Vatican to digitise manuscripts into 2.8 petabytes of data

The Vatican’s precious books are all set to get a new age makeover with the digitisation of the entire Apostolic Library. The process will take a whopping nine years to be complete.

Thanks to a donation by EMC, a company that specialises in information security and data storage, the library will be able to put up all its manuscripts in a data space of a staggering 2.8 petabytes of storage. The company donated the entire storage amount to the Vatican.

You will soon be able to access historic documents online (Image Credit: Getty Images)

You will soon be able to access historic documents online (Image Credit: Getty Images)


Set to take nearly a decade of hard work, the Apostolic Library will aim to digtise 90,000 documents in its possession. One of the most important documents of modern day society, the Gutenberg Bible, one of the first Western books to be printed on moveable type, will find its way online through this project. Besides the Gutenberg Bible, the Sifra, one of the oldest extant Hebrew codes written between the end of the 9th and middle of the 10th Century, Greek testimonies of the works of Homer, Sophocles, Plato and Hippocrates, the famous incunabulum of Pius II’s De Europa and the Code-B, dated to the 4th Century will be digitised too.

EMC had earlier helped in similar works in the past, including 3D reconstruction of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Codex of Flight”, supporting the Herzogin Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany and helping with the digitisation and archiving of JFK Library, Boston’s entire collection.

The company had earlier sponsored the Vatican’s Lux in Arcana exhibition, which brought into the public domain for the first time in 400 years 100 original historical documents from the Vatican Secret Archive earlier in 2012.

The most important question here is how EMC plans to store these files that have such a huge historic and religious significance. The company has not announced the format it is going to store these illuminations and marginalia in. Not only will EMC have to choose a format that captures the essence of all these files, but also choose a format that will withstand the test of time.

The first phase of digitisation of 2.8 petabytes of data is set to take three years. Just to put things in perspective, 1 petabytes is equal to one thousand terabytes of data. The company announced that digitising historical manuscripts is a part of its Informative Heritage Initiative. “This initiative makes historical documents and cultural artifacts readily accessible for research and education via the Internet. EMC and initiative partners work with diverse organizations throughout the world to protect valuable information and improve access to international treasures.”

Using technology to preserve history is a cause that has our approval!

Published Date: Mar 18, 2013 05:33 pm | Updated Date: Mar 18, 2013 05:33 pm