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The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books

The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Christopher Columbus, His Son, and the Quest to Build the World’s Greatest Library, by Edward Wilson-Lee (Scribner, 2018), 401 pp.


The author tells the story of the first and greatest visionary of the print age, a man who saw how the explosive expansion of knowledge and information generated by the advent of the printing press would entirely change the landscape of thought and society. He also happened to be Christopher Columbus’s illegitimate son. Now you can read the story behind this year’s biggest news in books: the discovery in Denmark of a 350 year old manuscript commissioned by Hernando Colón that was mistakenly shelved with an Icelandic collection. The Libro de los Epitomes was a guidebook to the 16th century library of Colón, who had assembled one of the greatest libraries the world has ever known. The Libro summarized all the books in the collection, making it easier to find a specific book among the 15,000 volumes written in several languages. With the discovery of the Libro we now have more information about the entire collection—only a fraction of the library is extant. It is housed at Cathedral of St. Mary of the See in Seville, where son and father are buried.

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