Our Bible Scanning Equipment
Scanning a modern book and turning it into a PDF file is not difficult. Modern books are inexpensive, they are easy to obtain, they are replaceable, you can bend them fully open, you can remove pages, and so on. But even so, we find many lost opportunities as books available online have been poorly scanned with cheap DIY equipment, they are often scanned at low resolution, they have dark margins, some pages are squint or poorly aligned, and small text is unclear or unreadable. Time and care have not been taken. The Internet is full of amateur scanned books like these. Unfortunately, there are lots of PDFs of Bibles scanned like this, too. With a book as valuable as the Bible, the Word of God, that is a great tragedy.
At the Bible Manuscript Society, we want to do things differently. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and deserves the utmost care. We want to take time and care, and scan Bibles and Bible manuscripts with the best possible quality - something which will never need to be re-done. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. We understand that old, unusual or rare Bibles are unique, large, heavy, fragile and easy to damage. You usually only get one opportunity, or one occasion, to access them, and you can't go back and scan them again if you do it badly the first time. We believe that if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well.
First and foremost, we take extreme time and care to do things right. Each Bible is different. Some have thick paper. Some have extremely thin paper with bleed-through from the reverse page. Some have glossy paper which reflects light. Some have old, yellow, blotchy, faded text. We therefore spend time experimenting with what works best for each individual Bible. In some cases, turning it into black and white can produce a stunningly sharp and clear image - if the effects of bleed-through and old/faded pages can be eliminated. But in other cases, a grey-scale or colour scan might work out better. We experiment with different shading and lighting conditions to make sure the images are as perfect as they can be.
But our aim is to produce the best possible PDF of each Bible, not just images. After all, the Bible is meant to be read. We believe the Bible is not an exhibit to be admired behind a glass panel in a museum. Therefore we spent time (as long as it takes) turning the images into a single, good quality PDF for each Bible, with pages aligned, dark strips eliminated, bleed-through eliminated, with nice, sharp, clear text which can be read with ease. The results are amazing! But the problem is time... it all takes more time and effort than most people care for... and that is why there are so many poor quality Bible images and PDFs floating around the Internet. We started the Bible Manuscript Society because we can produce better PDFs than, frankly, anyone we know.
But to do all this, specialist skills and expensive, specialist equipment are needed to scan old Bibles and Bible manuscripts. No damage or harm (at all) must happen to these Bibles. The scans (photographs) must be perfect - high quality, high resolution, and as exciting to look at as the original Bibles or Bible manuscripts.
At the Bible Manuscript Society, we do not take a "one size fits all" approach. We take different approaches depending on what works best for a particular Bible. In some cases, quality high-end overhead scanners can work well - if the Bible can be opened and held flat. In other cases, the spine of an old or heavy Bible will be damaged if it is opened fully. And if the inner margins of the Bible are not flat, it could result in distortions on the scanned page. It takes experimentation to find the approach that works well for a particular Bible.
Top-end overhead scanners work well in some cases, especially with modern Bibles in good condition, while in other cases the Bible or Bible manuscript must be rested on a V-shaped plate, and the Bible photographed from above using professional-quality full-frame high-resolution SLR cameras, using equipment such as the Atiz BookDrive Pro, to which we have access. However, this is an expensive scanning rig, outside the financial reach of most private individuals and many publicly-funded institutions.
In other cases, especially with older Bibles, the Bible is so fragile and valuable that little or no contact can be made to the pages of the Bible. In these instances, even more expensive and specialist photography equipment must be used. Ultimately, at the Bible Manuscript Society, we find an approach that works best for each individual Bible.
Rest assured that if you give the Bible Manuscript Society access to your old, rare or unusual Bibles, or original Bible manuscripts, we will take the utmost care over them. We will experiment and find the approach that works best for each particular Bible. The results will be spectacular. Technology has moved on so much over the past few years that we are likely to produce far better results than anything scanned in the past decade.