Vatican Library



Newsletter n. 11 - 2012

Dear friends and readers,
It is always pleasing to find opportunities to say thank you; and I open this letter by expressing, with deep feeling and in all simplicity, the gratitude which all of us at the Vatican Library feel towards Cardinal Raffaele Farina, who has concluded his tenure as Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church on June 9th.

1. Our "Thank you" to the Cardinal Librarian
We had known for some time that the Cardinal had presented to the Pope his request to be relieved of so heavy a commitment, and we had adopted the attitude of those who understand, who do not wish a loved one to be afflicted with burdens beyond what he is able to bear. But this does not take away from the sorrow of a separation that each individual experiences by retracing the memories of the years, whether many or few, which he or she spent with Prefect, and later with Cardinal Farina. In attempting to gather these thoughts, at least for me personally – having spent five years in proximity and collaboration with him, but giving voice to thoughts which are certainly common to many of us – I am thankful to our Cardinal for so many things: for his help and his experience; for his kindness and his sensitivity; for his clarity and his support; for his sharing and also – if I may say so – for his friendship.
The Library will dedicate to the Cardinal the next issue of the Miscellanea Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae, which will appear at the end of 2012. But already today, Tuesday June 26th, during the evening which saw staff members gathered, as every year, together with their families for the Library's "Family Party," we have presented the Cardinal with a watercolor depicting the façade of the Library (we had also offered one to Pope Benedict on the occasion of his birthday and of the anniversary of his election), together with a gathering of photographs representing people and places of the Library. These are small, symbolic gifts which express our gratitude and give occasion for remembrance.

2. The Glass Wall in the Salone Sistino

Salone Sistino: general view of the glass wall looking towards the galleries of the Vatican Museum

At the beginning of this simple and heartfelt "Family Party," we also inaugurated the large, bipartite glass wall which now separates the Library's Salone Sistino from the galleries of the Vatican Museums. This is a first step towards preparing the Salone Sistino to be a reading room for printed books, a project which we began some time ago and whose completion we hope not to delay much longer. The glass wall insulates the Salone from the noise coming from the galleries while still allowing visitors to the Museums to admire the ceiling of the Salone itself. On the doors in the glass wall, we have placed bronze door handles, one with the arms of the Pope, with the bear of St. Corbinian, the moor's head and the shell; and the other with the arms of Cardinal Farina, with the book and the anchor.

Detail of the door handle with the symbols of the arms of Pope Benedict XVI


Door handle with the symbols of the arms of Cardinal Raffaele Farina

This is a first installment towards what needs to be accomplished in order to make the Salone Sistino into a truly successful work, well integrated into its surroundings. We would like to thank the architect Paolo Portoghesi, to whom we owe the entire design; the Picalarga company, which has been entrusted with carrying out the work; and the Prosolidar Foundation (the Italian national foundation of the banking sector, made up of the labor organizations and the Associazione Bancaria Italiana with the purpose of supporting charitable projects), which has generously sponsored the building of the glass wall.

3. The Digitization Project
Thanksgiving appears to be the keyword which accompanies me in writing this newsletter, and I wish to express warm thanks to all the institutions that are allowing us to proceed with our digitization project, and to all those in the Library who, in their various roles and functions, are making it possible for us to go down this sensitive and challenging road. In the previous newsletter I mentioned the beginning of the digitization of more than 2,000 Latin manuscripts of the Palatino collection, thanks to a multi-year project which has received the generous support of the University Library of Heidelberg.
At the time, I was not yet able to mention another project I will not dwell here on the technical aspects of the issues will be addressed at the conference, but I must point out that the Vatican Library, in making the choice of using FITS, has encountered willing collaboration on the part of researchers in the field of astrophysics, and at the same time it is now enjoying the valuable partnership of the international institutions which handle the FITS standard, with the goal of making it fully adequate for the preservation of cultural artifacts. I am glad to see how different areas of research, from astrophysics to the humanities, are in fact so close to each other that they can share a digital conservation format for their respective images. And I am also grateful and proud to note that the library receives this help and at the same time is offering its active cooperation for the enrichment of the same format for use in the preservation of cultural heritage.

4. An Astrophysics Conference
Still on the topic of digitization: the choice which the Vatican Library has made – and which I have mentioned before – of preserving our digital reproductions in the Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) format has led us to participate in the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science, which will be held at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, with a Special Session to be held on July 5th, entitled: Long-term preservation…: from the stars? File format assessment and technical issues in preservation projects for cultural resources. Non mi soffermo qui sugli aspetti tecnici delle tematiche che verranno affrontate nel convegno, ma mi preme ricordare che la Biblioteca Vaticana, nel compiere la scelta del FITS, ha trovato una felice collaborazione proprio fra i ricercatori di ambito astrofisico; e allo stesso tempo si sta ora muovendo, in una preziosa collaborazione con le istituzioni internazionali che gestiscono lo standard FITS, così da renderlo pienamente adeguato anche alla conservazione dei beni culturali. Sono contento di osservare come i vari ambiti della ricerca, dall'astrofisica alla cultura umanistica, siano così vicini, da poter condividere il formato di conservazione digitale delle rispettive immagini. E sono ugualmente grato e insieme fiero di riconoscere che la Biblioteca è aiutata e allo stesso tempo offre la sua attiva collaborazione per l'arricchimento di quello stesso formato per i beni culturali.

5. Friends and Newborns
A "thank you" also to some of our friends: in this case, we were able to express it with an honor conferred upon them by the Holy Father on February 1st. The Pope has conferred the title of Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great on Mr. George W. Von Mallinckrodt, a generous benefactor of initiatives in favor of the Prints Cabinet and the Section of Old Books; and on Messrs Tosetto Michele and Fabio Franceschi, generous benefactors of the exhibition marking the reopening of the Library in November 2010.
Thanks to the grown-ups, then, and thanks also to the children whom, from one newsletter to the next, I salute as they come into this world, while those I mentioned on previous occasions are growing into "little women" and "little men" with all their liveliness and discoveries. The newcomer in recent months has been Giulio, who has joined his brothers Giorgio and Giancarlo; other children are expected soon: for all of them we may begin to thank their parents, who give them to us and who look after them.

6. Greetings
After all that I have told about us, sometimes the thought comes that we are able to do many beautiful things, and sometimes somebody says so explicitly with expressions of appreciation. It is not that we are unhappy about this. But you will allow me not to forget the Biblical passage from the Book of Judges (chapter 7) which tells the story of Gideon and his fight against the Midianites. Gideon had gathered thirty-two thousand men, but the Lord made him reduce the number to only three hundred fighters because – he explained – if they had been so many, they would have been able to boast before him, saying: "It is my own hand that has saved me." I quickly found that in the Library we are about a hundred, only one third of Gideon's three hundred. We are thus even more protected against that sort of dangerous arrogance! Also for this reason, and through Him who has filled our hands, has enlightened our minds and enlivened our hearts, we give sincere thanks.
Warm greetings,

Msgr. Cesare Pasini

P.S. This Newsletter was ready to send when we received the news of the nomination of H.E. Monsignor Jean-Louis Bruguès, who until now was Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, as Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church. To the thanks I have already expressed towards Cardinal Farina and many others, I am happy to be able to add also my heartfelt congratulations and a warm and open welcome to Msgr. Bruguès for his new appointment.

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