The British Library has announced a partnership with Google to digitise 250,000 out-of-copyright books from its collection and make them available free of charge to users on the library's website and Google Books.
The project will digitise printed books, pamphlets and periodicals dated 1700 to 1870, the period that saw the French and industrial revolutions, the Battle of Trafalgar and the Crimean War, the invention of rail travel and of the telegraph, the beginning of UK income tax, and the end of slavery.
The library said its aim was to increase access to anyone who wants to do research.
Asked about the timescale for the project, a spokesman for the library told GGC: "We are saying that it is over the next few years. We do not have a deadline by when it is being completed."
On the costs of involved he said: "Google are carrying the cost and we will choose the items to be digitised."
Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, said: "Our aim is to provide perpetual access to this historical material, and we hope that our collections coupled with Google's know-how will enable us to achieve this aim."
The first works to be digitised will range from feminist pamphlets about Queen Marie-Antoinette, the invention of the first combustion engine-driven submarine, and an account of a stuffed Hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange.