Landmark Collaboration Between Oxford and Vatican Libraries Brings Ancient Texts into the Digital Era

In a landmark event, two of Europe’s most extensive libraries have announced a collaborative digitalization project which will allow the general public to access never before seen historical texts from both ancient Greek and ancient Hebrew repositories.

The University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (BAV) have announced an initiative which will take over 1.5 million pages of ancient text and make it available freely online in digital form. The libraries state that the effort also aims to benefit scholars “by uniting virtually materials that have been dispersed between the two collections over the centuries.”

Monsignor Cesare Pasini, the Prefect of the Vatican Library, stated that “two of the oldest libraries in Europe will join forces in an innovative approach to digitization driven by the actual needs of scholars and scholarship. With this joint initiative, the two Libraries continue to accomplish their mission for the benefit of science and culture; it represents a great step forward in the Vatican Library’s entry into the digital age.”

The collaboration aims to digitalize both ancient Greek and ancient Hebrew manuscripts including texts by Plato, Hippocrates, Homer, Sophocles, manuscripts of the New Testament and of the Church Fathers, “many of them richly decorated with Byzantine miniatures.” Additionally, the BAV plans to digitalize a manuscript that is most-likely the earliest Hebrew codex in existence, as well as a copy of the entire Hebrew Bible written in Italy in the early 12th century.  Also included in the BAV’s contribution are ancient texts covering widely the fields of medicine, philosophy, astronomy, liturgical commentaries, as well as additional ancient science-arts and polemical documents from both Christian and Jewish perspective.

The Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford form the most extensive university library collection in the United Kingdom, while the BAV libraries are today still considered one of the most important research libraries in the world, without actually being attached to an academic institution. Both the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and the Bodleian Libraries hold valuable treasures of scholarly texts. Respectively, they are the 4th and 5th largest collections of ancient texts in the world.

The entire effort will take four years to complete and is made possible by a £2 million award from the Polonsky Foundation. The Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Lord Patten of Barnes, said that Oxford is “very grateful to Dr. Polonsky for his insight into the importance of widening access to the fundamental texts which have had a major impact on the development of civilization.” It is due to the contribution by the Polonsky Foundation that the landmark historical collaborative initiative is made possible.

Source: the Vatican

About Katelyn R. Bell

Katelyn R. Bell studied Digital Design and Interactive Media at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Arizona State University. She is a contributing officer of the Ludovici Club: a group for the discussion and promotion of aristocratic virtues and culture. Katelyn is currently a student at the Global Institute of Sustainability, where her research interests include the intersections of environmental economics, sociobiology, cultural anthropology, environmental politics, design, and human geography relevant to the sustainability of both environmental as well as social institutions. Katelyn was recently accepted into a Medieval and Renaissance Studies program at Cambridge University where she will focus on historical interests while living abroad in the United Kingdom. She is a writer, photographer, graphic designer, astrologer, freelance make-up artist, fire-spinner, sociologist, webmaster and consultant. Katelyn designs jewelry and is an artist for Reignwear Creations. In her free time, she teaches astrology and does educational research work. She can be reached at