About the project

The “Book of Books” project has as its focus the recently discovered Libro de los epítomes, a collection of summaries of around 2000 books in the library of Hernando Colón, son of the famous navigator Christopher Columbus.

AM 377 fol., El libro de los epitomes, ff. 783v and 784r. Photo: Suzanne Reitz.

AM 377 fol., El libro de los epítomes, ff. 783v and 784r. Photo: Suzanne Reitz.

Chief deliverables of the project are a digital transcription of the Libro, accompanied by a bilingual (Latin-English) critical edition of the text in print form, along with studies dealing with the Libro's contents, including the identification of the books summarised, an analysis of the language and style of the epitomes as well as their underlying strategies of composition, and an investigation into Colón’s universal library project within the broader currents of biblio- and sociohistorical study and Hispano-Danish relations in the early modern period.

The identification of the Libro

In 2019, in the context of a revision of the catalogue entries for the Spanish manuscripts in the Arnamagnæan Collection, researchers from the Arnamagnæan Institute got in touch with a number of scholars who had visited the Institute over the years to work with these manuscripts, asking if they had any particular outcomes to share from their investigations. One these was Professor Guy Lazure from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, who had visited the Arnamagnæan Collection in 2013. Among other things, Prof. Lazure mentioned that he suspected that one of the manuscripts in the collection, AM 377 fol., could possibly be one of the “bibliographic tools” from the library of Hernando Colón. Further investigation revealed that this was indeed the case: AM 377 fol. is the fair copy of the Libro de los epítomes, long believed to have been lost (for more on the discovery see the article by Kıvılcım Yavuz here).

Sponsorship, funding, collaborations and other support

Once the identification had been made, an application was made to the Carlsberg Foundation, which generously funded a three-year project to produce a complete transcription of the manuscript and investigate its contents, its connections with the rest of Colón's library, its context of production and the circumstances of its movement from Spain to Denmark. In addition, the project was able to secure support from a private donor, Jan Peter Koeman, which allowed it to expand its original scope, extend its time frame by a year and add another scholar to the research team.

The project is based at the University of Copenhagen and co-hosted by the Departments of Nordic Studies and Linguistics (NorS), which houses the Arnamagnæan Collection, and the Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies (EnGeRom).

From the early stages of its development, the project has relied on the digital infrastructure and scholarly network of the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL): within this collaboration, the BOB database was created. The project also benefits from the support of the Spanish Embassy in Denmark, the Royal Danish Library and the Biblioteca Capitular y Colombina in Seville.

From October 2022, thanks to a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dr Natale Vacalebre has also started working at NorS on a project the aim of which is to locate books which were once part of Colón's library but have subsequently wound up in other collections.

The project's International advisory board consists of the following people:

  • Guy Lazure, University of Windsor, Canada
  • José María Pérez Fernández, University of Granada, Spain
  • Edward Wilson-Lee, Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge, UK
  • N. Kıvılcım Yavuz, University of Leeds, UK
  • Anders Toftgaard, Royal Danish Library, Denmark