The Vatican is no stranger to various digital initiatives that allow a worldwide audience to tap into their extensive library. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pope’s weekly addresses, and thousands of manuscripts are now available to read. Today, we are looking at the various scanning programs and digital companies the Church is working with in order to make everything more accessible.
Last May, the Vatican and Aptara began releasing Pope Benedict’s weekly addresses, thirteen in all, in illustrated form for the iPad from Italy’s Apple store. “Every new communication technology is important to the church’s missionary activity,” said Father Giuseppe Costa, CEO of Libreria Editrice Vaticana–the publishing company of the Vatican–in a newsletter from Aptara. “And the most obvious way to reach young people today is via their mobile devices.
The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, better known as the Vatican Library, has decided to open up its vast collection of Greek manuscripts, 15th-century printed books (incunabula), Hebrew manuscripts, along with other historical printed titles, which together make up no less than 1.5 million pages. The project is expected to take five years to complete and is being executed in partnership with Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford.
“Transforming these ancient texts and images into digital form helps transcend the limitations of time and space which have in the past restricted access to knowledge,” said Bodley’s librarian Sarah Thomas before also adding, “scholars will be able to interrogate these documents in fresh approaches as a result of their online availability.
The Vatican Library set up a new deal a week ago with texts from the early days of Christianity. Working with the Japanese technology group NTT Data, the library intends to scan and digitally archive about 1.5 million pages from the library’s collection of manuscripts, which comprises some 82,000 items and 41 million pages. The project is scheduled for four years but will most likely be extended.
“The manuscripts that will be digitized extend from pre-Columbian America to China and Japan in the Far East, passing through all the languages and cultures that have marked the culture of Europe,” said Monsignor Jean-Louis Brugues, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church.
The Vatican Apostolic Library, one of the oldest libraries in the world, contains more than 80,000 codices and 1.1 million printed books. The library is undergoing a massive digitization effort to preserve some of its most valuable books and documents, which are now prone to deterioration and decay because of repeated handling. Some of the most notable documents to be digitized include the Sifra, one of the oldest extant Hebrew codes which was written somewhere between the end of the 9th and the middle of the 10th century, as well as Greek testimonies for the works of Homer, Sophocles, Plato and Hippocrates.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the most important documents that have been unearthed in recent times. They are a collection of 981 texts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet, Qumran, in the West Bank. They were found inside caves about a mile inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name. Orchestrated under the Israel Antiques Authority (IAA) with support from Google, the scrolls have been digitized and are available at the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library.