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The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  406 ratings  ·  118 reviews
Created in 1539, the Biblioteca Colombina in Sevilla contains over 3000 books. This is but a fraction of one man’s life spent collecting every book on every subject – including antique and modern worlds, science and law, as well as playing cards, pornography, and popular music.

Who was Hernando Columbus and how did he achieve this?

Set to the backdrop of Christopher Columbus
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published May 17th 2018 by William Collins
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Elizabeth A.G.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Meticulously researched book about Columbus's voyages and focusing on his illegitimate son, Hernando (Fernando) Colon, whose idea about creating, organizing and categorizing a "universal" library of the world's published items including books, pamphlets, maps, news articles, music, ballads, etc. was a voyage unto its own. Wilson-Lee provides us with the historical background of Hernando Colon's almost maniacal obsession to create his library and to restore the reputation of Columbus's legacy ...more
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I was intrigued--Columbus had a son who created the world's greatest library? Why hadn't we heard about him? What happened to all the books? How did he even embark on such a quest? I had to read this book.

Hernando may have been an illegitimate son but in 1502 his father Christopher Columbus took the thirteen-year-old along on his fourth voyage to the New World. Hernando started his life familiar with lands and cultures that most of the world didn't even know existed.

The book recounts Columbus's
Lissa Notreallywolf
At about page fifty I found myself asking whether this book was fact or fiction because it was so fabulous in the telling. It is described of as a biography of Christopher Columbus's son Hernando Colon, but fails in the usual sense of a biography because it is really the story of a library Colon collected, and his struggle to grasp the new horizons of information. Now that may sound dull, but I had no concept that Columbus made multiple voyages to the New World accompanied by his bastard son. ...more
A historian, no matter how meticulous, connects with a general audience only when he feels the confidence to invest something of himself. It's a confidence based on erudition, not, as in the case of pareidolia, of temperament or impulse. Although he is referring to his subject Hernando Colón (favorite son of Christopher Columbus), Wilson-Lee seems to also be voicing his own struggles in writing this book when he says: “How does one make a life out of words and paper? Capturing the essence of ...more
This is a book that will ruin at least the next 3 books I read... it's so good that nothing else will hold up by comparison! It combines exploration, European Renaissance history, and philosophy of information in one endlessly fascinating package. I never knew about Hernando Colon, Christopher Columbus' impressive son. He saw so much of history... going on his father's 4th journey to the "New" World, traveling all around Europe, meeting with the Pope, working for the Holy Roman Emperor, sailing ...more
Paul Pessolano
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
“The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books, Christopher Columbus, His Son, and the Quest to Build the World’s Greatest Library” by Edward Wilson-Lee, published by Scribner.

Category – History Publication Date – March 12, 2019.

It is very difficult to assign a rating to this book because it is not intended for the casual reader. The book has been written by a scholar for scholars, or for those who have an overwhelming desire to learn more about Christopher Columbus and his son. It would score probably a 4
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I’m finding this one a little difficult to review. The audiobook narration was often dry, but I also think I was expecting something more about the book collection than was here. That being said, this was a good overview of Columbus’ voyages and his son Hernando Colon’s attempts to preserve his father’s memory and create an organized book collection. There are many other issues explored, though, that took the focus away from the book collection. For example, much was written about Colon’s ...more
Nostalgia Reader
DNF at 43%.

I just about got a headache from how tedious these chapters were to read so far, and seeing as I have lots more interesting and fun books lined up at the moment, this is going to have to be a DNF.

It felt like a haphazard attempt at very specific history of Renaissance sciences and culture through the life of Hernando. I was hoping for an actual biography of Hernando, focusing heavily on his book and image collecting, with the inevitable brief forays into the culture and ways of the
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This really is amazing in its depth, breadth with its detailed results of dedicated research as well as the enlightenment it brings to a poorly educated soul (moi!). Yes, I have read some accounts of controversy over Columbus but they were more like newspaper articles here and there.
The author Edward Wilson-Lee is a Fellow in English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he teaches medieval and Renaissance literature, thus the perfect candidate to study, gather material and expound clearly
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars for this book. The parts that dealt with Christopher Columbus and his son were very descriptive and at moments very well researched. The thing that I didn't like was that I felt the author expanded too much in different topics that while helped give historical context to what was being said , it also felt like it was too much and made the reading of the book a little bit morose. This was my first nonfiction book in a while so I might have been a little bit rusty (even though I saw that ...more
Jim Razinha
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received a eGalley of this from the publisher through Edelweiss.

The subtitle order is Columbus, Hernando (his son) and lastly, the library. And what you get is a lot of Columbus, nearly as much Hernando, other contemporary hsitories of the various crowns and explorers, and a fraction by comparison about the library Hernando assembled. In reading this, I kept asking myself how much was speculation and how much had some basis in history. More history than I thought, as the endnotes are detailed
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Astounding! Who knew? Not I.
This is a biography of Hernando Colon (1488-1539), the illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus (1451-1506).
Hernando's mission was to collect every printed material he could get his hands on. This included not only books but music scores, maps, pamphlets, images, letters, playbills, street postings, even a menu from a feast thrown by Pope Leo X featuring figs in muscatel, cockerel testicles and roasted peacocks “sewn back into their skins, to appear living.”
This book
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Even fifty thousand books without order is not a library, any more than a crowd of thirty thousand undisciplined men is an army." Christopher Columbus's son Hernando, besides being a bibliophile of the highest order, was also something of a genius. Hernando's obsession coincided with the vast increase in books following the spread of the printing press. The sheer volume surpassed any librarian's ability to remember where a particular tome was located (and you had to be aware of what book you ...more
The book was frustrating at times. It meandered and wasn't focused enough. In the places where the focus was retained, such as on Hernando Colón and his some of his projects, the book was fascinating. But it wandered, and at times seemingly for no reason, although occasionally it did add useful context to the biography.

Hernando Colón was the infamous Christopher Columbus's younger son. He also wrote a biography of his father which has been the vital book that created the legacy of Columbus. Yet
Carl Waluconis
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
All bibliophiles will love this extraordinary story of Hernando Colon who amassed a collection of over 5,000 books. He traveled through Europe meeting and purchasing. This included meeting authors of the time such as Erasmus and Thomas More. Hernando included buying prints and various illustrations. He included everything that offered new ways of thinking. His path crossed Durer's in his own travels, and Hernando sought out those prints. There were other collections at the time, but Hernando was ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review originally published in Looking FOr a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5

Hernando Colón had a passion for books and a vision for an organized library. Hernando Colón was also Christopher Columbus's illegitimate son.

Author/researcher Edward Wilson-Lee does a tremendous, detailed job of tracking down this story and getting in-depth on Hernando's story.

While the name Christopher Columbus is known by every American school child, we know so little about him (other than what every fourth-grader
William Schram
Hernando Colón was a man obsessed. He wanted to create something akin to the Internet back in the Age of Sail. While I say the Internet, it would be more accurate to say that Colón wanted to build a complete repository of knowledge. The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books is written by Edward Wilson-Lee and recounts the hefty task that lay ahead of Colón and his eventual failure due to age and various misfortunes.

What was Colón’s plan you may ask? It was nothing less than the gathering of every piece
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
A biography can often explain the times a person lives in as much as the person themselves. Ferdinand Columbus the son of the famous explorer lived at the intersection of the age of European Exploration, The Gutenberg revolution of print, the reformation, and the aftermath of the Spanish Inquisition. He saw his fathers troubles with debts after being a hero in the new world. He amassed a library that rivaled any of its time. He collected the works in the mushrooming print culture that was ...more
Rhiannon Johnson
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read my full review on my blog:

**I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

I now have a special place in my heart for Hernando Colón. His collections and organizational systems are totally mind-boggling and absolutely fascinating. As a "natural son" (not the product of a legitimate union) Colón could "win legitimacy only by showing himself to be his father's son in spirit." Colón strove to achieve this distinction
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was boring and tedious.
Al Berry
Dec 23, 2019 rated it liked it
An okay book that tries to ride two horses; Columbus and his voyages of exploration as well as his son’s efforts at building a library. It was interesting and I learned a lot, but it wasn’t really a cohesive book.
Begona Fernandez
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Half as a joke and half seriously I told my boyfriend 'Look this man had 20.000 books'. Many more than I currently have. I really liked this book because I really like the man whose life it narrates. An ambitious man that wanted to create the universal library and collect all the world's knowledge so anyone could use it.
His father and brother were not half as interesting as him.
Norm Hess
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Christopher Columbus, for better or worse, lived an extraordinary life and at times must have been a bit of a mad man. His second son Hernando Colon, or Ferdinand Columbus, seems to have kept a more even keel while living an equally ambitious and perhaps more colorful career. The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books, by Edward Wilson-Lee, is a biography of Hernando that is framed around his obsession with collecting and organizing written work and other ephemera, including maps, prints and sheet ...more
Bethan Wallace
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really fascinating premise, since I'd never even heard of Columbus' son. Whether it's that I prefer more raunchy biographies, or Hernando's life just wasn't really that interesting, I found that I wasn't exactly rushing to get back to it.
Cheryl Gatling
Usually with a book that contains lots of names and places and dates, as this one does, I like to take some notes, to make sure I get the details right, but here is a review completely off the top of my head, with just the Most Important Points of the book, as I remember them.

Christopher Columbus had two illegitimate sons, Hernando, whom this story is about, and another one, I think Diego. After Columbus returned from his first voyage to the new world, he was a celebrity. His boys were
Steve Majerus-Collins
May 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
Hernando Colon, an illegitimate son of Columbus, had a life beyond imagining. He voyaged with his father to the New World, faced mutiny, wound up a virtual castaway for a year and much, much more. It's an astonishing tale. And after all, he went on, back in Spain, to claim a serious spot in the royal court, travel through Europe as the Renaissance gave way to the Reformation, and become one of the world's great book collectors as well.
I give Edward Wilson-Lee credit for pulling together this
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Columbus’ son Hernando was mad for books, pamphlets, sheet music, art prints, and every kind of printed material. He dreamed of collecting all he could and organizing into a usable, searchable, perpetually growing library. But how can you do that? How can you organize thousands and thousands of items in a way that makes sense and makes every item “find-able”? Hernando was among for the first to grapple with this idea and the creation of his rudimentary data bases was fascinating to ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
The premise: Partly a biography of Hernando Colon, son of Christopher Columbus and his father’s first biographer; partly an account of Hernando’s attempt to build the first truly universal library.

How I’d (cynically) sell it: Fans of Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts, as well as people who get nerdy about the history of information technology, might like this.

The good bits: Some great analogies drawn between the idea of the universal library and the Internet. Hernando Colon’s life also
In trying to shelve this book, i.e. catalog it, I felt like I was Hernando Colo'n (best I can do for the accent) or Columbus, trying to determine a way to organize the knowledge) i.e. topics covered in this book-cum-biography-cum-many other things. For unless I shelve it correctly GoodReaders interested in the Renaissance, history of the internet, and many other topics will miss it. To obtain more knowledge one must "know" what knowledge is out there; undiscovered knowledge is unknowable.

Todd Stockslager
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Review title: Mapping knowledge, indexing the world

Young Columbus here is Hernando, son of Christopher, discoverer of New Worlds and for a brief and shining time Admiral of the Ocean Sea before the realities of exploration and administration of this distant Eden dimmed his bright future and diminished his fame and fortune. Hernando was Columbus's second son, born out of an unwed partnership after his wife died. While elder son Diego ended up inheriting most of Columbus's remaining worldly
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