Digitising a First Folio
The First Folio was photographed using a high-resolution 50-megapixel camera, which was mounted on an overhead rostrum copy stand system. Non-heat-emitting adjustable LED daylight balanced and diffused lighting was also used. Though gloves are often worn when handling archive items, it was deemed a risk because of reduced dexterity and the potential for rips and tears.
A 'V Cradle' was determined to offer the best means of support for the material and, though a glass plate is usually used to flatten the pages of a bound item, this was discounted because of the delicacy of the spine. Weights and polyester strips were used to counter any natural page lifting and the shadows that can be cast as a result of this.
As the backbone of any bound item, the spine of the First Folio was always going to be of primary concern, serving to bind the pages together and keep them from loosening. The document could never be fully opened, nor the pages flattened, so the V Cradle was utilised to keep it in a semi-opened state, with the spine fully supported from beneath.
The pages were turned slowly from the middle, rather than the corners, to avoid them being damaged. Because the pages could not be flattened, the camera had to be angled to face one side of the folio, capturing all the pages on that side, before being angled to face the other side, whereupon the process was repeated.
During post-processing, the weights and plastic strips that had been used throughout were digitally edited out, as if they had never been there. Other common post-processing techniques were also implemented, such as cropping and colour correction. Finally, images were saved to the required formats, ready for delivery.
The process in full
Watch the full video of the digitisation process, courtesy of TownsWeb Archiving and featuring the Royal Shakespeare Company's First Folio. Thanks to the RSC and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for their kind cooperation with the capture of this video.