Monday, October 11, 2010

Today in History: Columbus Day

When Columbus returned from his 1492 voyage to the New World, he reported his discoveries in a letter to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Editions of this letter were printed in major cities across Europe, spreading the news of his travels. This book is significant as the first printed account of the New World.

The copy owned by the Clements Library, one of its greatest treasures, is the Rome edition of 1493. It was translated into Latin by Gabriel Sanchez and printed by Stephen Plannck. The Columbus letter is considered "the cornerstone of every great library of Americana," an essential starting point for the collector of early American history. Mr. Clements, the founder of the library, purchased this book in 1913 for $1,650. He wrote, "I am very glad to get this letter, for while it is not the rarest possibly of the two Rome editions, it will, I believe, maintain its value." (Margaret Maxwell, Shaping a Library: William L. Clements as Collector)

In addition to the original printed letter in the Rare Book Room, the Clements Library has an excellent collection of  facsimiles, translations and scholarly works concerning the Columbus letter. Search for "Columbus letter" in the Mirlyn Catalog to browse our holdings on this topic.

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