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Vatican, Oxford uploading ancient religious texts online

Get out your smartphones, laptops and tablets. The Vatican is about to publish ancient religious texts online.
Get out your smartphones, laptops and tablets. The Vatican is about to publish ancient religious texts online.
Associated Press

Looking for something new to read?

Try the works the Vatican just uploaded.

Working with Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, the Vatican uploaded the first 1.5 million pages of its manuscripts online Tuesday, "bringing their collections to a global audience for the first time," The Washington Post reported.

The Gutenberg Bible, one of the first major books printed in the Western world, joins the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts in online publication, according to The Guardian.

The Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, along with early printed books, will be digitalized and published online over the next three years, according to the project’s website. The Polonsky Foundation Digitization project will cost about $3.3 million, and will be “funded by the Polonsky Foundation, which aims to democratize access to information,” according to The Washington Post.

“We want everyone who can to see these manuscripts, these great works of humanity,” Monsignor Cesare Pasini, the prefect of the Vatican Library, said to The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. “And we want to conserve them.”

So far, the project has digitized “the two-volume Gutenberg Bibles from each of the libraries, an illustrated 11th-century Greek bible and a beautiful 15th-century German bible, hand-colored and illustrated by woodcuts,” according to the AP. The texts are available in both English and Italian, according to The Miami Herald.

Online publishing of texts and works is something both the Vatican and the Bodleian Library have done in the past, according to ComputerWorldUK. This collaboration, though, will help both reach a wider audience at a quicker pace, and keep the texts from sustaining significant damage, ComputerWorldUK reported.

But the texts weren’t chosen freely and without consideration.

“The selection process has been informed by a balance of scholarly and practical concerns, with conservation staff at the Bodleian and Vatican libraries having worked with curators to assess not only the significance of the content, but the physical condition of the items,” ComputerWorldUK said.

Dr. Leonard Polonsky, who runs the Polonsky Foundation, told BBC News he hoped the digitalized texts would "make a contribution to the advancement of modern scholarship.”

This isn’t the first time in recent weeks the Vatican has used modern technology to its benefit. On Nov. 22, The Christian Post reported the Vatican was working with Google to restore ancient frescoes, a technique of mural painting, in Christian tombs. Interested online users will eventually head to Google Maps where Street View will offer glimpses at the paintings.

"This is perhaps the sign of the joining of two extremes — remote antiquity and modernity," said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi to Catholic News Service.


Twitter: @hscribner