Japanese firm to digitise ancient Vatican manuscripts

Vatican Library plans to make rare documents available to view online

The Vatican Library's collection of ancient manuscripts dating from the origins of the Catholic Church are being digitised by a Japanese company as part of a worldwide project to make the collection available to view free online.

The project involves around 3,000 handwritten documents being digitised and put online over the next four years by specialist Japanese firm NTT DATA which is bearing the €18 million cost. The documents being scanned include copies of works of classical Greek and Latin literature, and illuminated manuscripts from mediaeval and Renaissance times.

The Vatican Library has recently begun digitising its books and the collaboration with the Japanese company will bring the number of its manuscripts digitally converted to 15,000 by 2018. Technicians from the Japanese company will use specialised scanners to record the documents and will work alongside Vatican librarians.

The library's long-term goal is to make available online all its 82,000 manuscripts, containing some 41 million pages in total.

"The manuscripts that will be digitised extend from pre-Columbian America to China and Japan in the Far East, passing through all the languages and cultures that have marked the culture of Europe," said Vatican's librarian Monsignor Jean-Louis Brugues.