The Vatican Digital Library is Now Online. Here’s What You Need to Know


First, some history

The Vatican Library was established in 1475 and is one of the oldest libraries in the world, and also one of the biggest and most safely guarded. Currently, Vatican Library holds about 75000 codices, 85000 incunabula and about 1.1 million books. Apart from all these, there are around 400000 coins and medals, millions of  photographs, prints, drawings. The library stores a large collection starting from the pre-Christian era to the present day collection. Vatican Library  is a huge collection, consisting of many languages from the west to the east, and has added Mathematics, Science, Social Science and other important subjects.


What it is 

It is a digital library service. It provides free access to the Vatican Library’s digitized collections of manuscripts and incunabula. It is based on the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) technology, making digital materials easily accessible and usable.


Who can access it

Absolutely anyone with an internet connection. That includes you since you’re reading this right now.


What’s there

The library contains a ridiculous amount of information to browse, which fall into four broad categories:

Display functions: The viewer is able to zoom, browse and ‘turn pages’ of JPEG2000 images as well as allow scholars to compare digital objects from different IIIF repositories of other digital libraries.

Search and discovery collections: Descriptions and bibliographic references from the online catalogues are indexed and linked to digital materials. The guided navigation (‘faceted search’) leverages metadata elements for narrowing or refining queries. An enhancement of search functions is scheduled for the next release.

Digital galleries: Selected Manuscripts – a selection of digitized materials from the most significant manuscripts.

Latest Digitized Manuscripts: a gallery of the latest 20 digitized codices.-News: Information and current events concerning the digitization project of the Vatican Library.


Where to go 

Simple, there’s a website. It seems is called “DVL” or “DigiValLib”, for Digital Vatican Library. You can find it here:


Here’s an example: 

This is, officially,

“, (the document’s codifier)

Biblia sacra latine. Vetus Testamentum cum prologis et argumentis s. Hieronymi et aliorum”

That is:

“Christian holy name . The Old Testament links to the prologue and the arguments, s. Jerome and others”

I’m not personally familiar with the document, but whomever might want to look into it, can now! Here’s what it looks like:

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 8.39.02 PM

The blue lettering in the left page reads: hieronimi presbiteri sancti simmi ac beati simmi doctoris prefatio ad paulinum nolanum episcopum in om nes divine historie libros in cipit feliciter

My rough translation is: “Happily begins the preface to the history of books which are in all things divine, made by Jerome the presbyter and the most holy and blessed doctor, to Paulinus of Nolano, the bishop.”

Here’s a zoomed in shot of the right page (you’ll see on the website, the content is very high quality):
Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 8.39.35 PM

The blue and red lettering in the left of the page reads: “incipit epistola sancti presbiteri ad paulinum presbiterum deo nibus divinis history libris”.

My rough translation is: “God to all the priests of the sacred history of the holy priest begins the message, to the books of the pauline”.

Cool, huh?


How you can help

You can support the digitalization effort by becoming a support partner, or making a simple donation. Click here to learn more. 


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