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The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books : Christopher Columbus, His Son, and the Quest to Build the World's Greatest Library
by Edward Wilson-Lee




Overview -
"Like a Renaissance wonder cabinet, full of surprises and opening up into a lost world." --Stephen Greenblatt

"A captivating adventure...For lovers of history, Wilson-Lee offers a thrill on almost every page...Magnificent." --The New York Times Book Review

Named a Best Book of the Year by: * Financial Times * New Statesman * History Today * The Spectator *

The impeccably researched and vividly rendered account of the quest by Christopher Columbus's illegitimate son to create the greatest library in the world--"a perfectly pitched poetic drama" (Financial Times) and an amazing tour through sixteenth-century Europe.

In this innovative work of history, Edward Wilson-Lee tells the extraordinary story of Hernando Col n, a singular visionary of the printing press-age who also happened to be Christopher Columbus's illegitimate son.

At the peak of the Age of Exploration, Hernando traveled with Columbus on his final voyage to the New World, a journey that ended in disaster, bloody mutiny, and shipwreck. After Columbus's death in 1506, the eighteen-year-old Hernando sought to continue--and surpass--his father's campaign to explore the boundaries of the known world by building a library that would collect everything ever printed: a vast holding organized by summaries and catalogues, the first ever search engine for the exploding diversity of written matter as the printing press proliferated across Europe. Hernando restlessly and obsessively amassed his collection based on the groundbreaking conviction that a library of universal knowledge should include "all books, in all languages and on all subjects," even material often dismissed as ephemeral trash: song sheets, erotica, newsletters, popular images, romances, fables. The loss of part of his collection to another maritime disaster in 1522--documented in his poignant Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books--set off the final scramble to complete this sublime project, a race against time to realize a vision of near-impossible perfection.

Edward Wilson-Lee's account of Hernando's life is a testimony to the beautiful madness of booklovers, a plunge into sixteenth-century Europe's information revolution, and a reflection of the passion and intrigues that lie beneath our own attempts to bring order to the world today.

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More About The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee

 
 
 

Overview

"Like a Renaissance wonder cabinet, full of surprises and opening up into a lost world." --Stephen Greenblatt

"A captivating adventure...For lovers of history, Wilson-Lee offers a thrill on almost every page...Magnificent." --The New York Times Book Review

Named a Best Book of the Year by: * Financial Times * New Statesman * History Today * The Spectator *

The impeccably researched and vividly rendered account of the quest by Christopher Columbus's illegitimate son to create the greatest library in the world--"a perfectly pitched poetic drama" (Financial Times) and an amazing tour through sixteenth-century Europe.

In this innovative work of history, Edward Wilson-Lee tells the extraordinary story of Hernando Col n, a singular visionary of the printing press-age who also happened to be Christopher Columbus's illegitimate son.

At the peak of the Age of Exploration, Hernando traveled with Columbus on his final voyage to the New World, a journey that ended in disaster, bloody mutiny, and shipwreck. After Columbus's death in 1506, the eighteen-year-old Hernando sought to continue--and surpass--his father's campaign to explore the boundaries of the known world by building a library that would collect everything ever printed: a vast holding organized by summaries and catalogues, the first ever search engine for the exploding diversity of written matter as the printing press proliferated across Europe. Hernando restlessly and obsessively amassed his collection based on the groundbreaking conviction that a library of universal knowledge should include "all books, in all languages and on all subjects," even material often dismissed as ephemeral trash: song sheets, erotica, newsletters, popular images, romances, fables. The loss of part of his collection to another maritime disaster in 1522--documented in his poignant Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books--set off the final scramble to complete this sublime project, a race against time to realize a vision of near-impossible perfection.

Edward Wilson-Lee's account of Hernando's life is a testimony to the beautiful madness of booklovers, a plunge into sixteenth-century Europe's information revolution, and a reflection of the passion and intrigues that lie beneath our own attempts to bring order to the world today.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781982111397
  • ISBN-10: 1982111399
  • Publisher: Scribner Book Company
  • Publish Date: March 2019
  • Page Count: 416
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books

Despite the dark legacy of colonialism, it’s unquestionable that Christopher Columbus was a master mariner, explorer and promoter. He also had apocalyptic beliefs about the end of days that were either visionary or bizarre, depending on your point of view. His admiring son Hernando Colón, educated in Renaissance humanism, downplayed his father’s millenarian ideas when he wrote his biography of Columbus. But Colón had the same wide-ranging imagination as his father, no matter how different their beliefs.

Born out of wedlock in 1488 but acknowledged by Columbus, Colón was a brilliant man whose intellectual ambitions directly provided the seed for modern libraries and whose sorting system indirectly anticipated internet search engines. Edward Wilson-Lee’s engaging new biography of Colón, The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Christopher Columbus, His Son, and the Quest to Build the World’s Greatest Library, is at once an adventure tale and a history of ideas that continue to resonate.

As a teenager, Colón accompanied Columbus on his fourth voyage to the Caribbean. But as an adult, his own ambitions led him to the great European book marts, where he conceived his dream of a universal library that would include every book ever printed. He collected thousands of books, pamphlets and prints—the “shipwrecked books” of Wilson-Lee’s title were some 1,700 from Venice lost on a voyage back to Spain.

As he assembled his vast library in Seville, Colón led a project to describe all of Spain in a gazetteer, created a pioneering botanical garden and was the top Spanish negotiator (and probably spy) in a dispute with Portugal. But his greatest legacy was his series of book catalogs that attempted to categorize all human knowledge, a pre-digital Google.

After Colón’s death in 1539, his library ended up at Seville Cathedral, where it remains, sadly reduced in size by theft, mold and the Inquisition. Happily, Wilson-Lee’s insightful and entertaining work refreshes the memory of Colón’s sweeping vision. 

 

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