Wednesday 13 December 2017

Religious documents going digital

A page from the Codex Bezae, one of the most important New Testament manuscripts (Cambridge University Library/PA)
A page from the Codex Bezae, one of the most important New Testament manuscripts (Cambridge University Library/PA)
The Book of Deer, a tiny pocket gospel book, which is of particular importance to Scotland (Cambridge University Library/PA)

Digital versions of some of the most significant religious manuscripts in the world - including a 2,000-year-old copy of the Ten Commandments and the oldest surviving Scottish manuscript - have been released for the first time.

Cambridge University has published the documents through its digital library, which aims to make 25,000 historically important images freely available.

While the latest release focuses on faith traditions - including important texts from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism - many of the manuscripts being made available are also of great political, cultural and historical importance.

The new additions include the Nash Papyrus - fragments of the commandments - and the Codex Bezae - a remarkable ancient copy of the New Testament.

Other additions include a 13th-century Life Of Edward The Confessor and the 10th-century Book Of Deer, widely believed to be the oldest surviving Scottish manuscript.

University librarian Anne Jarvis said: "Cambridge University library preserves works of great importance to faith traditions and communities around the world. Because of their age and delicacy these manuscripts are seldom able to be viewed - and when they are displayed, we can only show one or two pages.

"Now, through the generosity of the Polonsky Foundation, anyone with a connection to the internet can select a work of interest, turn to any page of the manuscript and explore it in extraordinary detail."

A £1.5 million lead gift from the Polonsky Foundation in June 2010 made possible the sophisticated technical infrastructure underpinning the digital library. The gift was one of the earliest and largest that the foundation has given as part of its International Digitisation Project, which aims to make the world's intellectual treasures freely accessible to a global audience.

Dr Leonard Polonsky said: "I am delighted to see such important materials being made freely available to the world and I look forward to the many other exciting collections the library is preparing."

The library - which can be found at - is also beginning to release digital versions of its Islamic and Sanskrit collections, which include both secular and religious texts.

Press Association

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