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.

Hernando en la Prensa Española/Hernando in the Spanish Press

September 16, 2019

Reseñas de El Memorial de los Libros Naufragados han aparecido en El Pais (XL Seminal), El Mundo El Huffpost, ABC Cultural, La Razon, La Vanguardia, y muchos otros periódicos.

July 11, 2019

"La savante biographie que ... consacre l'universitaire britannique Edward Wilson-Lee [à Hernando Colomb] rend un superbe hommage à cet utopiste de la Renaissance."

"Magnificent"--Irina Dumitrescu reviews 'Catalogue' in the New York Times

June 01, 2019

“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.”

May 02, 2019

"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

April 17, 2019

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.

'Superb'––The Wall Street Journal Review of The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books

March 09, 2019

Ernest Hilbert has reviewed The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books for The Wall Street Journal. Read the review here.

CoSB on Bookriot's 50 Spectacular Spring Books

March 05, 2019

Literary Website BookRiot has featured The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books on a list of 50 Spectacular Books to read this Spring.

Starred Reviews from Publisher's Weekly and Bookpage

March 01, 2019

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."

January 01, 2019

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".

January 01, 2019

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

November 27, 2018

"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."

BOOKS of the YEAR: Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books in The New Statesman, The Spectator and History Today

November 25, 2018

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."

Read Simon Schama's extraordinary review of The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books in the Financial Times.

Joseph O'Connor picks 'The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books' as one of his summer reads in The Irish Times.

Alexander Sampson reviews The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books in the THE, a Book of the Week Pick.

June 08, 2018

The Saturday Telegraph picks The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books as one of its summer reads.

May 25, 2018

Tim Smith-Laing gives a five-star review in the Saturday Telegraph.

May 19, 2018

I went on R4's Open Book programme to speak to Mariella Frostrup about The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books

May 10, 2018

Alison Flood previews The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books in the Guardian Books section.

January 01, 2020

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."

May 01, 2018

"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

August 25, 2017

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. '

July 24, 2017

I wrote for Prospect Magazine on Shakespeare, Trump, and the history of being one's own judge.

March 16, 2017

The Daily Mail says "this is a remarkable account of how [Shakespeare's] work is woven into the fabric of African life."

Review in the Charleston Post and Courier

October 01, 2016

"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."

“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."

Africa's Theatre of War

I wrote for Foreign Affairs on South Sudan, Shakespeare, and the curious history of theatre in East Africa.

Here's a piece I wrote for FSG's Work in Progress about reading in unexpected places.

September 02, 2016

The Foreign Policy blog takes a look at Shakespeare's global influence.

September 01, 2016

"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."


Shakespeare in Swahililand features in this celebration of the Shakespeare anniversary written by Volker Weidermann.

Old Africa Magazine

June 08, 2016

Neera Kapur calls Shakespeare in Swahililand "A riveting celebration of the bard as a global poet ... a perfect journey to the meeting of cultures."

I spoke to Spiked! Review editor Tim Black about why Africa is the place to go to test Shakespeare's universalism.


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.

April 22, 2016

On the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's death, I spoke to BBC World Service Fred Dove on how Shakespeare helped to shape the course of East African history.

Shakespeare in Swahililand - The Audiobook

Shakespeare in Swahililand is now available as an audiobook, read by the wonderful Gordon Griffin!

BBC History Podcast

I sat down with Matt Elton of the BBC History Magazine to talk about Shakespeare, Africa, and the 400th Anniversary.

Literary Landscape in The Metro

Here's a piece I wrote for the London Metro's 'Literary Landscape' section on reading and travelling.

'✭✭✭✭' - Q&A and review with Michael Kerr in The Telegraph

I spoke to Michael Kerr of The Telegraph about Shakespeare, travel, and Eastern Africa.

April 15, 2016

The Independent picks Shakespeare in Swahililand as one of the six best Shakespeare books to celebrate the anniversary.

April 12, 2016

The New Criterion features Shakespeare in Swahililand as one of its 'Critic's Picks'.

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". 

March 31, 2016

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."

March 22, 2016

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".

March 18, 2016

‘It has successfully told a lesser-known story of Africa, and it is a story worth knowing’

March 13, 2016

Daniel Hahn calls Shakespeare in Swahililand "vivid and full of insights" in a review in The Independent on Sunday.

March 10, 2016

The Times Higher Education Supplement features Shakespeare in Swahililand

March 08, 2016

Here's a piece I wrote for the digital school newspaper The Day about Shakespeare's global impact.

March 07, 2016

Shakespeare in Swahililand among the Top Ten Books to Read in March chosen by theWorld Travel Guide.

February 26, 2016

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'. 

January 03, 2023

Excited to have been included among the things to look forward to in the Shakespeare 400 celebration!

February 23, 2023

A preview in the Wall Street Journal of the Shakespeare 400 celebrations, featuring Shakespeare in Swahililand.

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