A groundbreaking new initiative has been launched to identify and catalog every Hebrew book in Italy.
Called "I-Tal-Ya Books," the initiative is a joint collaboration between the National Library of Israel (NLI), the Union of Jewish Communities in Italy (UCEI) and the Rome National Central Library (BCNR), and is made possible due to the support of the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, the organizations said in a joint press release.
Italy has a rich Jewish history, with Jews having lived there for over two thousand years. As such, it has played a significant role in Jewish history, most notably due to its status as a major center for printing and producing manuscripts.
As a result, there are thousands of rare and uncatalogued Hebrew texts, some of which date back centuries, that are held by local Jewish communities and in libraries run by the state, the Vatican and the Italian Church Institutions.
Efforts have been made to partially catalog this massive amount of texts, but there has yet to be a single standardized and integrated form of listing. As a result, many of these texts, which have a wealth of potential for scholars, are next to impossible to track down.
However, the I-Tal-Ya Books initiative will use new technology developed specifically to help protect, preserve and provide access to these texts. The NIL and BNCR will help provide relevant training and expertise regarding Hebrew texts, while the UCEI will oversee the initiative.
"The realization of the unique catalog of books in Hebrew in Italian libraries is a dream come true," Dr. Gloria Arbib, from the UCEI steering committee, said in a statement.
"We have created a professional and responsible working group – and with it we have set up a work process that will make the unique catalog available, with some parts of the digitized volumes and search functions both in Hebrew and Latin characters with the normalization of names, [which] was not a simple matter," she said. "We hope to make the first results visible with the start of the new year."
Dr. Yoel Finkelman, curator for the NLI's Haim and Hanna Salomon Judaica Collection, said that, "as the national library for both the State of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide, we are honored to partner in the I-Tal-Ya Books initiative, sharing our expertise with colleagues in order to help identify and catalog thousands of texts that would otherwise essentially be lost to history."
The full-scale project is expected to take around three years to complete, and is slated to catalog an estimated 35,000 volumes from 14 Jewish communities and 25 state-run institutions.