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Collections and Digitization Projects of the Vatican Apostolic Library

The following post is written by Dante Figueroa, a senior legal information analyst at the Law Library of Congress. He has recently written for In Custodia Legis on the Italian Parliamentary Library; Spanish Legal Documents (15th to 19th Century); Recent Legislation Enacted by Italy to Tackle COVID-19; and Italy: A New Silk Road Between Italy and China – the Belt and Road Initiative.


Interior of the Vatican Library with arched, decorated ceiling, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Photo probably by James Anderson, between 1855-1877.

The Vatican Apostolic Library (VAL)

The VAL finds its origins in the Scrinium of the Roman Catholic Church from the fourth century onwards and is located in Vatican City. The library currently has about 180,000 manuscripts in Latin, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Ethiopic, and Syriac from the second century onwards, two million books and serials, 8,000 incunabula, over 330,000 Greek, Roman, and papal coins and medals, more than 100,000 prints, engravings, maps and drawings, and over 200,000 photographs.

VAL’s Digital Collections

VAL’s digital collections encompass manuscripts, printed materials, incunabula, visual materials, coins and medals, archives and inventories. Recently in mid-July 2020, the VAL inaugurated its new website containing a wealth of digital reproductions of historic manuscripts. The new website provides access to the digital collections of the VAL allowing free access to high-resolution materials.

Digitization Project of 80,000 Codices

Noteworthy is the VAL’s project to digitize its manuscript collection of 80,000 codices chiefly from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The project began in 2010 and aims to digitize about 40 million pages of documents. To date, over 19,000 manuscripts have been digitized and are available on the VAL website.

Collaboration between the VAL and the Library of Congress

Interestingly, during the years 1927-1939 the Library of Congress collaborated with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in a project to complete a new card catalogue of books. This collaboration also included the exchange of specialized staff between both institutions and the donation of important bibliographical materials to the Library of Congress.

Also, between January and April, 1993, the exhibition “Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library & Renaissance Culture” took place in Washington, D.C. This was one of the greatest exhibits of the VAL’s treasures outside the Vatican and was motivated by the VAL’s gratitude to the collaboration between both institutions that had taken place 60 years earlier.


United States Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Resources

This is a guest post by Louis Myers, the Law Library’s Librarian-in-Residence. Recent economic and geopolitical events have caused an increase in searches and requests for information about cryptocurrency regulation and legislation. The Law Library of Congress has compiled and maintained reports with information and resources on cryptocurrency and block chain for international jurisdictions, including Regulation […]

A Recording of the 2020 Constitution and Citizenship Day Lecture with Michael J. Murphy is Now Available

On September 17, 2020, Michael J. Murphy, a historical publications specialist with the Office of the Historian for the United States House of Representatives, provided a lecture for the Constitution and Citizenship Day celebration titled, “The Bulwark of Freedom”: African-American Members of Congress and the Constitution During Reconstruction.” Michael discussed the lives of the first […]

National Disability Employment Awareness Month and White Cane Awareness Day

This month, the Law Library is proud to celebrate the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. We previously announced its connection to the 30th anniversary of the ADA by showing ways in which the Library of Congress focuses on improving accessibility to our collections. Through the Office of Disability Employment Policy (part of […]

An Interview with Louis Myers, Librarian-in-Residence at the Law Library of Congress

Today’s interview is with Louis Myers, the current Librarian-in-Residence at the Law Library of Congress. Louis has recently authored blog posts for In Custodia Legis, including Research Guides in Focus – Municipal Codes: A Beginner’s Guide and Research Guides in Focus – Neighbor Law: A Beginner’s Guide. Describe your background. I am originally from Akron, […]

A Recording of the 2020 Kellogg Biennial in Jurisprudence with Martha Nussbaum is Now Available

Philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum was the featured speaker of the 2020 Kellogg Biennial Lecture in Jurisprudence, which was held on Wednesday, September 9th. Brian E. Butler, professor of philosophy and legal scholar at the University of North Carolina Asheville, interviewed Professor Nussbaum on “Philosophy and Life: Fragility, Emotions, Capabilities.” If you missed the live interview, we […]

Celebrating International Coffee Day: For the Love of Coffee

The following is a guest post by Jacquelyn Deppe, an intern with the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress. She is a graduate student of the Masters of Information program at Rutgers University. International Coffee Day is celebrated in the United States on September 29, and internationally on October 1. According to […]

Join Us on October 22 for a Foreign and Comparative Law Webinar on “World Trends in Elections and Campaign Financing Regulation”

In recent months we have witnessed major changes in many areas, particularly following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the Law Library of Congress Legal Research Institute’s Foreign and Comparative Law Webinar Series, we will be presenting a webinar on global developments in election and campaign finance laws, both before and during the pandemic. […]

From the Serial Set: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and Libraries

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Digital Resources Division would like to highlight some of the documented accomplishments of Latin America in our collections. The Serial Set contains bulletins from the Pan American Conferences. Initially known as the International Union of American Republics, the Pan American Union became the Organization of American States (OAS) […]

John Ross: His Struggle for Homeland and Sovereignty

This post was co-authored by Jennifer Davis and Shannon Herlihy, Law Library Creative Intern. Saturday, October 3, was the birthday of Principal Chief John Ross (ᎫᏫᏍᎫᏫ) a member of the Cherokee Nation, of Cherokee and Scottish descent, who through his tribal leadership guided the Cherokee people through multiple legal challenges. Ross was educated at mission […]