December 2013 | Nate Pedersen

Vatican and Bodleian Libraries Launch Online Archive

The great repositories of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican Library) have joined forces to create an online archive of their ancient texts.  Entitled the Polonsky Foundation Digitization Project, the initiative officially launched its website last week.

Over the course of the next four years, 1.5 million pages from both libraries will be made available for free online. The project was funded by a £2 million award from the Polonsky Foundation. Dr Leonard Polonsky said of the project "I am pleased to support this exciting new project where the Bodleian Libraries and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana will make important collections accessible to scholars and the general public worldwide."

The digitization project will focus its energies on three primary groups of texts: Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts, and 15th century printed books.  The project announced on its website that these areas were chosen for "their scholarly importance and for the strength of their collections in both libraries."  Both religious and secular texts will be included.

The project will also include scholarly essays and video interviews with librarians at both institutions about the significance and history of the rare texts.

The two libraries focused on a group of historically significant Bibles and biblical commentaries for the project's launch last week. Highlights already available online include the Bodleian's Gutenberg Bible (one of 50 surviving copies) and the lavishly illustrated 13th century Hebrew bible commonly called the Kennicott Bible.