Portable Book Scanner
A Factum Foundation project to digitise manuscripts in Dagestan, 2017

Factum Foundation Portable Book Scanner

From May 2016 to March 2017, the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation has been working to create a portable book scanner for the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography (IHAE) in Makhachkala (Dagestan, Russian Federation). With this scanner, the IHAE will commence a long-term project to digitise their important archive of Islamic manuscripts, a resource that contains over 3000 objects dating from the 11th-20th centuries. The portable scanner will also allow them to begin the digitisation of the private collections in Dagestan’s rich manuscript heritage. The IHAE considers this work to be as important as that of digitising their own collections; in past summers, students of the Institute have carried out field work to identify and photograph the most important manuscripts held by individuals, mosques and madrasas around the country. Travelling in Dagestan’s mountainous terrain remains relatively difficult and transporting a conventional digitisation system to the many different locations would be problematic.

Shamil Shikhaliev, scholar of Islamic manuscripts at the IHAE, which contains over 3200 Islamic manuscripts from the 11th-20th centuries

Dagestan’s mountainous terrain is incredibly beautiful and wild – but relatively difficult to move around in

Factum’s unconventional – and very beautiful – scanner has been designed by engineers from Factum Foundation in collaboration with CREVI Ingenieros Ltd. ‘Portability’ was arguably the biggest consideration inconceiving the system, but data captured has to have the best quality possible; moreover, very delicate objects have to be protected from any damage during the digitisation process. The final design pays careful attention to each of these factors: the scanner is portable, but also safe to use, and will produce results which until now have only been possible in library settings.  

To watch the video demonstration click on the image

The Book Scanner allows the user to digitise books up to a resolution of 850ppi. It employs two Canon 5DSR 50 Mpx although the software is compatible with the family of DSLR Nikon and Canon cameras. The images generated are stored in a database and processed with both freely available and custom-made software.

Operating the scanner is simple: once the book has been positioned on the adaptable book-tray, the operator manually brings the photographic system into contact with the book. The methacrylate plates gently flatten the pages of the book, allowing maximum definition and focus on the totality of the page. The two cameras are activated by pressing on the shutter button and the images are automatically stored, catalogued and processed on the computer.

The design

 

Description of the parts that form the Portable Book Scanner
Final design of the Portable Book Scanner

Adaptable book-tray
Allows the user to adjust the spine width and opening angle i.e. adaptable to books of different sizes and states of conservation. The maximum spine width is 10 cm and the angle can be adjusted between 80º and 100º. The book tray is lined to protect the binding of the manuscript.

Photographic system
The Book Scanner is fitted with two Canon 5DSR with Sigma Art 50mm lenses. The two cameras are released at the same time by pushing one button. Two methacrylate plates keep the pages of the flat and at a fixed distance from the lenses. The images download onto the computer by means of USB 3.0 cables. The LED lighting system can be regulated on the vertical axis. In order to reduce shine, the light is cross-polarised by means of polarising filters on the lights and on the camera lenses.

Shield and vertical guides 
A mobile system is used to lift and lower the photographic system, so that the operator can turn the pages of the book. It is counterweighted with springs and comprises a blocking system to control positioning with little effort. The shield is articulated in order that the methacrylate plate can be adjusted to the angle at which the book can lie open (80º, 90º and 100º).

Fabric cover Structure with tensile arcs and black fabric. Darkens, protecting the imaging process from light contamination and possible reflections.

Computer with book scanner application
The application allows the user to manage all digitisation values and the flow of the image capture. From the application, the user can:

  • Configure camera values for digitisation
  • Create and configure projects, storing them in a database
  • Manage and export digitised images

The equipment can be packed into protective, portable cases, and installed in a new location in about an hour. Lights, cameras, and computer can be operated either with mains power, or, in the most remote locations, with batteries.

This project is being carried out with the support of the Ziyavudin Magomedov Charitable Peri Foundation. Visit their website here to find out more about their projects in Dagestan and the rest of Russia. 

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