Founded in the 15th century, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican Apostolic Library, the library of the Holy See) houses a large number of rare ancient manuscripts, archives, printed books from various periods, graphic materials, historical photographs, coins, and medals. With its collection centering on works of literature, history, law, astronomy, mathematics, natural sciences, medicine, theology, and philosophy, the library has a reputation as a treasure trove of civilization and human memory.
National Palace Museum (NPM) and the Catholic Church have a long history: among the NPM collection are books brought by Jesuits to China in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties as well as diplomatic correspondence between the Qing court and the Holy See. In February 2016, NPM and La Sacrestia Papale co-organized Treasures from Heaven: A Special Exhibition of Artifacts from the Holy See, marking the first colaboration between the two sides. In November 2017, at the invitation of the Taiwan government, archivist of the Archivum Secretum Vaticanum Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès met with Vice President Chen Chien-jen, and during this meeting the idea of organizing another joint exhibition was proposed. It is thanks to the mediation of Taiwan’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Matthew S.M. Lee, that the exhibition “Splendors of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana” and “Rare books from the Ming and Qing Imperial Libraries” has now become a reality.
This exhibition presents in chronological order of manuscripts, prints, and illustrations that entered the library collection during diferent periods to provide an overview of the establishment of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, its development during the Renaissance, the construction of a new library building, andits collections from the 17th century through to the 20th century and beyond.
This special exhibitin brings together 42 original artifacts and 31 image reproductions, including rare books, ancient coins, and prints. The ending Rules of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana usually allow for no more than three original pieces to be loaned at any one time, but the library has made an exception for this exhibition and has made available 42 original materials, for which we are exceedingly grateful. It is hoped that this special exhibition will enable visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the origin, history, and collection of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.