Early printed books in Italian monastic libraries

A collaboration between the National Central Library of Rome and the Consortium of European Research Libraries to digitise and catalogue over 200 incunables located at the Library of the Monastery of Santa Scolastica, Subiaco, Italy

Project details

The Benedictine monastery of Santa Scolastica at Subiaco (near Rome) is where printing in Italy began. Two German printers, Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, had a workshop there for three years in the 1460s, producing the first Italian incunables (early printed books).

We supported the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma (BNCR) and the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) in the digitisation and cataloguing of over 200 incunables from the Santa Scolastica library, including several printed by the pioneers Sweynheym and Pannartz.

The Santa Scolastica library is one of eleven ‘National Monuments’ – libraries of religious institutions that enjoy a special status under Italian law due to their historical and cultural significance. While forming part of the State library network supported financially by the Italian State, these libraries are managed autonomously in cooperation with the responsible monastic communities. As part of the project, a website was developed devoted to these eleven ‘National Monuments’, including a film on the role played by monastic houses in the spread of knowledge and culture in Europe.

The 1467 edition of St Augustine’s ‘City of God’ – one of the important works digitized by the project – was exhibited at the Italian Embassy in London at a January 2020 event marking the completion of the digitisation.


 Subject area: Cultural heritage and digitisation

Subject areas

Cultural heritage and digitisation

We support major libraries and museums in digitising and displaying the riches of their collections, to make them available to researchers and the wider public in innovative and attractive ways.

Humanities education and research

We support research in the humanities at significant academic institutions, educational initiatives to inspire young people about the humanities, and the broadening of educational opportunity.

Excellence and innovation in the arts

We support artistic heritage, the development of new creative work and the nurturing of young performers.