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Description de l'Egypte

You don't have to visit a manuscript museum to see this historical treasure anymore; ISIS has brought it to you online -

Brief historical background
Description de l'Egypte is the outcome of the collaboration of more than 150 prominent scholars and scientists who accompanied Napoleon in 1798, and some 2000 talented artists and technicians. For over 20 years, they systematically examined almost every aspect of contemporary and ancient Egyptian civilization, producing 20 volumes of text and plates of unmatched accuracy and detail. Historically, these engravings became the most comprehensive record and inventory of Egypt’s land and monuments.

The digital version
This valuable collection containing images related to antiquities, natural history, and the modern states of Egypt has been fully digitized and integrated on a virtual browser with the objective of preserving it and making it publicly accessible. The collection includes eleven volumes of plates owned by BA, as well as nine volumes of text, a contribution from Institut d ’Egypte.

ISIS developed a tool to publish books in the standard eXtensible Markup Language (XML) format where books may be browsed by a virtual browser or a touch screen.

ISIS has provided the book in October 2004 on DVD in high resolution, enabling page flipping to give the effect of holding the original book, zooming in while maintaining a high quality view, and both French and English interfaces. The relations between the text volumes and the plate volumes were established and thus a search facility based on the Index volume which came with the collection, was developed. The DVD is available for sale at Bibliotheca Alexandrina bookshop.

Now available on the Internet..
In April 2007, the web version was developed ( to introduce the entire collection online free of charge in an integrated searchable form. Two special features distinguish the website:

  • Viewing pages in high resolution without the need for a high speed connection. The resolution of the pages is always impeccable, even when zooming in.
  • Carrying out full text morphological search through which you can search for any word throughout the book’s 9,000 pages, with results retrieved from the plate titles and the complete text. Every single result will appear highlighted on its given page, allowing you to navigate though the volumes, and to spot the searched word wherever present.

Further functionalities were introduced in the web version such as a favorites list, where you can add bookmarks to the specific plates you are interested in for easy reference. Also you can save a copy of your favorite plates or pages on your computer with JPEG or bitmap formats of a reasonable resolution. You can also share your experience with friends by sending them a particular plate or page via email. The web version receives more than five million hits a year.

International participation
Bibliotheca Alexandrina participated with this project in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) ICT4All Exhibition that took place in Tunis in November 2005.

The project was nominated by the jury of the Stockholm Challenge Award as finalist for the 2006 Challenge (Culture category) as well as the WSIS Challenge Award.

The project was also on display during an exhibition at the Grand Palais of Paris, France, for three months starting December 2006, and it later moved to Bonn, Germany.

A broader partnership
The development of a specialized virtual browser and other tools necessary to digitize this ancient collection has led to a broader preservation partnership resulting in digitizing l’Institut d’Egypte’s entire library content. The Institut d’Egypte owns a collection of over 35,000 volumes of references, books and periodicals in five languages. The outcome of this partnership will be the first attempt to digitize and publish a collection of such rarity and value, hence reviving the glory of the Institut as a focal point for scholarly work and intellectual pursuit in modern Egypt’s digital era.

Watch a guided tour


Have a look at the video on YouTube!


Last updated on 03 Oct 2013