Japanese company to digitise rare Vatican library manuscripts

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Ancient manuscripts in the Vatican library penned from East Asia to the Pre-Colombian Americas will be digitised by a Japanese company as part of a global project to make the collection available for free viewing by the public.

Japan's NTT DATA will digitize 3,000 historical works and put them online over a four-year period in an initiative costing 18 million euros (S$31,650,120 million), the company said at a press conference in the Vatican on Thursday.

"The manuscripts to be digitised go from the Pre-Colombian American period to the Chinese and Japanese East Asia, passing through all the languages and cultures which have animated Europe," the Vatican's librarian and archivist Jean-Louis Brugues said.

The library began digitising its books a couple of years ago and the deal with NTT DATA will bring the total of manuscripts converted to 15,000 by 2018.

NTT DATA's head Toshio Iwamoto said the company was eager to participate "in an operation which will lead to the digitisation and preservation of some 80,000 books and 41 million pages which could be considered as global heritage, written between the second and 20th centuries".

The company is active in over 40 countries and is experienced in digitising rare manuscripts.

Brugues underlined the Holy See's desire "to make the immense treasure entrusted to it available, by offering free consultation on the Internet".