The "Mellon Project" at the Vatican Library

Paola Manoni - Vatican Library (Vatican City State)

Presentation type: Lightning talk


The project aims to demonstrate, among the advantages of the IIIF for manuscripts, how the annotation level is a fundamental innovation for the study of contents: transcriptions, comments, comparative analysis of texts and images. Thanks to the funds received from the Mellon Foundation, the Library has implemented a workflow to enrich the digital delivery of these materials by annotating some exemplary manuscripts with scholarly analysis in order to tell scholarly narratives, that provide interpretation for the individual works and illustrate important aspects of the world’s pre-print culture.

The Library intends to engage the visitors to its website on the possibilities for using these annotated manuscripts in IIIF, according to specific thematic pathways, by providing tools for discovering and comparing digital materials.

The deep analysis of contents of manuscripts entails the understanding of the “pre-print” world in which the manuscript is born. This implies a knowledge pertaining to the history of the manuscript, its origin, provenance as well as other circumstances of the production of a manuscript; identifications of dates, places, scribes, artists; discussions about the intellectual content and descriptive discussion on paleographic matters.

In its essential lines, a thematic pathway is composed by three different kinds of information:

1) A general description (introduction, historical information, etc.) of the chosen theme, It represents the “Story”;

2) Descriptive and structural metadata and a curatorial narratives for each manuscript;

3) Annotations, comments, in-depth analysis about detailed parts of a manuscript (e.g. texts, comments, illuminations, etc.) and transcriptions of units of information.

The four thematic pathways, examined in the three-year research, will be launched on October 1, 2019 (at:

Stanford University Libraries has partnered with the Vatican Library for technology development supporting both the creation of the four thematic pathways and their delivery to the public via a web-based platform. The technical work has focused on support for three main areas critical to the project: manuscript analysis and scholarly annotation; internal discovery and presentation of project work; and digital publication of curated exhibits. The technical approach has focused on adapting and integrating existing pieces of open source software, and introducing enhancements for the Library’s needs.

These softwares in use are:

● Mirador for analysis and annotation;

● Annotot for annotation store;

● Spotlight for discovery, presentation and curated exhibits of the thematic pathways.

The IIIF exhibits we will release on October 2019 will focus on the following a thematic pathway: Courses in Paleography (Greek and Latin, from antiquity to the Renaissance); The evolution and transmission of texts of specific works: Latin Classics; Vatican Palimpsests: Digital Recovery of Erased Identities; The humanist prince’s library: Federico da Montefeltro and his manuscripts.


  • Annotation, including full-text or academic use cases


  • Annotations,
  • Mirador,
  • Spotlight,
  • Manuscripts