The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Christopher Columbus, His Son, and the Quest to Build the World’s Greatest Library

Edward Wilson-Lee. Scribner, $30 (216p) ISBN 978-1-982111-39-7
Wilson-Lee, a scholar of late medieval and early modern literatures as well as the history of print and libraries, has created a cabinet of wonders with this book. It encompasses the biographies of Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) and his son Hernando (1488–1539) and the saga of an extraordinary library “that would collect everything.” As a child, Hernando served the court as a page; at 13, he was a crew member on Columbus’s fourth voyage; as a young man, he ventured briefly in his father’s New World domain; and he was his father’s biographer. Wilson-Lee also brings to rich life the cultural milieu of the age—the rituals of court life and the political intrigues during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. But most of all, this is a biography of a library: having inherited his father’s collection, Hernando made it his mission to acquire every printed thing he could, traveling all over Europe to acquire 15,000–20,000 printed materials, including some images and music. The ravages of inheritance disputes and time has reduced the remaining number of items to less than 400. Wilson-Lee’s fascinating account brings back to wholeness “the largest private library of the day” while revealing the son of a renowned man as, among other things, a master librarian. Illus. Agent: Isobel Dixon, Blake Friedmann Literary Agency. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/17/2019
Release date: 03/12/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 384 pages - 978-1-5082-8048-4
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