Michael Shank at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have undertaken a project to make Regiomontanus's work more accessible to scholars and the public. The Regiomontanus web site, created with the help of Dartmouth's Computing Services, debuts this fall and offers four different ways to read Defensio Theonis. Scholars will be able to view a digital scan of the manuscript pages, including all the author's text, corrections, diagrams, and margin notes; a Latin tran-scription, including corrections; an edited version of what scholars believe to be Regiomontanus's intended final work; and an English translation that will be added as the site develops.
"It's a way of making the information available now, rather than waiting for a traditional print edition," says Kremer. The digital editions will also allow users to access the text at a variety of levels, zooming in on text or diagrams or linking to different kinds of transcriptions and translations. Experts in early modern astronomy can review the Dartmouth web site and suggest improved readings of the transcriptions. "The digital edition will become organic, growing and improving over time, even while providing important data from the beginning," Kremer says.