The 1.6 million precious manuscripts and books at the Vatican library are being tagged with microchips to prevent them being mislaid, the custodians announced this week. RF-ID technology, which is widely used in warehousing and retailing is being introduced throughout the collection. The tags will contain a transponder with a digital memory chip given a unique electronic code, activated by a hand-held device which can read data from the chip. Currently librarians at the Vatican spend a month a year keeping the 30 miles of books in their places. With the new system, an alarm will sound if a book is put in the wrong place. The Vatican library includes the oldest known complete Bible and a copy of the first book to be printed, a Gutenberg Bible. It also has 8,200 'incunabula' - works published before 1501 using moveable type. Less than a third of its manuscripts have been catalogued although the process began more than a hundred years ago.
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