June 14, 2004

From the Lexindton Herald - Leader

Vatican's 15th-century library goes high-tech

Nicole Winfield
Associated Press
Jun 12 2004

VATICAN CITY Dealing with bug infestations, normal wear and tear and even the occasional thief, keepers of the 15th-century Vatican Apostolic Library face an ever-challenging task. Their latest step to keep their invaluable collection intact has been to employ some 21st-century technology.
Officials have started implanting computer chips in the 1.6 million books in the Vatican's collection. The chips communicate via radio wave with hand-held monitors, so librarians can tell if a book is missing.
"That is no small thing, because a book that's out of place is as if the book is lost," deputy prefect Ambrogio Piazzoni says.
The technology has been around for a few years. But the Vatican believes its Pergamon system -- named for the ancient city in modern Turkey that housed one of the Old World's greatest libraries -- marks the first time the system has been applied to a library catalog on a large scale.
It's the latest advance for the Vatican Library, which was started by Pope Nicholas V in the 1450s with an initial 350 Latin manuscripts. By the time Nicholas died in 1455, the collection had swelled to about 1,500 codices and was the largest in Europe.
Today, the Vatican Library is known for its collection of about 65,000 manuscripts, the one-of-a-kind books that predate the printing press. One of the library's most important pieces is the Codex B, the oldest known complete Bible, which dates from about A.D. 325 and is thought to be one of the 50 bibles Emperor Constantine commissioned.
The library also is home to 300,000 medals and Roman-era coins.
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