Founded in 1451 by Nicholas V, the Vatican Library holds pivotal cultural documents from all of humanity; letters of the most important historical figures; drawings and notes by artists and scientists such as Michelangelo and Galileo; treaties from all eras, in all fields of learning, from all parts of the world.
More than 180,000 Manuscripts, around 1.6 Million books, and more than 150,000 images are housed at the Vatican Library.
In 2014, a project to digitize the library began.
The official library of the Holy See is still undergoing a massive modernization: experts were hired to digitize and uploaded thousands of books, images, and scripts and post them into an online database available to all.
Digita Vaticana Onlus was founded six years ago, in 2013 with the goal to digitize around 80,000 ancient manuscripts.
The process, as explained by Digita Vaticana is fairly simple.
The manuscripts are selected and scanned using specially designed hardware that allows experts to preserve the integrity of the original, ancient documents.
The images obtained from scanning are then saved in various locations, in order to ensure long term storage before the ancient texts, images and books are returned into the Vatican Library.
The project relied on funding from 2013 until February 2019.
So far, as per the website of Digita Vaticana Onlus, 17,436 manuscripts have so far been digitized.
“Digita Vaticana was the non-profit organization established to raise funds to support the Digitization Project of the more than 80,000 manuscripts of the Apostolic Library. The legacy of the Association has now passed to the Library and the name Digita Vaticana designates the Project itself, created by the Library with the help of many benefactors.”
“We thank the Association, its Founding Members and all those who have participated in the success of the goals achieved so far,” reveals a statement on the website.
The project is far from finished. In fact, as noted by the website, in order to fully digitize everything, more than 15 years will be needed as well as 50 million euros.
The price is high, but the treasures housed in the Vatican’s library are priceless pieces of history, including historical documents ranging from literature to history, from art to law, from astronomy to mathematics, and from the natural sciences to medicine.
Here are some of the collections that have already been digitized.
You can take a virtual tour of the documents that have already been digitized and uploaded here.