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Library Celebrates Seven Million Books with Rare Poetry Volume of the African Diaspora

7M_open_450Juan Latino and the Dawn of Modernity
A lecture by Michael A. Gómez
In celebration of UNC Library’s seven-millionth volume
Thursday, March 20, 2014
FedEx Global Education Center
5:30 p.m. Reception | Peacock Atrium
6 p.m. Program | Nelson Mandela Auditorium
Free and open to the public
Information: Liza Terll, Friends of the Library, (919) 548-1203

A rare sixteenth-century book with modern resonance will become the seven-millionth volume in the Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A free public celebration on March 20 will mark the acquisition of a book of Latin poetry published in 1573 by Juan Latino. Scholars have described Latino as the first person of sub-Saharan African descent to publish a book of poems in a Western language.

With this milestone, UNC becomes one of only 21 university libraries in North America to hold more than seven million volumes. It also becomes one of a handful of U.S. libraries—including Harvard, Yale, the Boston Public Library, and the New York Public Library—to own this first book of Juan Latino.

Celebratory Event March 20

Visitors will be able to view the book during a reception beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the Peacock Atrium of the FedEx Global Education Center.

At 6 p.m. in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium of the FedEx Center, Chancellor Carol Folt will formally accept the book as a gift of the John Wesley and Anna Hodgin Hanes Foundation of Winston-Salem. Through its foundation, the Hanes family has funded each of the Library’s millionth volumes. Borden Hanes will present the volume in memory of his father—University alumnus, friend, and benefactor Frank Borden Hanes—who died in July at the age of 93.

Michael A. Gómez, professor of history and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at New York University, will conclude the evening with a lecture titled “Juan Latino and the Dawn of Modernity.”

About Juan Latino and the seven-millionth volume

Latino was born around 1518 in either Africa or Spain. He was a slave in a noble Spanish household, serving as a page to the family’s son. While accompanying the young duke to classes, Latino learned Latin and Greek. He eventually earned his freedom and became a professor of Latin grammar in Granada. He came to use the surname Latino or Latinus, reflecting his mastery of the Latin language.

Latino_tp_0001_cc_300The Juan Latino volume is an especially appropriate landmark book for UNC, said William Andrews, professor in the department of English and comparative literature. Not only does the Library hold extensive writings by African Americans who experienced slavery, but Latino’s story recalls that of the self-taught slave George Moses Horton, who wrote poetry for UNC students in the nineteenth century and found “his earliest audience and encouragement on the Carolina campus,” said Andrews.

“Acquiring Juan Latino’s extremely rare and valuable text epitomizes the mission of UNC to serve as an international center for the study of the literature of the African Diaspora in the West,” said Andrews.

Latino’s book has an especially lengthy title: Ad Catholicum … Philippum Dei gratia Hispaniarum Regem …, epigrammatum liber : De que … Pii Quinti Romanae Ecclesiae Pontificis … Liber unus : Austrias carmen de excellentissimi domini D. Ioannis ab Austria, … re benè gesta, in victoria mirabili eiusdem Philippi aduersus perfidos Turcas parta … per magistrum Ioannem Latinum Garnatae studiosae adolescentiae moderatorem ; Libri duo.

The phrases describe its three parts: epigrams, or short verses, dedicated to King Philip of Spain on the birth of Prince Ferdinand; a book of verse regarding the king and Pope Pius V; and the “Austriad,” a long poem on the 1571 Battle of Lepanto.

The Hanes Foundation gift also includes a copy of Latino’s second book, along with ten scholarly books about Latino’s life and work.

They will all become part of the Rare Book Collection in UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library, where librarians expect them to be consulted by students and scholars in many disciplines, including classics, history, comparative literature, and Africana and Diaspora studies.

Co-sponsors of the March 20 event are UNC’s African Studies Center, the Center for European Studies, and the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations.

Related Links

UNC Rare Book Collection (Wilson Library)

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