Thursday, October 23, 2014

Vatican Library Going Online

For years rumors have been floating around the occult community that the Vatican Library houses all sorts of esoteric texts that are available nowhere else. According to the story I've heard, back in the middle ages the Roman Catholic Church seized all sorts of materials from those charged by the Inquisition, but instead of destroying the texts they sent them to Rome where they have sat in the archives ever since.

Few scholars have been given access to the collection, and as far as I know nobody with an interest in confirming or denying the rumors has been in a position to do so. But all of that may soon change. The Vatican started a project in 2013 to digitize all of the documents contained in its library, which should include any magical texts the church possesses.

The official library of the Holy See is undertaking a massive digitization project designed to upload hundred of thousands of books and images from its physical archives into an online database.

As Business Insider reports, nonprofit organization Digita Vaticana Oculus was founded in 2013 with the goal digitizing 80,000 manuscripts. That's just a little over half the approximately 180,000 manuscripts, 1.6 million books and 150,000 images that are housed in the library.

The process, as laid out by the project's website, is pretty basic. First, the manuscripts are selected and scanned by special devices designed to preserve the integrity of the original documents. Images are then saved in multiple locations to ensure long-term storage before being made available in the Vatican Library portal. Sounds simple — but imagine doing that for thousands of pages.

The project is currently underway and the first few texts are now online. The documents that have been digitized so far can be found here, with more on the way as they become available. The manual scanning process is slow and the library is vast, so the entire project is expected to take the next fifteen years. I haven't had a chance to go through all of it yet, but the samples look amazing.

I imagine that magical texts are probably low on the church's list of priorities, but as they're historically significant and interest in grimoires seems to be on the upswing I expect that they eventually will be available. Then we'll be able to see whether or not the rumors are true. I hope that they are, since we know that so many texts from medieval magical traditions have been lost over the centuries.

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