VATICAN CITY – Access to the Gutenberg Bible and other ancient manuscripts has just gotten easier. The Vatican Library and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library put the first of 1.5 million pages of their precious manuscripts online Tuesday, bringing their collections to a global audience for the first time. The two libraries in 2012 announced a four-year project to digitize some of the most important works in their collections of Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts and early printed books. The $3.3 million project is being funded by the Polonsky Foundation, which aims to democratize access to information. “We want everyone who can to see these manuscripts, these great works of humanity,” said the Rev. Cesare Pasini, the prefect of the Vatican Library. “And we want to conserve them.” Among the first works up on the site Tuesday, at http://bav.bodleian.ox.ac.uk, are the two-volume Gutenberg Bibles from each of the libraries, an illustrated 11th-century Greek bible and a beautiful 15th-century German bible, hand-colored and illustrated by woodcuts. The Vatican Library was founded in 1451 and is one of the most important research libraries in the world. It has 180,000 manuscripts, 1.6 million books and 150,000 prints, drawings and engravings. The Bodleian is the largest university library in Britain, with more than 11 million printed works. Pasini said the Vatican was embarking on similar digitization projects with libraries in Azerbaijan and China, among others.
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