Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2014 Issue

UNC Library Reaches 7 Million Books


Juan Latino's Ad Catholicum.

Perhaps institutional book collections are not growing at the rate they once did. Tight budgets, increased access to content through digital copies, space limitations and such have been a hindrance in recent years. Some institutions have pared back, or sold particularly valuable items to raise cash. And yet this month we have news from the University of North Carolina that their library has reached 7 million books. Obviously, the bad news has not yet reached Chapel Hill. According to the staff, the UNC Library is now one of only 21 university libraries to hold 7 million books.


Why would a library need 7 million books? Perhaps a look at number 7 million can help us understand why libraries still accumulate books. It is a very old book by a very remarkable person. The book was a gift of the Hanes Foundation, which has made many other contributions to the library. It is a book of poetry, published in 1573, and written by Juan Latino. Though the book is in Latin, Latino was Spanish, in a manner of speaking. We say that because he was either born in West Africa, or if not, his mother was. She was brought to Spain a slave, and Latino either came with her, or was born in Spain, but also a slave.


Book number 7,000,000 is generally known as Ad Catholicum, though the longer (but still incomplete) title is Ad Catholicum pariter et invictissimum Philippum dei gratia hispaniarum Regem, de foelicissima serenissimi Ferdinandi Principis navitate, epigrammatum liber... We include the longer title as its translation is telling - “To the Catholic and most invincible Philip, by the grace of God King of Spain, on the most blessed birth of his most serene Prince Ferdinand, a book of epigrams.” Latino clearly wanted to stay on the good side of the powerful, as being either a slave, or black former slave (which is unclear), he was undoubtedly on thinner ice than most, with much to lose.


Latino was born in 1518, most likely in Spain though possibly in Africa. Either way, he was a slave. His master was a nobleman, a count, and he became friendly with the Count's son, the future Duke of Sessa. The family's relationship with young Juan, as he was named, was not what one typically expects of a slave. He accompanied his master's son to school, where he also attended classes. Juan proved to be exceptionally smart. He learned his lessons, and became particularly well educated in Latin, hence obtaining the last name “Latino.” He was also prolific in Greek. Latino would go on to become an instructor at the University of Granada, a position he held until his death in or near 1595.


Being a successful black in a white nation so long ago would sound like an impossibility, but Latino perhaps managed the situation by being something of a novelty. There weren't enough black Africans in Europe at the time to engender too much concern. More disliked were the converted Moors and Jews of Spain, whose loyalty to Christianity was regularly questioned. Indeed, Latino referred to his heritage as Ethiopian rather than African. The ancient Kingdom of Ethiopia had connections to Christendom, while Spaniards thought of Africans as North Africans, in other words, Islamic Moors.


Surprisingly enough, Latino was able to marry a white woman, apparently with no great problems. His noble master's blessing was sufficient. She was even the daughter of a nobleman. It seems likely that Latino was officially granted his freedom shortly before his marriage, though it is not certain that he was. The couple had four children. Latino taught the children of nobility, wrote three books of poems over his lifetime (this is one of them), and was well respected by both the political and religious establishment of his time. His color made him something of a curiosity, but Latino used that as a positive, rather than fighting it. This would not have been a time to rock the boat over racial issues. Latino appears to have been able to live out his life with surprisingly few problems for someone born a black slave in 16th century Spain.


We can add one more first for Latino – there was a play written about him during the following century, with the obvious title Juan Latino. It was the first play about a black man written by a European white man. Latino comes across as a positive figure, a man of color who is a true Christian, unlike those supposedly reformed Moors, the unpopular Moriscos.


So what we have here is a book which, though it might not seem that special on the surface, tells an amazing story when we dig deep down into history. Undoubtedly, many more of the other 6,999,999 books at the UNC library tell similar tales. Yes, there is still a place for books and libraries, and we are happy to see North Carolina join the select members of the seven million club.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> George Washington, Letter Signed to General James Clinton, preparing for the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, 1778. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising to send reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Edison, Autograph Letter Signed, to Western Union President William Orton, 1878. $10,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> William, Bishop of Coventry, vellum charter granting the church of Rochdale to the Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw, in Latin, 1222. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> FDR, Photograph Signed & Inscribed, framed with wood removed from the White House roof, 1927. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Dubuffet, archive including many letters written while painting in NYC, 1951-72. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autograph Letter Signed, describing the source of his patience, 1939. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Lithograph portrait of Albert Einstein by Hermann Struck, signed by both, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Letter Signed to Johann IV of Nassau, in French, 1470. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Cocteau, Autograph Letter Signed, in French, 1919. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Louis Armstrong, two Autograph Letters Signed to Erich Kauffmann, his lip salve purveyor, 1965-70. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Wernher von Braun, Autograph Letter Signed to Jonathan Cross, 1975. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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