The earliest written works in humanity can now be viewed online thanks to a project supported by UNESCO, the UN educational arm, and the effort of libraries from around the world.
The World Digital Library went live on Tuesday, aiming to provide a one-stop shop for researchers, teachers and schoolchildren seeking to find items on one topic together in one place.
"It brings together cultural heritage that's scattered around the world," said U.S. Librarian of Congress James Billington.
Among the works that can be viewed are a 1562 map of the New World, the first book published in the Philippines (in Spanish and Tagalog), mathematical texts in Arabic, Chinese oracle bones inscribed with writings and the world's first novel, The Tale of Genji, written in Japan in the 11th century.
"These are primary documents of culture," says Billington. "These pieces are one of a kind, or available in just a very few places."
The website has seven languages — Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.
There are also early photographs, film and audio tracks on the site, created with the help of some 32 libraries and research institutions from 19 countries.
Billington says the site, which currently holds some 1,200 artifacts, will continue to grow as more libraries and institutions join the project.
The site is modelled after the Library of Congress's American Memory project, which now has 11 million history-related items online.