Santiponce Itálica


An immense legacy waiting to be discovered

Columbian and Chapter Libraries


The Columbian Institution, located in Seville, is the modern administrative body that manages the Chapter Library, the Columbian Library, the Seville Cathedral Archive, the Archbishop's Library and the General Archive of the Archbishopric. The Columbian Library is located at the western end of the Patio de los Naranjos in the cathedral of Seville. It was constituted in 1539 thanks to a large legacy of Hernando Colón. This library has incunabula and other rare books, as well as manuscripts in the handwriting of Christopher Columbus.

As an adult, Hernando Colón acquired the scholar reputation. He had considerable income from his father's estate in the New World and spent a large percentage of it on books, eventually amassing some 15,000 volumes in his personal library.

Apart from its exceptional size, this library has other characteristics that made it unique in its time (16th century). The most notable feature is the classification system that Hernando Colón used to inventory the books that became part of his collection: he personally noted the date and place of purchase, as well as the price, of each and every one of the works that he or his associates acquired. It is also worth mentioning Hernando's special interest in printed works, which is reflected in the 1194 incunabula held in the Columbian Library's documentary collections as of 2017, among other rare and highly valuable works. This library also had a full-time librarian, with a salary worthy of the standards of that time: he was assigned a room in the library building, so that he could reside there permanently. When Christopher Columbus died in 1506, his son Hernando inherited his personal library, which became part of the first documentary collections of the future Columbian Library.

In Hernando Colón's will, provisions were made to ensure the survival of his library after his death, specifically that the books in it would not be sold, and that more works would be bought with the income he bequeathed to the library. Despite this, ownership thereof was the subject of legal disputes for several decades after Hernando's death in 1539, until it finally passed to the Regional Council of the Seville Cathedral. Although most of Hernando Colón's books have been lost over the course of several centuries, the Columbian Library is currently in good condition and open to both researchers and non-academic visitors.


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