The Vatican Library

Before proceeding with the story of Latin manuscripts and editions of the Bible, let us talk about the famous Vatican Library. Many are convinced that it was there—at least since the early Middle Ages, when Papal Rome, according to the Scaligerian chronology, supposedly had already reached its peak—that ancient and medieval Latin documents were, and still are, carefully preserved. And not only Latin but also Greek, Jewish.

So, let’s turn to the history of the Vatican Library. And immediately, we come across amazing things. It turns out that “traditionally, the foundation of the Vatican Library was attributed to Pope Nicholas V. But this is already the second half of the fifteenth century! Nothing at all is known about the library’s fate before the XV century, as can be seen from Note that this is not just another scientific publication, but the one edited in collaboration with the Vatican Library and reflects, in particular, the opinion of the Vatican itself. And the author of the article is Father Leonard Boyle, the Prefect of the Vatican Library.

But this is just the beginning. Suddenly it turns out that Pope Nicholas V did not found the Vatican Library. At best, he only expressed the idea of its foundation. It was founded by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484). But this is already the end of the XV century. However, this “second foundation” was, as it were, not a foundation. Because, as we will find out later, it took the Vatican Library to be founded for the third time. And this happened already at the very end of the XVI century, that is, a century later. Under Pope Sixtus V (1585–1590). The famous Vatican Library was founded only after 1585, that is, soon after the Council of Trent.

By the way, the creation of the Vatican Library at the end of the XVI century, puts a lot in its right place. We have already written a lot about the Council of Trent in the XVI century and its most important role in creating the concept of chronology known today as Scaligerian. It is not surprising that the justification of this concept and other church-historical ideas developed at the Council of Trent. It was necessary to create a library of “very ancient” documents.

Pope Sixtus V (1585–1590) was the actual first founder of the Vatican Library. And its two “previous foundations” are fiction, intending to lengthen the history of the newly created library. By the way, at the same time, in 1585–1590, the Vatican Library was built. The building has survived—possibly in a rebuilt form—to this day. And the primary reception of manuscripts and printed books to the Vatican Library occurred, as it turns out, it didn’t experience significant growth until the XVII century”.

At the same time, it is known which particular book collections made up the first main fund of the Vatican Library.

1) 2000 Latin and 430 Greek manuscripts and 8000 printed books were taken from Heidelberg by Maximilian of Bavaria, who captured the city in 1622. He presented them to the Vatican, which constituted the first significant donation in the library.

2) 1,500 Latin manuscripts from the library of the Dukes of Urbino entered the Vatican in 1658.

3) 2000 Latin manuscripts of the Swedish Queen Christina were bought from her heirs in 1690.

These are the receipts of the XVII century ([1374], p. xiv).

There were two arrivals in the XVIII century.

1) 300 manuscripts from the Capponiani collection in 1746.

2) 3000 Latin and 473 Greek manuscripts from the Ottoboni library in 1748.

After that, until the end of the XIX century, no other significant acquisitions were noted in the Vatican Library. The rapid growth of its funds began at the end of the XIX century. The Vatican Library, in today’s public opinion, is surrounded by a certain aura of mystery. Many people think that it contains books collected by the popes over the alleged many centuries of the history of the Vatican. At some point, these books, stored in inaccessible basements, were finally brought out and put on the shelves of the Vatican Library building specially built for this. But this is not the case.

As we have just seen, the history of this library is generally typical and does not differ much from the history of other large European libraries. It is compiled from most different collections of books brought here from different countries of Europe in the XVII–XVIII century. The history of these collections cannot be traced back to the past. By the way, nothing is said about the large collections of books allegedly extracted from the Vatican archives proper.

See vol.6 of the “History: Fiction or Science?” series