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Ancient Texts Will Go Online As Oxford And Vatican Libraries Launch Project

Biblical and antiquities scholars will soon have a new resource at their fingertips, as Oxford University's Bodleian Libraries and the Vatican Library launch a plan to digitize millions of pages of rare ancient texts. The scanned pages will be available online.

From Italy, Sylvia Poggioli filed this report for NPR's Newscast:

"The Vatican and Oxford plan to digitize 1.5 million pages of Greek manuscripts, 15th century printed books and Hebrew texts and early printed books."

"Two thirds of the material will come from the Vatican apostolic library; the remainder from the Bodleian."

"Scholars will finally be able to unite texts that had been dispersed between the two collections for centuries."

"Oxford librarian Sarah Thomas said, 'Transforming these ancient texts and images into digital form helps transcend the limitations of time and space which have in the past restricted access and knowledge.'"

The texts and incunabula that are slated to go digital include 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.

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

A press release from the Bodleian reads, "Hebrew books and manuscripts have been central to the Bodleian's collections since 1601 – when Thomas Bodley, the Library's founder, took a personal interest in them – and remain one of its great strengths."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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