Digital Spotlight: The Vatican Apostolic Library

Submitted by Andy Carter, ATLA Digital Projects Manager

The Vatican Apostolic Library, founded in 1451 AD, is digitizing over 80,000 works from their archives. These scanned works – including manuscripts, prints and drawings – are being made available to the world at

Most recently, the Vatican has scanned and made available a 1,600 year-old manuscript that contains portions of the “The Aeneid” and “Georgics” by the poet Virgil. The manuscript consists of seventy-six pages and fifty illustrations from “The Aeneid.” You can view the full manuscript, and download individual images, at

Digitizing ancient texts is difficult: “To digitize the Vatican Virgil, as well as 3,000 other manuscripts, Digita Vaticana joined forces with Tokyo-based information technology firm NTT DATA. They used a specialized scanner to prevents damage to the delicate, ancient manuscript: It uses ultraviolet-free rays and cradles the book so that individual pages can be scanned without fully opening the book binding. The scans are then uploaded into the library’s database alongside metadata about the images and story.”

You can read more about the manuscript and its scanning process at The Vatican expects it will take fifteen years to scan its archival collections.

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