In a story right out of a librarian’s dream, a previously unknown volume incorporating thousands of summaries of books from over five centuries ago, many of which no longer exist, has been found in the University Copenhagen Library, where it has been untouched for more than 350 years.
The Libro de los Epítomes manuscript contains more than 2,000 pages of summaries from books that were once in the library of Hernando Colón, the illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus who made it his life’s work to create the largest library the world had ever known in the early part of the 16th century. At an estimated 15,000 volumes, the library was created during Colón’s extensive travels. Today, only about 25% of the books in the collection survive and have been housed in Spain’s Seville Cathedral since 1552.
The long lost Libro de los Epitomes was rediscovered in the Arnamagæan Collection in Copenhagen.The manuscript was found in the collection of Árni Magnússon, an Icelandic scholar born in 1663, who donated his books to the University of Copenhagen on his death in 1730. The majority of the some 3,000 items are in Icelandic or Scandinavian languages, with only around 20 Spanish manuscripts, which is probably why the Libro de los Epítomes went unnoticed for hundreds of years. It was Guy Lazure at the University of Windsor in Canada who first spotted the connection to Colón. The Arnamagnæan Institute then contacted Mark McDonald at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, who passed it on to Wilson-Lee and his co-author José María Pérez Fernández, of the University of Granada, for verification.
A digitized version of the Libro de los Epitomes will be available next year along with a book about Colon’s library.