The Polonsky Foundation to support a project of the Vatican Library and of Oxford's Bodleian Library
Moving into the digital
A million and half manuscripts and incunabula will be computerized
Digitalize: this word has become a pressing aspiration for people working in libraries. It can even become an obsession. If you think of the amount of material to be to be dealt with, if you think only of the 80,000 manuscripts in the Vatican Library and and its 8,900 incunabula, you could be a little disconcerted. However, digitalization means both better preserving our cultural heritage, making consultation less assiduous, guaranteeing that a copy is made before the original deteriorates, and giving immediate online access to many more people. Therefore, we must not surrender.
I have the joy of announcing the launch of this major initiative in digitalizing — the greatest yet — which we are embarking on together with the Oxford Bodleian Library, thanks to the generosity of the Polonsky Foundation. Leonard Polonsky, through the foundation that bears his name, passionately and attentively supports such enterprises intending to facilitate access to the heritage of humanity preserved in great library collections around the world.
In this specific project, which will take about 5 years to complete, one and a half million pages of manuscripts and incunabula from both institutions will be digitalized. Thanks to this project, the Vatican promises to make more than 800 integral pieces available to the populace, among them the famous incunabulum of Pius ii's De Europa, printed by Albrecht Kunne in Memmingen, no later than 1491, and the 42 line Latin Bible of Gutenberg, the first book printed with movable type between 1451 and 1455.
From the collection of Hebrew manuscripts, one of the most important in existence though not the most extensive, manuscripts of particular historical value will be included in the collection, such as the Sifra, written between the end of the 9th and middle of the 10th century, probably the oldest Hebrew code to have made its way to us, and an entire Bible written in Italy around the year 1100. You can also find biblical commentaries, Halakhah and Kabbalah, Talmudic commentaries, and liturgical, philosophical, medical and astronomical writings.
Finally, the Greek manuscripts which will enter the digital collection are testimonies of the work of Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Hippocrates, as well as texts of the New Testament and of the Church Fathers, many richly decorated with Byzantine miniatures.
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