Oxford University has linked up with the Vatican in a new digital project to make some of the world's most important Bibles and biblical texts available online.
The major digitization initiative involving the collections of the Bodleian Libraries and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (BAV) can be accessed on a dedicated website which has been launched today. It marks the start of a four-year collaborative project.
Portions of the Bodleian and Vatican libraries' collections of Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts and early printed books have been selected for digitization by a team of scholars and curators from around the world.
The selection process has been informed by a balance of scholarly and practical concerns. Conservation staff at the Bodleian and Vatican libraries have worked with curators to assess not only the significance of the content, but the physical condition of the items.
While the Vatican and the Bodleian have each been creating digital images from their collections for a number of years, this project has provided an opportunity for both libraries to increase the scale and pace with which they can digitize their most significant collections, while taking great care not to expose books to any damage, as they are often fragile owing to their age and condition.
The newly launched website features zoomable images which enable detailed scholarly analysis and study. The website also includes essays and a number of video presentations made by scholars and supporters of the digitization project including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, OP.
The website blog will also feature articles on the conservation and digitization techniques and methods used during the project. The website is available both in English and Italian.
Originally announced in April 2012, the collaboration aims to open up the two libraries' collections of ancient texts and to make a selection of remarkable treasures freely available online to researchers and the general public worldwide.
Through the generous support of the Polonsky Foundation, this project will make 1.5 million digitized pages freely available over the next three years.
Richard Ovenden, Interim Bodley's Librarian, said: 'It is very exciting to see the first fruits of this landmark collaboration between the Bodleian and the Vatican libraries. We hope that through digitizing and making openly accessible some of the most significant books in our collections we will increase their potential for research and broader understanding of these ancient texts.'
Monsignor Cesare Pasini, the Prefect of the Vatican Library, said: 'I am very pleased with the website that is launched together by the two institutions: I envision how useful it will be to scholars and many other interested people. Moreover, I see the common fruit of our labour as a very positive sign of collaboration and sharing, that is a trademark of the world of culture.'
Dr Leonard Polonsky, CBE, said: 'In today's fast-paced, digital-driven world of scholarship, easy access to primary resources is paramount. I hope that the collection of digital texts that is jointly released by the Bodleian and the Vatican libraries will make a contribution to the advancement of modern scholarship.'