HISTORY OF WATER shortlisted for the JAMES TAIT BLACK PRIZE
A History of Water is one of four books on the shorlist for the 2023 James Tait Black biography of the year, the oldest and longest-running literary prize in the U.K. Click here for further details. The winner of the prize is announced in July, with further discussion of the shortlisted works at the Edinburgh Literary Festival in August.
Una Storia d'Acqua -- Recensioni
'Sarà bene dire subito che questo è un libro bello e importante, che si rivolge al grande pubblico dei lettori ma ha molto da dire agli storici' -- legere il recensione di Adriano Prosperi in TuttoLibri qui, e di Alberto Manguel in Robinson di Repubblica qui. Leggere un colloquio con Il Giornale qui.
'A Torre Dos Segredos' on Portuguese TV
A Torre dos Segredos foi apresentada no programa Nada Será Como Dante.
The Portuguese translation of A History of Water was featured on the Portuguese literary magazine show Nada Será Como Dante.
Watch here beginning at 12:38.
"Sparkling" -- Kathryn Hughes on "A History of Water", Guardian Book of the Week
"Employing prose as luscious as it is meticulous, Wilson-Lee shows us the world through De Góis’s eyes, a wonderful tapestry that includes Ethiopians and Sami, Hieronymus Bosch (he owned three of the master’s fever-dream paintings) and elephants that can write in dust with their trunks." Read the full review here.
"Enthralling"-- The Economist on A History of Water
"A History of Water artfully juxtaposes the confined spaces inhabited by its subjects––de Góis in his tower and de Camões in his various prisons––with the period's great intellectual investigations. ...The journet is enthralling throughout––as all explorations should be." Read the full review here.
"A Triumph"–– David Abulafia Reviews in the Literary Review
"[This] is a fascinating, ingenious and wonderfully readable book, brilliantly conceived. IT is backed up by an armoury of learned notes that are as beguiling as the text, taking the reader topics such as medieval Vietnamese literature, the printing houses and porcelain factories of Ming China, and early European awareness of Sanskrit. In short, the book is a triumph." Read the full review here.
Jesse Childs Reviews in The Sunday Times
"A superb study of two men caught in the astonishing ferment of the 16th century...exhilarating, whip-smart...This book is itself something of a wonder: beautifully written & utterly mesmerising. I loved every page." Read the full review here.
"Erudite and Engrossing": Paul Lay on 'A History of Water' in The Times
"At the heart of Edward Wilson-Lee's erudite and engrossing biography, A History of Water, is the stark contrast between the curious, questioning world view of Damiao and that of his more famous contemporary, Luis de Camoes...The book combines literary flair with deep historical insight." Read the full review here [paywall].
David Horspool Reviews 'Water' in The Spectator
"One of the many virtues of Edward Wilson-Lee’s fascinating, elegantly written book is to plunge us into that scene, and to follow a trail outward from this global city across Europe, to Africa, India and beyond." Read the full review here.
★★★★★ -- First Review of A HISTORY OF WATER in the Saturday Telegraph
“A wonderful – and wonder-full – recreation of a crucial episode in European history…the book has a rare beauty: written with elegant restraint, its every page is rich in a numinous sense of vanishings and misunderstandings…Wilson-Lee has conjured up a hauntingly vivid evocation of [this] moment". Read the full review here [paywall].
Epitomes in Harper's Magazine
A taster of the epitomes emerging from the rediscovered Libro de los Epitomes from Hernando Colón's library has been published in Harper's magazine––including a secret volume by Hippocrates, a guide to Renaissance student hazing, and a letter from the pen of Lucifer. Read the article here.
CATALOGUE wins the Hessell-Tiltman Prize 2019
The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books has been awarded the 2019 Hessell-Tiltman Prize by the English PEN organisation. Read the judges citation and more here.
La Bibliothèque Engloutie: Macha Séry dans 'Le Monde'
"La savante biographie que ... consacre l'universitaire britannique Edward Wilson-Lee [à Hernando Colomb] rend un superbe hommage à cet utopiste de la Renaissance." Lisez ici.
"Magnificent"--Irina Dumitrescu reviews 'Catalogue' in the New York Times
“Wilson-Lee’s main subject… is an intellectual hunger at once dazzling and monstrous: Hernando [Colon’s] insatiable urge to know and to possess… The book’s rich descriptions of Spain, Italy and the Low Countries bustle with local detail, and the early printed images interspersed throughout make it feel like a travel guide to the past. For lovers of history, Wilson-Lee offers a thrill on almost every page… Edward Wilson-Lee’s magnificent book helps us understand [Hernando’s] obsessive desire to gather and preserve, even in the face of chaos.” Read the review.
"Pioneering"--Fernando Cervantes reviews in the TLS
"The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books is a gripping reconstruction of Hernando’s rich and varied life.", writes Fernando Cervantes in this week's Times Literary Supplement
Hernando's Libro de los Epítomes, missing for 500 years, has been found
In an exciting and important development, one of the key missing pieces of Hernando's library--the Libro de los Epítomes, in which his team of paid readers summarised volumes from the library--has been discovered in the Arnamagnæan Collection in Copenhagen, where it has been for 300 years. The story has been covered in the Guardian, NPR's All Things Considered, and elsewhere.
Starred Reviews from Publisher's Weekly and Bookpage
Publisher's Weekly and Bookpage have both given starred reviews to 'The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books', adding to the two starred reviews already received from the American Library Association and Kirkus. Publisher's Weekly calls the book a 'fascinating account brings back to wholeness “the largest private library of the day”', while Bookpage calls it "at once an adventure tale and a history of ideas that continue to resonate."
Starred Reviews from Kirkus and Booklist
Both Kirkus and Booklist have given starred reviews to The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books in anticipation of its US release by Scribner. Kirkus called the book "An elegantly written, absorbing portrait of a visionary man and his age", while Booklist calls it "astonishing for both its geographic and intellectual breadth".
Best Books of 2018: Stuart Kelly in The Scotsman
Stuart Kelly writes in The Scotsman: "The most thought-provoking works to appear in the past year were often passed over by bestsellers lists and literary prizes....Edward Wilson-Lee’s The Catalogue Of Shipwrecked Books is something of a wonder. .... This wide-ranging book about a wide-ranging man takes in cartography, biography (he wrote the first one of his father), botany, bibliography and much more."
Hernando in the Italian Press
The Italian translation of The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books--Il Catalogo dei Libri Naufragati (Bollati Boringhieri) has been the subject of a feature in the Venerdì supplement of La Repubblica, by Marco Cicala, and has also been reviewed in La Stampa, Il Mattino, and Il Libraio.
'The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books' is Simon Schama's Book of the Year (Financial Times)
"Edward Wilson-Lee’s spellbinding Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books, begins like a Gabriel Garciá Márquez novel — “On the morning of his death Hernando Colon called for a bowl of dirt to be brought to him in bed” — and its hypnotic grip never flags. Ostensibly a biography of Columbus’s illegitimate son, the compulsive gatherer of a “universal library” it tears through the Admiral’s last fantastic voyage, the son witnessing the mystical derangement of the father, supping on manatee, beaches packed with crocodiles, wreckage and mutinies, but the son’s great voyage towards the ultimate compendium of books is made no less thrilling through Wilson-Lee’s prodigious writing: at once poetically sharp and broadly humane." Read the review.
BOOKS of the YEAR: Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books in The New Statesman, The Spectator and History Today
The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books has been named as a Book of the Year by Marina Warner in The New Statesman, Honor Clerk in The Spectator, and Kate Wiles in History Today. Marina Warner writes that the book is " a tour de force of sifting through dusty fragments and of vivid biographical storytelling, as well as a delicious, Borgesian dream for all bookworms and lovers of libraries and print ephemera."
Hernando deserved to be as famous as his father, Christopher Columbus
Dennis Duncan reviews The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books in The Spectator: "Wilson-Lee’s great strength is the subtlety with which Hernando’s public life as a courtier and his private life as a collector are interwoven. Unless you like libraries a lot then the most important thing about Hernando is not the most interesting. But in these elegantly handled parallels, Wilson-Lee leads us almost by stealth to an understanding of his subject’s greatest achievement. The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books offers us the biography of a man whose peripatetic life took him from the shores of an uncharted world to the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor, from Tudor England to Medici Rome. But, at the same time, it gives us a picture of an extraordinary mind, conceiving and then creating a sort of steampunk Google."
THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPWRECKED BOOKS--FIRST REVIEW
"Edward Wilson-Lee’s fascinating and beautifully written account of how Hernando conceived and assembled his library is set within a highly original biography of the compiler. It’s a work of imagination restrained by respect for evidence, of brilliance suitably alloyed by erudition, and of scholarship enlivened by sensitivity and acuity. [...] The ‘library that would collect everything’ became, as it grew unmanageably, a Borgesian labyrinth of ‘baffling marvels’. Wilson-Lee describes it with verve and strews his account with Rabelaisian lists, incantatory and almost magical in effect, of the sort Hernando loved." -- Felipe Fernández-Armesto, The Literary Review
"The Sublime Poetry of Subversion"
Ed Simon reviews Shakespeare in Swahililand for website The Millions, a channel of the LA Review of Books: ''Wilson-Lee’s is an odd hodgepodge of a book—part memoir, part travelogue, part historical account, part literary criticism. And yet despite its chimerical nature, it is an effective book, combining as it does an adept theoretical orientation, an admirable facility with the Explication de texte of Shakespeare’s language, and a humanism that is sometimes lacking in the most arid of literary theory. '
Review in the Charleston Post and Courier
"One of the great delights of this book is thus the shrewdness of its literary and political analysis, but it can also be read as a kind of general history of East African independence movements, as well as a personal travelogue." Read the review.
Shakespeare's Africa in the Roanoake Times
“Shakespeare in Swahililand”, writes Michael Ramsey, " is an enjoyable story full of history and valuable insight into the work of England’s preeminent playwright and poet, told by a man whose prose is so well crafted that the reader will feel as if he/she was on the road with Edward Wilson-Lee while he was doing his research." Read the review.
"Engrossing"; - The Culture Trip
"While all this history is fascinating, it’s Wilson-Lee’s conclusion—the African Shakespeare is now being embraced back in his home country—that’s especially compelling ... “The Shakespeare made in Africa has come to replace the one that was taken there,” writes Wilson-Lee. “It is a strange and beautiful renewal: [Shakespeare] is much better for it.” By the end of Shakespeare in Swahililand, any of its reader will have the same conviction." Read the review.
To celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's passing, I joined the Reverend Richard Coles and Aasmah Mir on BBC 4's Saturday Live to talk about why searching for Shakespeare in unlikely places is the best way to understand him.
Andrew Lycett reviews in The Literary Review
Andrew Lycett calls Shakespeare in Swahililand "a fascinating book - part travelogue, part cultural history ... Wilson-Lee proves a perceptive and entertaining guide to the Bard's influence in Swahililand".
Shakespeare in Swahililand in "The Lady"
Steve Barfield writes in The Lady "I thought nothing could surprise me about the impact of England’s greatest cultural figure, but this fascinating, readable book about his influence in East Africa certainly did."
Shakespeare in Swahililand in The Times of South Africa
Andrew Donaldson calls Shakespeare in Swahililand "a glorious melange of travel, biography, history and satire in which misfits, explorers, intellectuals, colonialists, settlers, eccentrics and politicians live out their dreams in East Africa through Shakespeare".
The Bookseller's Top Shakespeare Books
The Bookseller calls Shakepeare in Swahililand a 'striking literary debut' that 'provides fascinating insights into the region, gets to the heart of what makes Shakespeare so universal, and muses on the role his writings have played in thinking about what it means to be human'.