June Book Talk: The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books

“Wilson-Lee’s pioneering study makes Hernando’s life every bit as compelling as his father’s. But that is not all: as we accompany Hernando on his various European journeys of compulsive acquisition, we are not only led through a richly evoked early modern world, but also prompted to reflect on our own data-saturated age.” —The Times Literary Supplement

The Internet Archive invites you to watch a book talk with Edward Wilson-Lee, author of The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Christopher Columbus, His Son, and the Quest to Build the World’s Greatest Library, followed by a conversation with Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive.

Purchase your copy from The Booksmith, our local bookstore.

In The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books, Edward Wilson-Lee tells the compelling story of Hernando Colón, who sailed with his father Christopher 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, 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 database for the exploding diversity of written matter as the printing press proliferated across Europe.

Hernando held the groundbreaking conviction that a library of universal knowledge should include “all books, in all languages and on all subjects,” even material often dismissed: ballads, erotica, news pamphlets, almanacs, popular images, romances, fables. The loss of part of his collection to another maritime disaster in 1522, set off the final scramble to complete this sublime project, a race against time to realize a vision of near-impossible perfection.

Book Talk: The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books
Author Edward Wilson-Lee in conversation with Internet Archive’s Brewster Kahle.
June 28 @ 10am PT
Watch the recording from the virtual event

Edward Wilson-Lee is a Fellow in English at Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge, and a specialist in the literature and the history of the book in the early modern period. He is the author of The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books, Shakespeare in Swahililand and Translation and the Book Trade in Early Modern Europe.

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