Dear friends and readers,
I am a bit behind my usual schedule for sending the newsletter, and the festivities of Christmas and of the New Year are already several weeks past; but I would still like to send you, on behalf of each of us here in theVatican Library, our warmest and most sincerewishes.
1. Humility and On-Line Manuscripts
In the previous newsletter, dated June 26, in a post-scriptum added at the last minute, I mentioned the appointment of our new Librarian, H.E. Monsignor Jean-Louis Bruguès, offering him my very best wishes for his new assignment. This time I wish not only to pass on his greetings to you, but also to share with you some of his reflections on the theme of humility, which he offered to us on the occasion of his Christmas greetings: "Humility guides man in his nature as a climber, urging him on from one foothold to the next; from the fall to the recovery, sometimes at the risk of life, to climb the mountain, rising by degrees and finallyattaining the promised glory. Authors of spiritual works are right to remind man of his nothingness, but only if they also remind him of his ability to rise up. Humility proclaims the power of the lowly. It makes preparations for long journeys and succeeds in the greatest undertakings."
This beautiful description of humility seems to me a simple and constructive attitude which can spur us on in the continuous renewal of our activities and initiatives, even when we find that we have tumbled down or are somehowfalling short, but are in fact waiting to resume the climb with renewed vigour. We had promised to place on line, by the end of last year, the images of the first group of digitized manuscripts from the various projects we have underway. When, on December 31, we had not done what had been promised, the mountaineer had to recognize that he had fallen. In our other work also, we have experienced delays and hardships – ones which might well be considered foreseeable or even normal, when many tasks are undertaken with the limited means at hand. In the end these aresmall things, and it would be tedious to list and describe them in detail; but they all usefullybring us back to that simplicity which allows us to have another go at the wall we are to climb, without becoming angry or depressedif the wall is high, and if we happen to find ourselves, that day, at the bottom or perhaps in the middle of it, not knowing just how to proceed.
I am therefore very pleased to be able to announce today that a group of digitized manuscripts has been made available on our website: they are the first 256 of a great multitude, and they are available directly from the Digitised Materials link on our homepage.In an upcoming newsletter I intend to reintroduce and update everything that has to do with the digitization of manuscripts and the many projects that are connected to the general project supported by the company EMC² Computer Systems Italia S.p.A. and by DedanextS.r.l. - DedagroupS.p.A.. However, I do not want to miss the opportunity to mention here a new project, undertaken in collaboration with the Alamire Foundation-Internationaal centrum voor de studie van de muziek in de LageLanden (Belgium) which concerns various musical manuscripts related to the Low Countries and especially the choir-books copied and illuminated by the calligrapher, composer and instrumentalistPierre Alamire (Peter van den Hove). I would also like to mention the continuing work on the Polonsky Foundation Digitisation Project, punctuated by periodic meetings between the Vatican Library and the Bodleian Library; and the constant growth of the Bibliotheca Palatina digital, with the participation of the Vatican Library at the press conference held on October 26 at the University Library of Heidelberg.
2. New Publications
But there is another delay which needs to be recognized: the second volume of the Storia della Biblioteca Vaticana ("History of the Vatican Library"), edited by Massimo Ceresa and dedicated to the period from 1534, when the library had consolidated its presence in the 15th-century Papal palace, down to 1590, when the construction of the Salone Sistino had been completed, is now in print. It too had been promised for 2012 but is finally arrivingat port (or maybe I should say at the summit) only now, and I am happy to be able to mention it here. It will be presented at Montalto, the home diocese of Pope Sixtus V, who built the Hall that bears his name, and also here in the Vatican Library: I will have more to say about it in the next newsletter.
On the other hand, the volume Coptic Treasures from the Vatican Library. A Selection of Coptic, Copto-Arabic and Ethiopic Manuscripts (Studi e testi, 472) was published on schedule. It was prepared on the occasion of the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies, held in Rome last September 17 to 22; on Friday the 21st, the congress was hosted in Palazzo San Pio X in Via della Conciliazione, where the Vatican Library set up a notable exhibit of Coptic manuscripts.
Also on schedule – by necessity – is the 2013 Agenda: after the first agenda, for 2011, which was decorated with various depictions of the Library's "treasures," last year's agenda was devoted to the Salone Sistino; this year, week by week, it presents depictions of the Library's classical Latin and Greek manuscripts, from the oldest ones (the Vatican Virgil of the fourth century) down to the Renaissance.
Finally, a book which is about to be released is I disegni della via Appia di Carlo Labruzzialla Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana ("The Drawings of the Via Appia by Charles Labruzzi in the Vatican Library"), edited by Pier Andrea De Rosa and Barbara Jatta (Documenti e riproduzioni, 13), which presents the entire corpus of 226 watercolour drawings preserved in the Vatican Library, produced by the Roman painter Carlo Labruzzi to illustrate the places on the Via Appia which he visited on his journey from Rome to Benevento in the fall of 1789. A heartfelt thank you to the Fondazione Roma-Arte-Musei and to the Knights of Columbus Foundation, which supported its printing.
I want to take a moment, in this newsletter, to focus more particularly on our benefactors: without them, in the difficult times we are all experiencing, there are a great many initiatives, large and small, which we would not be able to carry out. So we feel truly sustained and supported, and I wish to express my warmest heartfelt thanks. I cannot name them one by one, but I do suggest that you browse the list on the webpage dedicated to them.
In addition to the institutions already mentioned above for the digitization of manuscripts, and to the support received for the volume on Carlo Labruzzi, I am happy to recall the support from the Hruby Foundation for the cameras and security equipment that have been installed in the data centre and in the roomswhere the digitisation of manuscripts and incunabula is carried out.
For the work required to turn the Salone Sistino into a Reading Room for printed books, we have received generous aid from Prosolidar (the Foundation of the Italian banking sector, involving the trade unions and the Italian Banking Association, with the purpose of supportingsolidarity projects); from the company Lundbeck ItaliaS.p.A.; and from two Swedish foundations: Jacob WallenbergsStiftelse and StiftelsenKonungGustaf VI Adolfs fond försvenskkultur. This lastdonationhas the distinction of coming from the foundation of the King of Sweden itself, and is the crowning glory upon the fruitful collaboration begun in 2008 by the then Ambassador of Sweden to the Holy See, Fredrik Vahlquist, agreat and faithful friend of the Library. During the coming month of April, an exhibition will open in Stockholm which will include some of the manuscripts of Queen Christina of Sweden which were restored thanks to a previous donation from the Swedish foundations.
The cataloguing of our incunabula also continues apace, thanks to the support of another Swedish friend, the Rev. Åke Bonnier, now bishop of Skara in the Church of Sweden, and thanks to the generous support of the German foundation ThyssenStiftung.
Specific contributions from institutions and individuals who are friends of the Library have also allowed the implementation some important projects managed by the Prints Cabinet: the cataloguing of the drawings of Gianlorenzo Bernini which are kept in the Library was supported by theGavio family, by Bill Teuber (Vice President of EMC² Corporation) and by Postel; the cataloguing of the photographic collection of the Library was supported by George von Mallinckrodt, a solicitous friend of our institution; and the restoration and catalographic verification of the volumes of theCicognara collection was supported by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Gladys KriebleDelmas Foundation.
A major restoration of 48 manuscript volumes kept in the Vatican Library which contain poetical, scientific and religious texts of special importance for the history of Islamic civilization in Central Asia has been made possible thanks to the support of the HeydarAliyev Foundation of Azerbaijan.
It is always nice to share with our readers also the "family events" of the Library. Following our farewell to Cardinal Raffaele Farina last June 26, at the time when I sent out the last newsletter, we met him again on October 9in order to present him with a photo album to remind him, through the people in the pictures, of his "adventure" in the Vatican Library. I have to confess that this album was meant to be ready on June 26, but it took us a little longer than that to prepare it (another delay!). However, it was a welcome opportunity to express again all our love and gratitude for the Cardinal.
I also wish to recall some appointments from among the Library staff. Anyone who has recently been in our socalled "Second Manuscript Reading Room" will have noticed that, at the Reference Librarian's desk, since last September, Massimo Ceresa has been succeeded by Andreina Rita. In the Photographic Laboratory, after the retirement of Davide Borgonovo at the end of 2012, the direction of the Laboratory has been taken over by Irmgard Schuler.In the Accessions Office,from 1 February 2013, Raffaella Vincenti, who has beenappointed Secretary of the Library, will be replaced byMichelaGhera. I should add that, among the members of the new Pontificia Academia Latinitatis, established by Pope Benedict XVI on November 10, 2012, are our Vice Prefect, Ambrogio M. Piazzoni, and our ScriptorLatinus Antonio Manfredi. As for myself – I wish to recall this as a sign of gratitude – on the occasion of my visit to St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, to deliver a lecture on St. Ambrose of Milan, I had the pleasant surprise of receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.The title of my lecture was Progressing in Liberty towards Humility; and for each of the people named here I am happy to recall the words I have already quoted: "Humility [...] makes preparations for long journeys and succeeds in the greatest undertakings."
And now it is time to remember our little ones. In the past months we have cele-brated the births of Giorgio and Elena. Elena will keep her sister Giulia company, while Giorgio was welcomed by three sisters, Letizia, Caterina Anna Maria and Mar-gherita. Their parents, it seems, will not be suffering from loneliness!
Warm greetings to you all,