Ari Shapiro at NPR:
It’s the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster: Five hundred years ago, a son of Christopher Columbus assembled one of the greatest libraries the world has ever known. The volumes inside were mostly lost to history. Now, a precious book summarizing the contents of the library has turned up in a manuscript collection in Denmark.
The newly discovered manuscript is “an absolutely gorgeous thing,” says Edward Wilson-Lee, author of The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books — a biography of Columbus’ son Hernando Colón. “It’s about the size of a coffee table book. It’s almost a foot thick. It’s 2,000 pages long in beautifully, beautifully clear handwriting.”
The reference volume, called the Libro de los Epítomes, was designed to help a user find books in the enormous library.
Colón was “looking for the Google algorithm of print,” Wilson-Lee explains: “How to take vast amounts of information and make something usable out of it.”