AIP receives $650,000 Grant to Digitize Rare Books

News Release

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation makes three-year grant to make newly acquired Wenner Collection accessible to the public for the first time

WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 30, 2018 -- The American Institute of Physics (AIP) announced today that it has received a three-year, $646,697 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to make a unique collection of rare books in the physical sciences universally accessible.

The grant will enable AIP’s Niels Bohr Library & Archives to provide global, digital access to the Wenner Collection, a carefully curated repository that features 3,800 volumes, dating back nearly five centuries. The grant will make the Wenner Collection accessible to the public for the first time, allowing for new use and engagement with these rare books.

By conducting comprehensive bibliographic description, according to national library standards, these rare books and publications will be discoverable to the world, not only through the Library’s online public access catalog, but also through WorldCat, an international library discovery tool. Included in the catalog will be provenance information related to past ownership or creation, including binding, printing, and publishing history. 

Beyond making the collection freely accessible, this project also will provide scholars with an enhanced opportunity to use AIP’s collections in future research projects. AIP plans for this collection to be a magnet for scholars, authors and broad audiences. The collection and its treasures will enrich scholarly research and inspire these audiences with the history and stories of science in its contemporaneous forms.

Work on the project supported by the Sloan Foundation will begin January 2019, with the expectation that the Wenner Collection will be digitized and freely accessible to the public by December 2021.

“This collection’s historic and cultural value cannot be overstated -- this is truly a remarkable fixture in the history of the physical sciences, and we are so thrilled to be partnering with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation on this very important work,” said AIP CEO Michael Moloney.

The funding is provided through the Sloan Foundation’s Universal Access to Knowledge program, which seeks to harness advances in digital information technology to facilitate the openness and accessibility of all knowledge in the digital age for the widest public benefit under fair and secure conditions. See

“We could not be more honored to be awarded this grant,” said AIP Director of Development Mariann Salisbury. "It will allow us to bring this unique collection into the information age -- rare volumes covering centuries of scientific discovery from the very dawn of the scientific revolution available on any computer desktop anywhere in the world."

A diagram from "Astronomy Explained Upon Sir Isaac Newton's Principles, and Made Easy to Those Who Have Not Studied Mathematics" by James Ferguson



The American Institute of Physics is a federation of scientific societies in the physical sciences, representing scientists, engineers, educators, and students. AIP offers authoritative information, services and expertise in physics education and student programs, science communication, government relations, career services, statistical research in physics employment and education, industrial outreach and history of the physical sciences. AIP publishes Physics Today, the most closely followed magazine of the physical sciences community and is also home to the Society of Physics Students and the Niels Bohr Library and Archives. AIP owns AIP Publishing LLC, a scholarly publisher in the physical and related sciences.


AIP has recently acquired a substantial curated collection of rare books and materials covering the history of the physical sciences, going back nearly 500 years. The collection (200 linear feet in over 3,800 volumes) has been carefully organized and annotated, is in excellent condition, and contains works by Ptolemy, Galileo, Huygens, Halley, Newton, Laplace, and many early 19th‐century natural philosophers. For more information, see


The New York based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants for original research and education in science, technology, and economic performance. Sloan's subprogram in Universal Access to Knowledge, directed by Doron Weber, aims to harness advances in digital information technology to facilitate the openness and accessibility of all knowledge in the digital age for the widest public benefit under fair and secure conditions. Current grantees include Wikimedia, Consumer Reports, the Digital Public Library of America, and Annual Reviews. For more information visit


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