Bodleian Library manuscripts now online

Source: The Hindu (04.12.2013 )

The Vatican Library and Oxford University's Bodleian Library have put the first of 1.5 million pages of ancient manuscripts online. 

The two libraries in 2012 announced a four-year project to digitize some of the most important works of their collections of Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts and early printed books. 

Among the first up on the site Tuesday,, are the two-volume Gutenberg bibles from each of the libraries and a beautiful 15-century German bible, hand-coloured and illustrated by woodcuts. 

The £2 million ($3.3 million) project is being funded by the Polonsky Foundation, which aims to democratize access to information. 

The Vatican Library was founded in 1451 and is one of the most important research libraries in the world. The Bodleian is the largest university library in Britain.


About this Project

Through the generous support of the Polonsky Foundation, this project will make 1.5 million digitized pages freely available over the next three years.

Portions of the Bodleian and Vatican Libraries’ collections of Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts, and incunabula have been selected for digitization by a team of scholars and curators from around the world.

The selection process has been informed by a balance of scholarly and practical concerns; conservation staff at the Bodleian and Vatican Libraries have worked with curators to assess not only the significance of the content, but the physical condition of the items, prioritizing items that are robust enough to withstand being transported to the imaging studio and handled by the photographers.

In order to preserve the integrity and completeness of the manuscript collections, the libraries have also agreed to digitize whole collections where appropriate.

The complete list of works to be digitized can be accessed here for Greek manuscripts, here for Hebrew manuscripts, and here for incunabula.

If you are working with materials from one of these subject areas and you would like to see a particular item digitized, you may submit your request to the relevant curator for review.

While the Vatican and the Bodleian have been creating digital images from our collections for a number of years, this project has provided an opportunity for both libraries to increase the scale of their digitization services.

In both cases, this has meant significant investments in the equipment, infrastructure and people that make digitization possible.

Over the course of this project, both libraries will also be revealing information about their digitization techniques and methods.

More information about the digitization process can be found on our project blog.

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