The Vatican Apostolic Library, known as the “Popes’ library”, is located in Vatican City. Founded by Pope Nicholas V Parentucelli (1447-1455) in the antique fifteenth century palace of Popes, towards the end of Sixteenth Century, it was moved to the Sistine Hall by Pope Sixtus V Peretti (1585-1590), on the top floor of a new building built to delimit northward the Belvedere Court. The current seat, going from the pontificate of Leo XIII Pecci (1878-1903) until today, also includes other adjacent buildings into which the Library had to expand to accommodate additional acquisitions and donations of its last five-hundred-and-sixty-years history.

Rich in 82,000 manuscripts, 100,000 archival units, one million and 600,000 printed books (of which 8,700 incunabula), 400,000 coins and medals, 100,000 prints, drawings and matrices and 150,000 photographs, the Library contains a huge documentation of the humankind’s history and thinking, of arts and literature, of mathematics and science, of law and medicine, from the earliest centuries of the Christian era up to the present days, in many different languages and cultures from the Far East to the West of pre-Columbian America, as well as a humanistic background of extraordinary value.

Among significant manuscripts of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana to be digitally archived in the first phase of the project:

  • Eleven watercolor paints representing figures of Japanese dance, centuries XVI - XVIII (Vat estr.-or. 32).
  • Oath, signed by 42 Christians of Kuchinotzu (Japan), to defend their missionaries to death. The manuscript is dated 1613 ( Vat estr.-or. 33).
  • Vatican Virgil: product code in Rome around 400 AD, one of the few surviving examples of ancient illustration of a classic text . The code, studied by Raphael and purchased by Fulvio Orsini in 1579, arrived in the Vatican Library in 1600 (Vat lat. 3225).
  • Bilingual Iliad, with Greek text and Latin translation, double facing page. The manuscript, written in the fifteenth century by the Greek copyist Giovanni Rhosos and copyist from Padua Bartolomeo Sanvito was illuminated by Gaspare di Padova (Vat gr. 1626)
  • Pre-Columbian Aztec manuscript, written probably near Puebla (Mexico) at the end of the fifteenth century. The code had a ritual purpose, perhaps divination with mythological subjects, fairy tales, a calendar and family trees of the venerated gods (Borg. mess . 1: Codex Borgianus).
  • The Urbinate Bible, an undisputed masterpiece of Renaissance book art, made on behalf of Federico da Montefeltro, from the Florentine workshop of the bookseller Vespasiano da Bisticci between 1476 and 1478 (Urb lat. 1-2).
  • Illustrations of The Divine Comedy by Sandro Botticelli for Lorenzo the Magnificent, in XV century (Reg. lat. 1896 pt . A).
  • Beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript of the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, dated between 1451 and 1475 (Ross. 498).
  • Collection of 73 fragments of the Koran Kufic (with a precious fragment ḥiǧāzī) already belonged to the antiquarian and bibliophile Tàmmaro De Marinis (Naples, 1878 - Florence 1969), who donated it to the Vatican Library in 1946 (Vat ar . 1605).

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