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Is That a Hand? Glitches Reveal Google Books' Human Scanners

Google Books exist in an intangible digital realm—one propped up by manual labor.

Andrew Norman Wilson collects glitches showing human presence in Google Books. Here, the silhouette of a finger appears in the front matter of The Jungle.

Wilson downloads the PDF of the page, prints it to scale, and mounts it in a color-matched frame.

Often, the workers wear gloves, as in this image from a scan of The Inland Printer.

A finger appears beside a page in a Google Books scan.

A hand obscures a page in the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers. Transactions, Volume 9.

A ghostly glitch from A Sermon Preached Before the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, the Aldermen, and Governors of the Several Hospitals of the City of London, at the Parish Church of St. Bridget, on Wednesday in Easter Week, April 14, 1762.

A glitch from Hypermia as a Therepeutic Agent (sic).

The images in Wilson's series expose the disconnect between how Google Books is experienced and how it's produced.

A glitch from The Neanderthal Skull on Evolution in an Address Supposed to Be Delivered A.D. 2085.

A hand appears on a scan of the Index of Colours and Mixed Tints.

A worker's hand appears beside Considerations on the Present State of Affairs in Great-Britain.

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