Vatican to digitize manuscripts with NTT, put them online

Reuters, AFP-JIJI

The Vatican library Thursday began a project to digitize thousands of historical manuscripts, dating from the origins of the church to the 20th century, and make them available online.

Working with the technology group NTT Data, the library intends to scan and digitally archive about 1.5 million pages from its collection of manuscripts, which comprises 82,000 items and 41 million pages. The initial project will take four years.

The library began digitizing its books a couple of years ago, and the deal with NTT Data will bring the total of manuscripts converted to 15,000 by 2018.

The Vatican library dates from the 14th century and forms one of the world’s most important collections of historical documents. It includes 1.6 million books in addition to its manuscripts, plus coins and pictures.

“The manuscripts that will be digitized 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 Monsignor Jean-Louis Brugues, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church.

The library will use NTT scanners to record the manuscripts and archive software to manage the collection. Technicians from the company will work alongside Vatican librarians.

“At the end of the four years, the involvement of NTT could lead to a further phase of engagement, which could cover the entire collection,” said Monsignor Cesare Pasini, prefect of the library.

The initial phase of the operation, worth some $22.6 million (¥2.5 billion), is expected to cover some 3,000 handwritten documents over a four-year period, NTT said.