December 4, 2013
Oxford and the Vatican launch digitization project
by Nick Davies
The Vatican City Library and the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University will soon be able to offer access to many of their rare and ancient texts online, thanks to a $3.2 million grant from the Polonsky Foundation, a London-based charity.
Jennifer Schuessler writes for the New York Times blog Arts Beat that over the next three years, more than 1.5 million pages of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, and 15th-century incunabula (early printed books) — both religious and secular — will be made available for free as zoomable images. Among the items that have already been scanned are a Gutenberg Bible, an illuminated 13th-century Hebrew Bible, and a commentary by Maimonides written in the philosopher’s own hand.
Even with more than a million pages being scanned and digitized, the newly available documents will only represent a portion of what the libraries have in their archives. Per the Bodleian Libraries’ website, the particular types of texts were chosen “for their scholarly importance and for the strength of their collections in both libraries.” And while both religious and secular works will be included, “for the launch of the project…the two libraries have focused on bringing to light a smaller group of Bibles and biblical commentaries, each of which has been chosen for its particular historical importance.”
Vatican prefect Cesare Pasini praised the project for its democratization of these rare documents, saying, “I see the common fruit of our labor as a very positive sign of collaboration and sharing that is a trademark of the world of culture.”
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.