Longitude archive opened to world

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The full story of attempts to solve 'the longitude problem' are being made freely available to everyone via Cambridge University’s Digital Library.

The complete archive of the Board of Longitude, held by Cambridge University Library and associated National Maritime Museum collections, will take their place alongside the works of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton on the Cambridge Digital Library site.

Treasures of the Longitude archive, available to view in high-resolution for the first time, include accounts of bitter rivalries, wild proposals and first encounters between Europeans and Pacific peoples. This includes logbooks of Captain Cook’s voyages of discovery, the naming of Australia and even a letter from Captain Bligh of HMS Bounty, who writes to apologise for the loss of a timekeeper after his ship was ‘pirated from my command’.

The university’s Digital Library project was launched in June 2010 following a £1.5m gift from the Polonsky Foundation.

University librarian Anne Jarvis said: 'With the digitisation of this incredible collection, we have taken another important step towards realising our shared ambition of creating a digital library for the world.'

The Board of Longitude collection is the largest project undertaken to date by the Cambridge Digital Library team, comprising more than 65,000 images. Funded by Jisc, the collection has been developed in partnership with a wider five-year research project by Cambridge’s department of history and philosophy of science and Greenwich’s National Maritime Museum.

The archive preserves detailed minutes from the first recorded meeting in 1737 right through to the Board of Longitude’s dissolution in 1828.