Agence France-Presse

Ancient texts go online through new project by Oxford, Vatican libraries

A man walks past the Bodleian Library's Clarendon Buildin on March 22, 2012 in Oxford, England.


Oli Scarff

Oxford's Bodleian Libraries and the Vatican's Biblioteca Apostolica plan to digitize 1.5 million pages of ancient texts to make them available online.

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, National Public Radio reported.

The three subjects were chosen "for the strength of the collections in both libraries and their importance for scholarship in their respective fields," a Bodleian spokeswoman told BBC News.

"Transforming these ancient texts and images into digital form helps transcend the limitations of time and space, which have in the past restricted access to knowledge," Sarah Thomas, Bodley's librarian, told The Guardian. "Scholars will be able to interrogate these documents in fresh approaches as a result of their online availability."

Works by Homer, Sophocles, Plato, and Hippocrates will be scanned as part of the the project, which is being funded by a $3.17 million grant from the Polonsky Foundation, NPR reported.

Kabbalah, Talmudic commentaries and other Hebrew manuscripts will also be included, according to NPR.

The University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries form the largest university library system in the UK and includes the famous principal library, the Bodleian, founded by Thomas Bodley in 1602, according to BBC News.

The Vatican Library was founded in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V "for the common convenience of the learned," BBC News reported.

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