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Book of Lost Books Discovered in Danish Archive (2019)

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The index is segment of the Libro de los Epítomes, an effort by Christopher Columbus’ illegitimate son to fetch a searchable index of the sector’s knowledge

(Arnamagnæan Institute)

smithsonianmag.com


Christopher Columbus may per chance well also have explored oceans, however his illegitimate son, Hernando Colón, explored the mind. Within the 16th century, he amassed someplace between 15,000 and 20,000 books, segment of a pie-in-the-sky effort to bag “all books, in all languages and on all subjects, that is also came all the scheme thru both within Christendom and with out.” As segment of this fearless endeavor, he commissioned a total workers of students to read the books and write short summaries for a 16-volume, heinous-referenced index. Known as the Libro de los Epítomes, it served as a mature form of search engine. Now, researchers have came all the scheme thru one among these lost volumes, a precious key to many books lost to history.

After Colón’s demise in 1539, his big series in a roundabout scheme ended up in the Seville Cathedral, the assign neglect, sticky-fingered bibliophiles, and the occasional flood diminished the library to comely 4,000 volumes over the centuries. Fortuitously, 14 of the volumes of the Libro de los Epítomes index survived, and are really held at the Biblioteca Colombina in Seville, an institution that manages the series.

Hundreds of miles some distance flung from Seville, though, one among the lost copies survived, tucked away at the Arnamagnæan Institute at the University of Copenhagan, which homes the big library of Icelandic student Árni Magnússon. Professor Guy Lazure of the University of Windsor in Canada used to be there when he realized the foot-thick, 2,000-page tome he used to be taking a search for at may per chance well also had been one among the lost volumes.

Most of the Arnamagnæan Sequence homes manuscripts in Icelandic and Scandinavian languages, with most efficient 22 volumes in Spanish or by Spanish authors. That’s why the broad volume used to be likely neglected for centuries till Lazure spotted it. Consultants later confirmed that it used to be, certainly, segment of Colón’s mission.

Edward Wilson-Lee of Cambridge University, whose biography of Colón, The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books, used to be no longer too prolonged ago launched, calls the acquire nothing less than unprecedented in an interview with Alison Flood of The Guardian. “It’s a discovery of large importance, no longer most efficient because it contains so great facts about how folk read 500 years ago, however also, because it contains summaries of books that no longer exist, lost in every different produce than these summaries,” he says.

In disagreement to different e-book-obsessed collectors from the time period, Colón wasn’t comely drawn to volumes from classical authors or different nicely-trodden texts. Fortuitously for recent-day students, he offered all the pieces he may per chance well also acquire in print, including political pamphlets, guidebooks and posters from taverns.

“This used to be somebody who used to be, in a technique, altering the model of what knowledge is. As an different of announcing ‘knowledge is august, authoritative things by some damaged-down veteran Roman and Greek folk’, he’s doing it inductively: taking all the pieces that everyone is conscious of and distilling it upwards from there,” Wilson-Lee says. “It’s great more resonant with this present day, with substantial knowledge and Wikipedia and crowdsourced data. Right here is a model of data that says, ‘We’re going to pick out the breadth of print – ballads and pornography and newsletters – and no longer exclude that from the sector of data.’”

How the index came into Magnússon’s series is unclear. In response to the press liberate, it’s imaginable that it used to be segment of a bunch of manuscripts delivered to Denmark from Spain by scheme of Cornelius Lerche, an envoy to the Spanish court docket, though for now that’s comely speculation.

For now, Wilson-Lee says that he and fellow student Pérez Fernández are in the in the period in-between engaged on a total work about Colón’s complete library and diagram to collaborate with the Arnamagnæan Institute to digitize the newly came all the scheme thru volume.

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