Although even as early as the Middle Ages the papal library was, next to that of the Sorbonne, one of the most important book collections in the world, the actual foundation of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana was a result of Renaissance efforts: Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) was a significant humanist and collector of books. He established the Vatican Library as an accessible place of scholarship and research for students and academics alike.
Today the Vatican Library comprises a huge number of works including around 80.000 manuscripts, 100 000 archived documents, 1.6 million printed books (8400 of which are incunables), 150 000 artworks, 150 000 photographs as well as 300 000 coins and medals.
Pope Sixtus V (1585–1590) was responsible for housing the library in its current building, which has, over the centuries, become the home of phenomenal new acquisitions of incredible worth. In 1623 Gregory XV (1621–1623) acquired the famous Heidelberg Biblioteca Palatina, ‘the mother of German libraries’.
The collections of the dukes from Urbino and Queen Christine of Sweden followed in the second half of the 17th century. The impressive collection of Pope Alexander VIII (Pietro Ottoboni 1689-1691) comprising 3000 manuscripts was bought back during the course of the 18th century. This was followed by the Barberini Collection (around 12 000 manuscripts) and the treasures owned by Giovanni Francesco de Rossi.
The Vatican is the central pivot of catholic Christianity. It thus does not come as any surprise that a major part of the collection is dedicated to the Holy Scriptures and their heritage. The selection ranges from early Christian papyrus (one of the oldest records of the Pauline epistles) to the ostentatious Niccolò d'Este Renaissance Bible and includes biblical manuscripts from Byzantine, Coptic, Arabic and Hebraic cultures.
The leaves included in the box
Peter’s Epistles, Papyrus Bodmer VIII (Egypt, 3rd Century)
Pauline Epistles, Cod.Vaticanus B - Vat.gr. 1209 (Caesarea, 4th Century)
John the Baptist, Barberini Gospel - Barb.lat.570 (England 8th Century)
Lorsch Gospel, Pal.lat.50 (Aachen, Germany, 9th Century)
The initial L (Begin of the Gospel according to Matthew), Ottob. lat 79 (Northern France, 9th Century)
Jesajas Prayers Old Testament/Book of Kings, Vat. gr 755 (Constantinople, 11th Century)
Ruler on Throne, Gospel of Henry II - Ottob. lat. 74 (Regensburg, Germany, 11th Century)
"Birth of Christ" and decorative page from Matthew’s Gospel, Tetra Gospel of John II and Alexios Komnenos, Urb. gr. 2 (Constantinople, 1122-1142)
Psalms - Old Testament, Ross. 556 (Rome 1293/1294)
"Mark the Evangelist" - Tetra Gospel, Vat. copt. 9 (Cairo, 13th Century)
"Forty Martyrs" - Gospel Reading, Vat. sir. 559 (Nineveh, 13th Century)
"Holy Hieronymus" - Niccolò d’Este Bible, Barb. lat. 613 (Ferrara 1430-1434)
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana - Biblica": Schätze der Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana - Biblica facsimile edition, published by Faksimile Verlag