Vatican library goes digital

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The Holy See has hired a Japanese IT company to help scan thousands of manuscripts

By Hannah McGivern. Web only
Published online: 28 March 2014

Botticelli’s illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy

The Vatican Apostolic Library has announced a €18m deal with a Japanese IT company to digitise 3,000 ancient manuscripts over the next four years.

In a press conference last week, the library prefect, Monsignor Cesare Pasini, said the partnership with NTT Data Corporation continues “a task we have been undertaking for years” to digitise the Vatican’s entire collection of 82,000 manuscripts, an estimated 40 million pages. With help from the Tokyo-based firm, the total is expected to reach 15,000 digital documents by 2018.

Each manuscript will be scanned in high resolution on premises at the Vatican, but NTT Data will provide services to store the data and develop a user-friendly search function. The firm was selected based on its previous work improving the digital catalogue at the National Diet Library in Japan.

The Vatican library wants to make the scans available for free viewing online, in “a true effort to conserve and publish our knowledge in the service of culture worldwide,” Pasini said.

Among the rare works to be digitised during this first phase of the project are the fourth-century Vatican Virgil, one of the three surviving illuminated manuscripts of classical literature, and a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy illustrated by Botticelli.

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