On October 21st, Professor David Moore of Warren Wilson College delivered a public lecture on the excavation of the first European inland settlement in what is now the United States: Fort San Juan, established by the Spanish in 1567 in present-day North Carolina. For those who were unable to attend and learn about the fort’s history and that of the neighboring Native American town, Joara, we’re pleased to announce that a video is now available on the Library News and Events Blog.
Here at the Rare Book Collection, we are fond of noting that one of the surest ways for a book to become rare is for it to be banned. Controversial books and those made scarce by suppression, they often find their final resting places at the RBC and other rare book repositories.
Just fourteen years before Columbus’s discovery of America, a papal bull had established the Spanish Inquisition to fight heresy. Eventually, the censorship of reading matter became one of the Inquisition’s central activities. The Catholic Church had sought to control the circulation of texts from the early fifteenth century on, and with the advent of printing, efforts were intensified. In the 1540s the universities at Paris and Louvain published indexes of prohibited books, and the Spanish Inquisition issued its own version in the 1550s.
In the 1580s, with so many “objectionable” passages in texts having been identified, the Inquisition embarked on the compilation of a new kind of index, one of books to be expurgated. The inked-through example above is an official history of Spain by the Sicilian-born scholar Lucio Marineo. It is open to a section on the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella and a discussion of those Jews who had converted to Christianity but practiced Judaism secretly. Such Jewish converts were the primary targets of the Inquisition in its early years. A manuscript note on the title page, by Fr. Decio Carrega, tells us that he has expurgated lines of text that were condemned by the Spanish Inquisition. Carrega, active in the early seventeenth century (close to a hundred years after the book’s publication), was a Dominican inquisitor.
The Spanish crown also sought to control directly the writing of Spain’s history, including its exploits in the Americas. Chronicles required government approval for publication, and they could be banned entirely following publication if, upon further examination, they were judged to promote an unflattering image of Spain. Francisco López de Gómara’s Historia general first appeared in 1551 and went through nine editions before November 17, 1553, when Prince Philip ordered that all copies be collected and set a fine of 200,000 maravedis for anyone who dared to reprint. The chronicle’s account of the civil wars in Peru presented a particularly unfavorable view of Spanish conduct.
Somehow, the RBC’s copy of Gómara’s history survived that royal order (below left), and its title page has been given new life over 450 years later in the design of the Chronicles of Empire exhibition poster and flier (below right).
There are numerous other banned books to be seen in Chronicles of Empire, including famous chivalric romances and novels that Spain forbade to be exported to America. The Spanish crown feared that the indigenous population, whom they wished to educate and evangelize, would be unable to distinguish fiction from fact and would be confused by such literary works. Copies of the books found their way to the New World, nonetheless.
The exhibition Chronicles of Empire is part of the commemoration “One Hundred Years of Latin American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” If you are unable to join us this evening, the exhibition is on view during regular Wilson hours through January 10, 2016.
Perhaps some of our followers are headed for one last weekend at the Outer Banks, hoping to read a few good paperbacks under their beach umbrellas. But you never know what may wash ashore if you’re dressed in your sailor stripes. Curator Claudia Funke and departing staff member Matt Karkutt reveal here the faces behind the winter 2014 sweater posts and a fanciful artist’s book of the 1890s, created to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage to America. Its cover adorned with sand, seaweed, and shells, the volume is intended to look like it was recovered after having been lost at sea and is subtitled as a “secret writing” by Columbus for his son Diego.
The Rare Book Collection has plunged deep into the Age of Discovery as it prepares for the September 14 opening of the exhibition Chronicles of Empire: Spain in the Americas. Part of the commemoration “One Hundred Years of Latin American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” the show will display the very real sixteenth- and seventeenth-century volumes in the RBC that tell the story of Spain’s exploration, conquest, and settlement of the Western Hemisphere. Expect more information in future Library and Chapel Hill Rare Book Blog posts.
We end here now by thanking our good colleague Matt Karkutt for his assistance in this post and for his numerous positive contributions to Wilson Library and the Rare Book Collection. We wish him all the best on his next voyage of discovery.