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: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on 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. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <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. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on 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. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <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>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

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