UNC to mark 7 million volumes
UNC Library will dedicate the 7 millionth book in its collection Thursday, a rare 16th century book considered the first example of African Diaspora literature in the West.
The 172-page book is a collection of poems published in 1573 and written by Juan Latino. Latino was born in 1518 in either Africa or Spain. He was enslaved in a noble Spanish family and learned Latin and Greek while accompanying the family’s son to lessons. Latino earned his freedom and became a Latin scholar at the University of Granada.
The book has three sections – short verses dedicated to King Philip of Spain on the birth of Prince Ferdinand, verses about the king and Pope Pius V, and the “Austriad,” a long poem about the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. In that battle, several European states held back further expansion of Turkey’s Ottoman Empire.
Latino’s work will become part of the Rare Book Collection at UNC’s Wilson Library. The Hanes family of Winston-Salem gave the collection its start in 1929, with a gift of 400 incunabula (books printed before 1501), said Claudia Funke, curator of rare books for UNC Library. In 1960, the Hanes family started the millionth book series with a donation of “Confessio Amantis” by John Gower. Other millionth milestones include rare books by poets John Keats, W.B. Yeats and Anne Bradstreet.
All the books in the series represent “firsts,” and Latino’s poems fit the collection because scholars consider him the first person of sub-Saharan African descent to publish poems in a Western language. Latino’s work also fits with UNC Library’s collection policies. “We have really strong holdings in Diaspora literature, holdings in 16th century literature, strong holdings in Spanish literature” and poetry, Funke said.
The public will get to view the book at a 5:30 p.m. reception Thursday at the FedEx Global Education Center. At 6 p.m. UNC Chancellor Carol Folt will formally accept the book. Then Michael A. Gomez, a professor of history and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, will give a lecture titled “Juan Latino and the Dawn of Modernity.”
The lecture promises to “put the African Diaspora into an entirely new context,” Funke said.
The Latino book, and all books in the Rare Book Collection, are kept in secure stacks under temperature and humidity controls, Funke said. They are available to scholars and researchers who sign an agreement for use. “Our Rare Book Collection is meant to be used, and we are open to the public,” she said.
With this gift, UNC becomes one of 21 North American libraries to hold more than 7 million volumes. The period of time that lapses between millionth rare volumes is decreasing. The first volume came in 1960; the second, in 1974. The 6 millionth volume was donated in 2008. Now that electronic books are counted as well as paper volumes, that number accumulates faster, Funke said.
Eventually, the Hanes family will donate an 8 millionth book to the university library.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Reception and lecture on UNC Chapel Hill Library’s 7 millionth book
WHEN: Thursday. Reception at 5:30; lecture begins at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Peacock Atrium and Nelson Mandela Auditorium, FedEx Global Education Center, UNC Chapel Hill
ADMISSION: Free and open to the public