OXFORD University’s Bodleian Library is working with the Vatican’s library to open up their treasures to millions of readers across the world.

It will see two of the world’s oldest libraries putting their repositories of ancient texts on line.

The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, in the headquarters of the Catholic Church, is one of the few libraries in the world with historical collections to rival those held by the Bodleian.

It was founded in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V and holds more than 180,000 manuscripts and 1.6 million printed books.

The partnership with the Bodleian will increase digital access to the libraries’ collections, with more than one and-a-half million pages from both collections to be digitised. The project is being made possible by a £2m award from a higher education charity, The Polonsky Foundation Bodley’s Librarian Sarah Thomas said: “Transforming these ancient texts and images into digital form helps transcend the limitations of time and space which have in the past restricted access to knowledge.”