Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2014 Issue

UNC Library Reaches 7 Million Books

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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>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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