Archbishop welcomes digitisation of ancient Bible texts

Published 04 December 2013  |  

The Archbishop of Canterbury has welcomed a project that will digitise 1.5million pages, including collections of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.

The Polonsky Foundation Digitisation Project, a collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (the Vatican Library), will make the pages freely available to both researchers and the general public over the next three years.

The initiative is being funded by a £2million grant from Dr Leonard Polonsky, who has expressed a commitment to democratising access to information and wants to see intellectual resources shared on a global scale.

In a video interview, Archbishop Justin Welby highlights the significance of the project, comparing it to that of the printing press.

"The impact of the spread of printing was so profound, not just on religious practice, but on the whole self-understanding of society," he says, noting that he finds the new process of digitalisation "fascinating".

The Archbishop says that he believes the digitisation of Biblical texts "will indirectly have an impact on our liturgy and worship and practice of faith", and contends that increased availability will allow more people to be "profoundly" inspired by Scripture.

"Where you can see these ancient texts, there is just a lifting of the spirit, of something that inspires worship," he says.

"By being able to have access to them via a digitised collection, this really opens the text to a far wider range of scholars than have been able to get at them in the past, and is of huge international significance as a result."

The digitisation project will focus on three main groups of texts: Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, and 15th-century printed books.

Both secular and religious texts will be drawn upon. These will be chosen individually for their scholarly importance and for the strength of their collections both in Oxford and the Vatican.

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