The British Library said Wednesday it was digitizing up to 40 million pages of newspapers, including fragile dailies dating back three and a half centuries.

Once digitized, the British newspapers documenting local, regional and national life spanning to the 1700s will be fully searchable and accessible online, the national library said.

The vast majority of the British Library's 750 million pages of newspapers — the largest collections in the world — are currently available only on microfilm or bound in bulky volumes. Thousands of researchers have to make a trip to an archive building just outside London to look through them.

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