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The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  619 ratings  ·  158 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 whi ...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. Pe ...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
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 ano ...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
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 ti
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 attemp ...more
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 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 we ...more
Alex Sarll
My last unread library book, and one which talks about one of the first libraries we'd recognise, an early adopter of such now-universal conventions as shelving the books by theme and author, of having them spine outwards. Granted, not all of Hernando Columbus' ideas were such winners; OK, none of us are really allowed into libraries anymore, but back in those glorious days when we were, at least we only had to worry about the doorways beeping at us on the way out if something hadn't been issued ...more
Oct 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
In 1502, a 13-year old Spanish boy sailed off from the port of Cadiz in Spain with his father, the ship's captain, on a voyage of exploration across the Atlantic, to spend the next two years wandering among the islands of the Caribbean and along the coasts of Central and South America. Along the way, they faced hurricanes, a mutiny, near-starvation, a shipwreck that left them stranded in a lonely bay on the coast of Jamaica for 13 months, and the intrigues of the Spanish governor of Hispaniola. ...more
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
Shelves: review-copies
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
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
Ok so maybe more of a 2.5. I can't really say I liked this book, but it had a certain level of quality and academic rigor which placed it far above the typical 2 star book. This tale was extremely dry and, for me, quite boring. I'm into the history of libraries, books, the storage and dissemination of information, etc. This book was much less about that than the subtitle implies it would be. At least 15 percent of the book is about the life of Columbus which is of negative interest to me. And mu ...more
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.
Debra Belmudes
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting look at the life of Hernando Colon, the illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus. From his childhood, Colon was fascinated with making lists ... from common everyday things to the strange plants and peoples he encountered on his voyages with his father. He began collecting a massive collection of books from all over the world and again, applied his skills of listmaking and categorizing in an effort to catalog his book collection.

Colon would spend his life re-doing and expandin
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 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, books, libraries
History, books, catalogues, indexes, biography - all in one book! I enjoyed the mixture of all of these, particularly as I previously knew nothing about Hernando, the son of Christopher Columbus. The scene setting, political, geographical and intellectual was very evocative, moving around some of the most powerful European cities and courts of the early 1500s.
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
Mar 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I disagree with the description of this book. Specifically, the part that reads, "this book follows Hernando Columbus’ bibliomania and curation of the first ever library of its kind." That statement should explain that the book uses Columbus's story as a tree trunk from which the ideas for chapters branch out. While the author did not spend as much time talking about the library as I had hoped, the book still painted a fascinating picture of what life was like at that time. ...more
Karna Converse
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heavily researched, action-packed story about Hernando Colón, his collection of literary works, and the library system he developed

When he was thirteen years old, Hernando joined his father, Christopher Columbus, on his fourth and final voyage to the New World (1502-1504). Prior to this, he served as a page in Prince Juan's household and was tasked with keeping the household books, ordering the prince's possession in a series of lists. That experience, and Hernando's continuation of a project h
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 lear
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
Valerie Kyriosity
Oct 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
This started off really exciting with stuff about Hernando Columbus's library, then went on for-ev-er about boring stuff like exploration and battles and life-and-death adventure. But when it finally got back to the books, it was great! 😉

Christopher was a bit of a megalomaniac. His older, legitimate son was a bit of a jerk. And Hernando, the younger, illegitimate boy, was more than a bit of a bibliophile. He made a pretty impressive stab at assembling a truly comprehensive library at a time whe
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
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An astonishing and wonderful account of the life of Christopher Columbus’s youngest son, Hernando, whose ambition to create a library of all the knowledge in the world, organized and searchable, anticipated modern libraries and databases by five centuries. Although his collection of around 20,000 items has mostly been lost, it represented one of the high points of Renaissance humanism in its breadth and scope. Highly recommended!
Nov 17, 2020 rated it liked it
While I didn't agree with all of the author's conclusions regarding Christopher Columbus, I found the material covering Hernando's efforts to collect, catalogue, and organize his library fascinating. I wish more of the book was devoted to this subject; I love history, and the time period covered in this book was interesting, but it seemed like there was more space devoted to other history than to Hernando himself, and specifically his library. ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was boring and tedious.
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