Good news for book nerds, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries have recently announced that they will be digitizing a large portion of their prized works and putting them online. Wow, it’s all a little bit ‘Da Vinci Code’ – who knows what clandestine secrets and ancient mysteries might be revealed to the masses when these works hit the net!
These two libraries are home to some of the most coveted works in history and scholars around the world will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of these texts online.
Some of the material that will make its way from the library vaults to the World Wide Web include the Sifra – one of the oldest Hebrew books in the Vatican’s collections, an Italian Bible from the 12th Century and ‘testimonies’ from revered philosophers like Homer, Plato, Sophocles, and Hippocrates to name but a few. These ‘testimonies’ are commentaries and summaries about the works of other authors and provide valuable insights into both these works as well as into the minds of the philosophers that wrote them.
However, scholars and book-geeks should hold onto their mouse-mats for a little while, undertaking a project like this is likely to take some time! It is estimated that digitizing these valuable works will take up to five years. It is not yet clear whether the works will be free to access once they are online or whether interested parties will have to pay a fee in order to get to take a peek. While we all hope they will be free, in either case, having these important works on the internet will dramatically increase the number of people who will get to see them.
The project is being funded from a $3.17 million dollar cash injection provided by the Polonsky Foundation and follows a recent announcement from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem about the decision to begin uploading approximately 80,000 documents relating to the late great Albert Einstein.
Whilst there is something truly magical about the experience of picking up an ancient book, carefully turning the delicate pages turned yellow from age and pouring over the insights that are recorded there, the act of digitizing these works is a really significant one.
In the past, many of these works were only accessible to the privileged few, the upper-echelons of society so to speak – now although most people could get into the libraries if they really wanted to, they would still have to get to Rome or Oxford! Getting these works onto the internet where they can be accessed by pretty much anyone in the world is a wonderful thing for the spread of knowledge and information.