The Vatican to Digitize 82,000 Rare Manuscripts and Make Them Available for Viewing Online

Posted on March 21, 2014

The Vatican is home to some of the world's most valuable and rare manuscripts, most of which have never been available for viewing by the public. But that's about to change. The Vatican Apostolic Library has hired a Japanese IT firm, NTT Data, to digitize 82,000 of the rare manuscripts. The digitized version will be made available for viewing online.

Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, O.P., archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church held a press conference to discuss the project. Archbiship Brugues explained in a release, "With this project, the Library consolidates one of its many relationships with institutions in various regions of the world, in the light of its overall policy, its aims and its objectives. It does so through is manuscripts, which are a sign of the universality of culture: the manuscripts which will be digitally archived range from pre-Columbian America to the Chinese and Japanese Far East, encompassing all the cultures and languages that have inspired European culture. The humanistic mission that characterises the Library opens it to all that is human, including mankind's various 'cultural peripheries'; and with this humanistic spirit it seeks to conserve and make available the immense treasure of humanity that has been entrusted to it. For this reason, the Library will digitize it and make it available on the web."

The project is quite an undertaking. The first phase will take four years. The manuscripts date from between the second and the twentieth centuries and constitute some 40 million pages. Many of the libraries' works are already available online. The new project will use specialized archiving methods and procedure to improve the safekeeping and care of the originals. The new firm will also make the documents searchable, which will be a godsend for scholars.

One of the documents being digitized a rare Roman manuscript dated to 400 AD which contains the poems of Virgil and color illustrations. It is one of the very few manuscripts that survived the fall of the Roman Empire. The library was founded in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V. It is one of the most magnificent collections in the world, containing of books, manuscripts, coins and other antiquities.

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