The Vatican library (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana) has undertaken a massive project to digitize thousands of its historical manuscripts, which date from the origins of the Church to the 20th century.
The project, which will be carried out by the Japanese technology group NTT Data, aims to scan and digitally archive about 1.5 million pages from the library's collection to make them available online – the first phase will involve 3,000 handwritten documents over a four-year period, according to NTT.
“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.
Among the most important books to be digitized are the Vatican Virgil, a codex written in Rome in 400AD, containing ancient drawings and illustrations; a bi-lingual (Greek and Latin) version of the Iliad; a rare pre-Columbian Aztec manuscript; the Bibbia Urbinate, a masterpiece of Renaissance book art made in Florence between 1476 and 1478; and a version of the Divine Comedy with illustrations by Sandro Botticelli made for Lorenzo The Magnificent.
The Vatican library was established in the late 14th century by Pope Niccolò V Parentucelli and is considered one of the world's most important collections of historical documents. It features 1.6 million books, large coin and picture collections, and manuscript archives.