The World Horse Library opens its doors

Since time immemorial the horse has accompanied the development of humanity. He has been seen on roads, hooked and mounted, in the field or in the mine, in the conquest of unknown lands, in hunting, in war and then in the circus, in racetracks, and in carousels… It has been an unbreakable server, without peer. The horse is a living, intoxicating, exciting, and inspiring being…

From the tables of Kikulli or the Treaty of Xenophon, to our days, through Federico Grisone, William Cavendish Duke of Newcastle, the Gueriniere and his bible of lights, the rival brothers Baucher and d’Aure, Victor Eugene Géruzez nicknamed Crafty to increase the fantasy, General Decarpentry, the Portuguese rider Nuno Oliveira, and the iconoclast Jean d’Orgeix, the horse is an inexhaustible subject of culture, technique and civilization.


For centuries, thousands of works have been dedicated to it, hundreds of authors have engaged in the subject, not only in Europe but also in the whole world. This ambitious project of the World Horse Library consists in discovering, gathering and elaborating all its repertoire from the same place where they are found in public or private libraries in order to build, from France, the first virtual world library dedicated to the horse. This task is inspired and favors to a large extent in the works already carried out by the specialists of the genre, be it Gabriel-René Mennessier of La Lance in France, the British Frederick Henry Huth, or the Marquis of Torrecilla in Spain…


Is it more an opportunity and an ambition than a necessity? Normandy, undoubted land of horses, supports the project, and the MRSH of Caen develops it and is a leader in the field of intelligent digitalization “Smart digital”. The advantages of the project are many, among which is allowing the transmission of this cultural heritage, of this mine of information on the subject, of these precepts of education that are valuable both to horses as to those who ride them, as well as future generations.

From now on, a whole number of ignored and unknown books, a fragmented mass of knowledge, accumulated and sometimes difficult, and even delicate and fragile access, would be strengthened by specialized digital techniques and technological developments sometimes rejected, and they could be available to researchers, the passionate, the curious… and even our children for centuries. It is a necessity in the sense that few public or private libraries, collectors, or owners of rare works, have the knowledge or skills to try to carry out this digital transformation at the most advanced level of contemporary techniques. This work will be collaborative between the MRSH and the owners of rare and appreciated works, in the spirit of complementarity, mutual benefit and transparency.


The MRSH-CNRS University of Caen is one of the most advanced European centers for digital documents and writings: a resource center for the digital policy of journals sponsored by the CNRS, a point of support for an EQUIPEX (Team of Excellence) of the PIA1 (Future Investment Plan), as well as the basis of a national research infrastructure on digital writing (METOPES) that is based on the analysis and structuring of data to international standards (xml TEI-EAD). More than 30 academic content projects are developed permanently. Among them, the virtual library of Mount Saint-Michel, the work of Descartes, the Bayeux Tapestry or also the incredible gardens of Europe. A team of fifteen engineers permanently work on the development of these projects, with the support of more than 80 professors, researchers, and doctoral students dedicated to a large program of generic research on the digital document. The World Horse Library relies on this base and benefits from the research advances that arise from the project itself.

This work of “intelligent digitization” will be publicized through a website dedicated to its promotion. The site of the World Horse Library will be robust and sophisticated to meet the demands of librarians, specialists, collectors, and at the same time it will remain alive, informative and pedagogical to reach as many people as possible.

Xavier Libbrecht

Articles Headlines library research human sciences