José Maria Pérez Fernández

José Maria Pérez Fernández

Berenson Fellow
Hernando Colón’s New World of Books. Towards a New Cartography of Knowledge


José María Pérez Fernández is profesor titular at the University of Granada in Spain. His current research interests focus on the relations between translation, diplomacy and the book trade, their role in the construction of the international republic of letters and the early modern idea of Europe. He is particularly interested in processes of communication in the early modern world—such as the impact of print, the development of an international news market, the transmission of knowledge throughout transnational networks, and how financial and mercantile processes mirrored the ways in which information exchange took place within Europe and beyond its borders.

Project Summary

The research to be conducted at the Villa I Tatti is part of a book project co-authored with Edward Wilson-Lee (U. of Cambridge), titled Hernando Colón’s New World of Books: Towards a New Cartography of Knowledge (Yale U.P., forthcoming in 2019). The manuscripts, printed books, documents and maps that Hernando Colón inherited from his father, the explorer Christopher Columbus, constitute the origins of the Biblioteca Hernandina in Seville. With over 15,000 volumes, it was at the time of Hernando’s death in 1539 among the most important private libraries in Europe. Hernando put together his collection during extensive travels over the course of which he crisscrossed Europe, purchasing books in its most important markets and trade fairs. He acted as cartographical consultant and diplomat for the Hispanic monarchy, dabbled in lexicography and history, created groundbreaking catalogues for his collection, and accompanied his father as a young 12-year old explorer in Columbus’ fourth voyage to America. As Hernando’s own cartographic projects sought to visualize and carve up the regions that were occupied by the budding European powers, so in his book collection he embarked on the systematic classification of all available knowledge in a single universal library.