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EMC helping the Vatican digitize its library for next Pope


Soon the Roman Catholic Church will have a new Pope, as cardinals gather from around the world in the Vatican in preparation for the conclave to pick the church’s next leader. And not long into his papacy, the next Pope will be able to make use of a fully digitized Vatican library.

Data infrastructure vendor EMC Corp. announced Thursday that it is 2.8 PB of storage to help the Vatican Apostolic Library digitize its entire catalogue of historic manuscripts and incunabula (a book or pamphlet printed before 1501). One of the oldest libraries in the world, the Vatican Apostolic Library holds many of the rarest and most valuable documents in existence including the 42-line Latin Bible of Gutenberg, the first book printed with movable type and dating between 1451 and 1455.

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The goal of the project is to preserve in an ISO-certifiable digital format delicate texts vulnerable to deterioration and decay from repeated handling, including:

  • The Sifra, a Hebrew manuscript written between the end of the 9th Century and the middle of the 10th, one of the oldest extant Hebrew codes;
  • Greek testimonies of the works of Homer, Sophocles, Plato and Hippocrates;
  • The famous incunabulum of Pius II’s De Europa, printed by Albrecht Kunne in Memmingen in around 1491;
  • The Code-B, one of the oldest extant manuscripts of the Greek Bible, dated to the 4th Century.

“The Apostolic Library contains some of the oldest texts in the world that represent a priceless legacy of history and culture. It’s very important that these documents are protected, and at the same time made available to scholars around the world,” said Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, in a statement. “Thanks to the generosity and expertise of supporters such as EMC we are able to meet these goals, preserving a treasure-trove of rare and unique texts in a format that will not suffer from the passage of time.”

EMC’s sponsorship is part of its Information Heritage Initiative, which works to protect and preserve the world’s information for future generations and make it globally accessible in digital form for research and education purposes. The current digitization project brings together a number of organizations and institutional partners, including Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, the Polonsky Foundation and the University of Heidelberg.

“To manage and protect information is part of our mission. The Apostolic Library is one of the oldest libraries in the world and we have a duty to ensure that the knowledge and beauty of the manuscripts in it are available to all in the future,” said Michele Liberato, president of EMC Italy, in a statement. “This project will help to preserve and make available a unique heritage of knowledge.”