A ground breaking collaborative effort to create a unified listing of all Hebrew books in Italy for the first time ever has been announced by The Union of Jewish Communities in Italy (UCEI), the Rome National Central Library (BNCR), and the National Library of Israel (NLI) in Jerusalem. The “I-TAL-YA BOOKS” initiative is being made possible through the support of the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe.
Jewish communities have existed in Italy for more than two millennia and over the centuries it has played a critical role in global Jewish history, particularly as a significant center for manuscript production and printing.
Today in Italy, thousands of uncatalogued rare Hebrew books dating back hundreds of years are held among collections belonging to local Jewish communities, as well as libraries owned by the state.
Some of the collections have been partially catalogued; however, there is no single integrated and standardized listing of these holdings and so while many of these books have significant historical importance and hold tremendous potential for scholars, they are often difficult if not impossible to find.
The “I-TAL-YA BOOKS” initiative will ensure the protection, preservation and provision of access to these cultural treasures as never before using technology developed specifically for the project. The Union of Jewish Communities in Italy (UCEI) will oversee the project, with the Rome National Central Library (BNCR) hosting the catalogue, and the National Library of Israel (NLI) providing the relevant training, support and expertise related to Hebrew books.
An initial pilot phase has just concluded, and the full-scale project starting now will include an estimated 35,000 volumes from 14 Jewish communities and 25 state institutions. It will take approximately three years to complete.
“The realization of the unique catalogue of books in Hebrew in Italian libraries is a dream come true,” Gloria Arbib, a member of the UCEI steering committee said. “We have created a professional and responsible working group and with it we have set up a work process that will make the unique catalogue available with some parts of the digitized volumes and search functions both in Hebrew and Latin characters with the normalization of names. And it was not a simple matter. We hope to make the first results visible with the start of the new year.”