Guest lecture “Every book in every language on every subject”: Hernando Colón’s universal library and the Libro de los epitomes



We kindly invite you to a guest lecture “Every book in every language on every subject”: Hernando Colón’s universal library and the Libro de los epitomes by Prof M. J. Driscoll (University of Copenhagen) on December 7th, 3 p.m. at Room V. Krėvės (118).


In the beginning of the 16th century, Hernando Colón, son of the navigator Christopher Columbus, set out to build a universal library, one which would contain “all the books, in all languages and disciplines, that can be found within Christendom and without”. By the time of his death in 1539, Colón’s library in Seville comprised over 15000 volumes of predominantly printed books, the largest private library in the world at the time. To manage it all, he designed a revolutionary cataloguing system consisting of a number of cross-referenced inventories. All of these survive today in the Biblioteca Colombina in Seville, with the exception of one, the “Libro de los epitomes”, which was meant to contain short summaries of the contents of every book in the library. This had been presumed missing for half a millennium but was recently identified among the manuscripts in the Arnamagnæan Collection at Copenhagen University, of which it had been a part since the end of the 17th century. 

In my presentation I will describe the Libro and its contents and how it relates to the other bibliographical tools developed by Colón. I will also present the research project I lead, funded by the Carlsberg foundation and a private doner, which has as its aim the production of a full transcription of the text of the Libro and a study of its contents.

For more information on the project, see here >>

About Prof M. J. Driscoll

M. J. Driscoll is Professor of Old Norse Philology at the Arnamagnæan Institute, a research centre within the Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics at the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Humanities. He holds degrees from the University of Stirling (BA (Hons.) 1979), Háskóli Íslands (Cand.mag. 1988) and Oxford University (DPhil 1994).

His research interests include manuscript and textual studies, particularly in the area of late pre-modern Icelandic. He also has a long-standing interest in the Digital Humanities, and served for many years on the technical council of the Text Encoding Initiative.

His publications include over 50 articles on various aspects of pre-modern Icelandic literature, editions and translations of a number of medieval and post-medieval Icelandic works, including Sigurðar saga þögla (Reykjavík, 1992), Ágrip af Noregskunungasögum (London, 1995, 2nd ed. 2008) and Fjórar sögur frá hendi Jóns Oddsonar Hjaltalín (Reykjavík, 2006), as well as the monograph The unwashed children of Eve: The production, dissemination and reception of popular literature in post-Reformation Iceland (London, 1997).

Cookies make it easier for us to provide you with our services. With the usage of our services you permit us to use cookies. More information