Vatican Library Treasures Going Online

Hundreds of Thousands of Historical Items

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican Apostolic Library is in the process of posting hundreds of thousands of historical manuscripts, previously accessible to a privileged few, on its Web page.



Manuscripts of Emperor Justinian, love letters of King Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, and missives of Lucrezia Borgia to her father, who had become Pope Alexander VI -- all may be consulted at www.vatican.va.

The presentation of the new Internet resource was made today by Cardinal Jorge María Mejía, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church.

Cardinal Mejía said that on the Web page there will now be a special new site for the Apostolic Library, fully accessible to the public.

"We wanted to provide access to practical information," the cardinal said, "and to reproductions and photocopies. In addition, it seemed necessary to briefly describe our history and to exhibit some of our bibliographic and artistic treasures."

Father Raffaele Farina, prefect of the library, talked about the new features of the library's computer system. He explained that since 2000, projects have been under way to digitize and catalogue descriptions of the graphic material (prints, illustrations and drawings) of the Print Library and the numismatic material (coins and medals) of the Numismatic Library.

In addition, he said, the database offers a public catalogue which contains descriptions of books and magazines, prints, illustrations, drawings, copper engravings, photographs, coins and medals and even musical scores, recordings and CDs, for a total of 700,000 bibliographic entries.

The manuscripts are now being digitally catalogued. Descriptions of these manuscripts will be available shortly on the Web with respective illustrative materials.

The Vatican Apostolic Library, founded by Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455), is specialized in humanistic areas (paleography, history, art history, classics, philology) and has 1.6 million ancient and modern printed volumes; 83,000 incunabula (editions printed from the invention of the press to the start of the 16th century), 150,000 manuscripts and archive volumes; 300,000 coins and medals, and more than 100,000 prints.

To give an idea of the quantity of the bibliographic material in the Apostolic Library, Cardinal Mejía said the shelves to store it would stretch about 90 kilometers (55 miles).