Dear friends and readers,
in the newsletter I am sending today I wish - as always - to keep you abreast of events and activities in the Vatican Library. But this time I am a little unsure of how to go about it. Of course I must begin by saying that the Library reopens today but I realize that this is common knowledge, and I donít want to lose my way with unnecessarily grandiose rhetoric. Also, in previous newsletters I have already kept you informed of the work in progress and of the various novelties which are in preparation. I can confirm, however, that we are truly happy, because, even though the preceding months and years had seen us heartened and confident, in the end we ourselves began to be a bit concerned: "Will we succeed in opening by the announced date?". Well, now we can see it with our own eyes: "We have done it." And let me express a big and heartfelt "Thank you" to all those who have enabled us to reach our goal on time!
There is one other matter which I must address immediately: the newsletter, which was born from our desire to keep in touch with you during the three years of closure, has not yet reached the end of its road. We believe it continues to be important, because we intend to continue to communicate with you even when you cannot personally come to study in the Library, and because it is very important to us to keep alive this simple but effective form of contact which allows us to inform you but which also, I believe, fosters mutual understanding.
We have had no respite during the last months: even during the two central weeks of August, when the Library was formally closed for holidays, it was necessary to ensure a permanent presence to ensure the completion of the work and avoid harmful delays in final decisions. Nonetheless, I did permit myself a quick visit to the convent of the Romite Ambrosiane in Santa Maria del Monte sopra Varese, to "catch my breath" in a friendly atmosphere and also - I say this in all sincerity - to ask the nuns to support with their prayers the new commitment that awaits us now that the Vatican Library resumes its normal rhythm. I wanted to mention this, so that you know what "providential support" we are receiving, alongside that of all our employees and friends, including you.
As for the activities in progress, I first provide an update on the project of digitization of manuscripts, which I mentioned in a previous newsletter and which, as I have noticed, has aroused considerable interest among colleagues in other libraries and elsewhere. The "test bed", which is necessary in order to evaluate the procedures established in the preparatory study, was successfully completed in June. We are still waiting - actively waiting, with confident hope, despite the difficult economic situation which everyone is aware of - to be able to raise funds for the project. Meanwhile, with the help of some companies (Seret, Autonomy, Metis and E4), we are now able to resume the trials which will run from October until at least the end of this year. Thus, 113 manuscripts which had already been digitized (23 already in our archives and 90 made in the first phase of the test bed), we will be able to add another 150 (and in the meantime - we hope! - we will find a way to start the actual project).
With regard to the cataloguing of printed materials, the closure period was used not only for normal cataloguing of new acquisitions and of collections which had long since entered the Vatican Library (for example the De Luca collection), but also for the insertion of shelf marks in a large number of bibliographic records from the retrospective conversion of the card catalogue, where the shelf marks had been absent. This important but fastidious work has now been concluded, with obvious benefit to all who visit our on-line catalogue.
With regard to the cataloging of incunabula, which I mentioned in Newsletter no. 4, I can tell you that is proceeding smoothly, thanks to the support provided some time ago by the Reverend Ňke Bonnier, Dean of the Reformed Church of Sweden and dear friend of the Library. The first level of description, of the short title type, has now been completed, and therefore these descriptions are now available in the on-line catalogue of printed books. We are now beginning work, for the same incunabula, on a more detailed catalogue, with entry of exemplar-specific data: an undertaking which obviously will take much longer.
Among the donations received recently, I would like to recall the important collection of watercolor paintings of cardinalsí coats of arms by Constantine Del Pelo Pardi, kindly donated by the Ossella family. It is always possible to contribute to the activities of the Library through donations through the website of the Library. Some of our friends have also begun to make use of this possibility, and we gladly thank them and invite many others to follow their good example.
Before concluding this newsletter I want to remind you of the conference scheduled for next November, from Thursday the 11th to Saturday the 13th. This will be the official moment of the solemn reopening and, above all, a good opportunity for exchanges about the studies and activities undertaken in the "everyday" activities of the Library. The program was published some time ago on our website. We request that you kindly inform us if you intend to participate, in order to facilitate the organization of the conference.
On the eve of the conference, on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 10, we will celebrate the opening of an exhibition on the Library, which will remain open until the end of January 2011, entitled Conoscere la Biblioteca Vaticana: una storia aperta al futuro and located in the exhibition space of the Braccio di Carlo Magno (St. Peterís Square). It will be an opportunity to get to know the "real" Vatican Library - its activities, its treasures, its mission - for the many who have not yet been able to visit it or have perhaps been misinformed; but we think it will be interesting also for scholars who usually frequent our Reading Rooms. For more information and to book guided visits, I refer you to the site of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, with whose priceless collaboration we are setting up the exhibition.
I reserve for a future newsletter some announcements regarding important new publications: the first volume of the history of the library, the long-anticipated guide to the library, the exhibition catalog, and more. On the other hand, the Libraryís bilingual (Italian and English) 2011 Agenda is already in print , including about fifty images from manuscripts, printed books, prints, drawings, medals and art objects of the Vatican Library. This is a new publication, which we hope will be the beginning of a long series: carefully produced in every detail, with a binding which imitates an eighteenth-century one from the Libraryís holdings, it is also intended to celebrate the reopening. Copies of the Agenda may be purchased in person at the Business Office or through our website.
As we all return to the activities and commitments which mark the beginning of this new academic year, I send to all my very best wishes for success and satisfaction in the tasks which lie before us.