This article by Evan Rail describes a remarkable photographic project by “Jeffrey Martin and his robotic camera”:

The finished Strahov library panorama, released Tuesday on Martin’s website, is a zoomable, high-resolution peek inside one of Prague’s most beautiful halls, a repository of rare books that is usually off-limits to tourists (a few of whom can be seen standing behind the velvet rope at the room’s normal viewing station).
Martin’s panorama lets you examine the spines of the works in the Philosophical Hall’s 42,000 volumes, part of the monastery’s stunning collection of just about every important book available in central Europe at the end of the 18th century — more or less the sum total of human knowledge at the time.

You can read the details of how he did it (and view a video) at that link; you can see the actual panorama here, and boy, is it something. Zoom in (using the Shift key) and read the titles of all those books, or (if art is your thing) examine the fresco. (Thanks, Nick!)


  1. Very nice, and very much like my own library. It reminded me of a 3-part Swedish tv thriller they just showed here, called Bibliotekstjuven, or “The Library Thief”. It’s the story of a young librarian at the Royal Library in Stockholm who steals and resells some rare books in the collection to an antiquarian bookseller in Amsterdam. Coming from a lower-middle class background, this librarian uses his ill-gotten money to buy the upper-class status symbols he feels are needed to climb the Swedish academic ladder. If it sounds like a Swedish Ripley there are similarities; but if it sounds unlikely based on what we know about Swedish social values it’s taken from a true story. It stars Gustaf Skarsgård as the thief. You can see a little bit here, where he tries to sell his first book but gets rattled when the shop owner asks about its provenance.

  2. very much like my own library
    Not in terms of provenance, I trust.

  3. If you’re going to bring that up, I can only remind you that it was an honest mistake and all the charges were dropped after I apologised.

  4. Can anyone here describe, in not too mathematical terms, how such a picture is created ? I assume that a lot of sophtware is involved. Basically the image is probably a union of small (“flat”) areas on an imaginary sphere. Actually I suspect that there is no sphere involved.

  5. It’s both soft and hard ware. Here’s the hardware, it’s basically a sequentially-pivoted tripod holding an ordinary camera. In this case I’m guessing he moves the camera several times along each plane (or at least on the side walls, floor and ceiling), because the room’s proportions are so long & thin. The camera clicks several rows of images, in the end covering the whole of each plane, and the images are assembled into a grid. The grid’s x&y units are the rectangle of each photo image, and its overall proportions are programmed in so they fit the side of each plane of the room.
    Perspective distortions that you get in the individual images are adjusted using (presumably) the software I’ve got in Photoshop*. It’s very easy and fun step that I use a lot. In the old pre-Photoshop days, there was a device called a perspective-correcting lens that architectural photographers used to adjust away the converging lines of perspective – to square facades up in other words – but using P’shop I can manipulate the perspective myself on my screen.
    The photographer says he uses the same exposure all over the room and then adjusts the darkness in the corners manually (again in P’shop) to make all the areas equally light. This is so he doesn’t have to mess with matching the colour & brightness of every single picture.
    I don’t know how easy this is to follow. It’s hard to describe (a picture is woth a thousand words).
    You can of course do this work more crudely without the robotics. I sometimes just snap five pictures in sequence and stitch them together in P’shop. Here’s one I did recently.
    *When he’s got each plane finished and all 6 are stitched together, you get to see the perspective software at work when you rotate the picture.

  6. Here are some pictures of him doing the job, by the way. From his wooly hat and gloves, it seems they’re more concerned about the temperature of the books than for the health of the photographer.

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