More world literature just got its door kicked open digitally. For the first time scholars will be able to compare material kept in the separate collections for centuries, according to USENET newsgroups.
The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford have announced a 4-year project to convert some of their important holdings into digital form for all to see — even if readers can’t understand the Medieval Latin, ancient Greek or Hebrew the documents are written in.
The documents include Greek manuscripts, 15th century printed books and Hebrew texts and early printed books, and feature two famous tomes: De Europa, by Pope Pius II Piccolomini, and Johannes Gutenberg’s 42-Line Bible, considered to be the first book produced by a printing press.
The process of working through the catalogs at two different libraries, handling ancient texts and manuscripts, scanning them, and organizing them online isn’t an easy proposition; the project is made possible by a £2 million (about $3.17 million) donation from the Polonsky Foundation, and is expected to take four years. Even for all of that time and money, nowhere near all of the libraries’ collections will be include
With approximately two-thirds of the material coming from the Vatican and the remainder from Oxford University’s Bodleian libraries, the digitisation effort will also benefit scholars by uniting materials that have been dispersed between the collections for centuries.
Other texts to be digitised include early printed books, known as incunabula, from Rome and the surrounding area; Greek manuscripts including early church texts and works by Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Hippocrates; and Hebrew manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
The digitization effort is especially significant because it has been nearly impossible to access these ancient texts even if you were to travel to Oxford or the Vatican — the originals cannot be handled for fear of damaging the one-of-a-kind documents.