Travel stories from the Holy Land: cataloguing continues in Jerusalem’s libraries

Giacomo Pizzi18 April 2012

Study, cataloguing and digitizing of some of the oldest and most interesting books in the libraries of the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem is currently being carried out. The libraries in St. Saviour’s Monastery and the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, between them, hold approximately 150 editions of the “Itineraria ad Loca Sancta”, presenting pilgrims’ accounts of their journeys to the Holy Places dating back to the period between the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. In addition, there are a far larger number of copies representing all of the later editions: more than one thousand books from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries up to the present day.

Alessandro, an ATS pro Terra Sancta volunteer, tells of the work he is carrying out in the library at St. Saviour’s Monastery: “What we are doing is working on cataloguing some of the oldest editions, providing an accurate description of the characteristics of each book and reproducing a number of the illustrations they contain. Once this work is completed, the catalogue of all the works will be made available online on a new website dedicated to the libraries of the Custody of the Holy Land.

The catalogue of the “Itineraria” is scheduled to be placed online by the end of 2012, and will allow scholars and other interested people throughout the world to have access to the precious resources maintained in this ancient library. Alessandro adds: “We are working on creating a virtual tour, which will also be available on the new site, using images of the Holy Places taken from the earliest editions, showing how these were viewed and represented by pilgrims over the centuries”.

It is also planned to publish printed catalogues of the oldest works, while the catalogue of the editions from nineteenth century onwards will only be available online, and will continue to expand over time.

Numerous other activities are foreseen as part of the project “Books, Bridges of Peace”, including carrying out a similar task of cataloguing for the works relating to medicine contained in the library at St. Saviour’s Monastery.