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'.