Though most of the institute’s titles are not recognizable to the general public — the six-volume, 19th-century Eastern Orthodox canon collection “Syntagma tôn theiôn kai hierôn kanonôn” never did make a best-seller list — they are precious to scholars. They include volumes like a Greek first edition of liturgies of John Chrysostom, an early church father, printed in Rome in 1526.
“The library is unique in the world,” said Gabriel Radle, a professor at the University of Notre Dame who studied at the institute a decade ago.
Its volumes cover the broad gamut that is Eastern Christianity, a catchall term for the traditions and denominations that developed in the first centuries of the church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, spreading through Greece, Turkey and Eastern Europe, north to Russia, south to Egypt and Ethiopia, and as far east as India.
The first set of books to be digitized were scanned by an eight-member team from a Long Island company, Seery Systems Group, using scanning technology from SMA of Germany. The project was somewhat unusual for Richard Seery, whose company’s clients are typically state and local governments.
“I told people I usually don’t travel over the bridge to New Jersey on business, and now I’m going to Rome,” Mr. Seery said in a telephone interview. The material was a first for him, too.
“One page may be in German, the next page in Sanskrit or some other language,” Mr. Seery said of his experience scanning the texts. “And what was funny was that after going through page after page, book after book, all of a sudden I could read something — English, something in English.”