The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books : Christopher Columbus, His Son, and the Quest to Build the World's Greatest Library
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Publisher: Scribner Book Company
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More About The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee
- 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
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.