CSNTM has a policy of not revealing ahead of time where our expeditions will be. There are various reasons for this, but we can now tell you where we did go in November and December: Florence, Italy—the birthplace of the Renaissance, the home of the David, the Duomo, and Dante—at the world-renown Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (BML). This library was designed by Michelangelo—yes, the Michelangelo. To say it was breathtaking would be a gross understatement. Although the photograph below gives a clue, it can’t do it justice.This library was designed by Michelangelo—yes, the Michelangelo.
Erasmus of Rotterdam originally penned the phrase ad fontes—“back to the sources”—which became the central cry of the Renaissance and the Reformation. The BML was founded by the Medici family; if there is a single family responsible for the Renaissance it would be the Medicis. And the BML represents the epitome of their commitment. It is now stocked with over 2,500 papyri, 11,000 manuscripts, and 128,000 printed texts.
We originally came to photograph sixteen minuscules and lectionaries, most of which were about a thousand years old. While shooting these priceless documents we received permission to photograph the BML’s oldest New Testament manuscripts. These included five papyri and four majuscules, the earliest of which date back to the third century—almost eighteen hundred years ago! Altogether, we took over 8,000 high-resolution digital pictures, one page at a time, in just over three weeks. Through little sleep, strong determination, and a passion for preservation the team was able to digitally preserve the very documents which remind us that we must also go “back to the sources.” Two members of the six-person team left Texas the day before Thanksgiving and the entire team returned ten days before Christmas.
Among the many treasures we imaged was an eleventh-century lectionary, written entirely in gold letters. Another manuscript had Paul’s epistles after the book of Revelation—a very rare phenomenon. And we also photographed a complete Greek New Testament manuscript—one of only sixty known to exist.
On the next to last day of the expedition, while we were shooting inside the library someone was shooting right outside. That someone was a gunman who killed two people and wounded three others before hiding in a garage and killing himself. Such a tragedy is rare in Italy.
It’s always a delight when the librarians and their staffs are completely professional and helpful. Dr. Valitutto, the director of the BML, and her staff exceeded our expectations, showing us every courtesy and kindness. They even expressed appreciation for our work, noting that this was a mutually beneficial enterprise.
The expedition, however, was costly. Florence is a very expensive town and we are still paying the bill for the trip: $15,000 left to go.It has taken [CSNTM] nine years to get permission to photograph at this site.
In a couple of months CSNTM will be making a front trip to a site that is as important as Florence. It has taken us nine years to get permission to photograph at this site. Then, in the summer, we plan to go back to this library and photograph more than forty manuscripts. Both trips will cost together more than $125,000. We depend on you, our faithful partners, to help us in this endeavor. Today, the Medicis are no longer; but perhaps some forward-thinking businessmen and women, who understand that they can bring beauty and truth into the world, will rise up and join our mission. We need Medicis, big and small, to help us preserve God’s Word.
The cost to preserve a single page of a unique, handwritten manuscript of the New Testament is $4. To preserve an entire manuscript costs $2200. When you think about your investments for 2012, how many of them will make an impact for generations to come?