Discover the vibrant life of Hernando Colón, Christopher Columbus’ illegitimate son in Edward Wilson-Lee’s illuminating new biography THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPWRECKED BOOKS out now from William Collins in hardback, ebook and audio. Helen Castor called it ‘a thought-provoking exploration of the ways in which we acquire, organise and retrieve information about the world and our place in it.’  In Literary Review Felipe Fernández-Armesto described the book as ‘a 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.’ You can also read Alison Flood’s Guardian feature on Edward and the book here

Without libraries, who are we? We have no past, and no future… This fascinating book tells for the first time in English the story of the first great universal library in the age of printing — and of the illegitimate son of Christopher Colombus who created it. Hernando Colón spent his life trying to build the first universal library of print: personally scouring bookshops in an attempt to acquire a copy of every book, he brought them back to his library in Seville, where he drove himself mad attempting to devise how best to navigate and organise the world of print.

Hernando lived in extraordinary times. He knew Erasmus, Dürer and Thomas More, was at the forefront in the first international conference to determine the circumference of the world, led the team that created the first world map on scientific principles — and invented the modern bookcase!

Hernando’s life placed him at the centre of the ages of exploration, print, and the Reformation: he spent a year living with his father marooned aboard a shipwrecked hull off Jamaica and wrote the first biography of Columbus. To reconstruct his life is not only to recover a vision of the Renaissance world, but also to appreciate the passions and intrigues that lie beneath our own disciplined attempts to b ring order to the world. THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPWRECKED BOOKS is an unforgettable journey through these layered realities — and a bibliophile’s dream!

Last night saw the launch of THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPWRECKED BOOKS in the beautiful Wren Library in Cambridge. Home to over 700,000 books printed before the 1820s, medieval manuscripts and archives, the Wren Library was the perfect location to launch the captivating biography of a man who dedicated his life to the collection of books. Edward will be appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book programme on Sunday 20 May to talk about Hernando’s library.

Rights to THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPWRECKED BOOKS have been sold internationally in France, Spain, Germany, Japan and Italy, with more international news to come shortly!

Edward Wilson-Lee is a Fellow in English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he teaches medieval and Renaissance literature and Shakespeare. After growing up in Kenya and Switzerland, he went to university in London, New York, Oxford and Cambridge, living briefly in Mexico and New Orleans in between.

Follow Edward on Twitter

Visit his website


‘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, Literary Review

‘Hernando Columbus deserves to be as famous as his father, Christopher…Wilson-Lee’s greatest 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.’ — Dennis Duncan, Spectator

'T‎his is a remarkable and deeply absorbing book – both a vivid account of the extraordinary life of Hernando Colón, younger son of Christopher Columbus, and a thought-provoking exploration of the ways in which we acquire, organise and retrieve information about the world and our place in it. THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPWRECKED BOOKS is minutely-researched history that reads like fiction – at once hauntingly redolent of Eco and Borges, and sharply relevant in our data-driven age.' — Helen Castor, author of SHE-WOLVES: THE WOMEN WHO RULED ENGLAND BEFORE ELIZABETH

‘Edward Wilson-Lee’s terrific new book brings to life Christopher Columbus’s son Hernando, his quirky and dazzling library, and the complex worlds between which he lived. THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPWRECKED BOOKS eloquently captures the life of an extraordinary man, while making his era resonate with our own: it is about how we seek to organise our minds and our lives, and, above all, about why books continue to matter.’ — Joe Moshenska, author of A STAIN IN THE BLOOD

K. Sello Duiker’s THE HIDDEN STAR shines around the world this Christmas!

THE HIDDEN STAR - UK Cassava Republic cover.jpg

THE HIDDEN STAR, K. Sello Duiker’s timeless tale for younger readers, is now widely available around the world from Cassava Republic Press. First published in 2006 by the Umuzi imprint of Penguin Random House South Africa, and subsequently by Cassava Republic in Nigeria and West Africa, this year marks the first publication in the UK and North America and the rest of the English-speaking world.

Eleven-year-old Nolitye lives in a shack with her mother Thembi in Phola, a dusty township on the edge of Johannesburg. She loves maths and collecting stones, which she keeps in a bucket under her bed. She also has magical powers: she can communicate with dogs.

Nolitye’s granny used to say: ‘If you mess with a woman, you mess with a stone,’ and when Nolitye finds a magical stone on the dusty streets of Phola, her granny's words take on a new meaning. Along with her two friends — pampered Bheki, and Four Eyes, a reformed member of the Spoilers gang led by Rotten Nellie — Nolitye puts the powers of the stone to good use. For the first time the threesome can stand up to the Spoilers, Nolitye can save the life of Rex, the leader of a pack of talking township mutts, and dare to look scary MaMtonga — with her living brown-and-green snake necklace — in the eye.

But soon Nolitye finds out that the purplish-blue magic stone is one of five needed to put right things that started to go wrong the day her father died in a mining accident when she was five years old. Or so she was told by her mother... Merging a cast of characters from African myth and folklore with everyday township life, K. Sello Duiker created a magical world and a truly wondrous quest that will appeal to an ageless audience.

Duiker author photo - large.jpg

By his untimely death, K. Sello Duiker had published various short stories and two novels. THIRTEEN CENTS was awarded the Commonwealth Prize for a first novel, while THE QUIET VIOLENCE OF DREAMS was translated into four languages, and won the Herman Charles Bosman Prize for English Literature. THE HIDDEN STAR was published posthumously.

Praise for K. Sello Duiker


 ‘That rarity – an artist whose literary prowess hit us in our collective face with such vehemence that we couldn’t help but sing his praises…On the face of it, THE HIDDEN STAR is a simple story of magic and fantasy…Duiker’s book is lean and taut…Not only is the book entertaining and pacy, but it succeeds in evoking the innocence and curiosity of a child, while communicating larger truths about the vulnerability of human beings… I got goose-bumps reading it.’ - Fred Khumalo, The Sunday Times

‘One of my favourite fiction reads of the year.’ - Jakes Gerwel, The Sunday Independent Writer‘s Choice 2006

 ‘Duiker has taken South African fiction to another level…It’s a truly wonderful novel whose words flow like poetry.’ - Angelique Serrao, The Saturday Star


‘The visions are powerfully rendered and stylistically reminiscent of those experienced by Ben Okri’s young protagonist in THE FAMISHED ROAD.’ - Robyn Alexander, Mail and Guardian

‘K. Sello Duiker… got South Africans talking about books.’ - Justice Malala, FT Magazine

‘A remarkable first novel.’ - Sam Raditlahlo, Feminist Africa


‘He had the genius to give South African literature a breath of life and youth – to this day unparalleled. We must read him and thank him.’ – Le Monde