Vatican Digitizes Ancient Manuscripts

Ever since I heard about this story, I’ve had the image of chanting monks using scanners. The Vatican Apostolic Library is digitizing nearly 100,000 ancient manuscripts to make them available for free, online viewing.

So fat there are 100,000 documents online, but the project is ongoing and they plan to add a few thousand of these priceless treasures each year.  The Vatican is working with NTT DATA on the project, but all of the workers will be supervised by qualified historians from the Vatican Library. According to the library, “Technology allows us to think of the past while looking towards the future, and the world’s culture, thanks to the web, can truly become a common heritage, freely accessible to all, anywhere and any time.”

They expect to end up with 40 million digitized pages with 43 petabytes of data. 

Special devices are used to carefully scan the fragile manuscripts and the images are saved in multiple locations to ensure there are plenty of backups.

These documents aren’t just manuscripts relating to the Catholic Church, you’ll find pre-Columbian Aztec manuscripts, a beautiful illuminated Torah and, a bilingual translation of the Illiad. There are also beautifully illustrated Biblical texts.

When you select a document to browse, you’ll see some basic information such as the material the manuscript is made from, the date, and its dimensions. Readers can view the entire manuscript by selecting pages.

The quality of the scan lets you zoom in easily for a closer look.

This is an amazing tool for scholars and for those who just love to learn.

Click here to start discovering some of the treasures in the Vatican Library Digitization Project.

All of this preservation does not come cheap and the library has embraced the digital age by crowdfunding the project. You’ll see a link to contribute on the library’s site.  I could spend all day looking around on this site, so check it out. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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