The Vatican Places History Online

The Vatican has digitised one of the world’s oldest manuscript, an illustrated fragment of Aeneid, a poem that dates back 1600 years that was written by the Roman poet Virgil, and published it online as part of its on-going project to preserve its library of manuscripts through a digital database.

The online manuscript is some 76 pages and contains around 50 ancient illustrations, which can be zoomed in on and examined on the Vatican’s Apostolic Library website. The poem, which was written in Latin, depicts the legendary story of Aeneid, a Trojan who travelled to Italy and who is considered the founding father of the Roman dynasty. It was written around 29­–19 BC and is something of an epic, being just shy of 10,000 lines!

The move to publish the manuscript online is part of the Vatican’s on-going commitment to digitise its entire collection, amounting to around 80,000 manuscripts (equating to 40 million images). The project started in 2010 with the dual aim of preserving the images long-term and creating an online database that scholars can access so that they do not have to disturb the original copies, which mostly date back to the Middle Age and Humanistic period.

DigitaVaticana, who have been raising money to fund the project, including the advanced professional scanners that are needed to avoid damage to the priceless manuscripts, have estimated that it will take another 15 years or so to complete the project, but there are already many manuscripts online that the public can browse free of charge.

You can view the digital version of Aeneid on the Vatican’s website by clicking here and it is also possible to support the online project through a donation on DigitaVaticana’s website.

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