January 2017 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Two Miami Institutions Receive Major Gift of Rare Books

The Jay I. Kislak Foundation announced this week a major donation to the University of Miami and Miami Dade College. Split between the two institutions is a collection that "includes some of the most important original source materials related to the history of the early Americas," according to a jointly issued press statement.

Screen Shot 2017-01-25 at 12.02.18 PM.pngPedro de Medina, L'Arte del Navegar...  (The Art of Sailing), 1554. First Italian edition of one of the earliest treatises on navigation and the first to provide reliable information on the navigation of American waters. The author discusses the use of basic navigation instruments and explains the use of maps and measurements of the sun and North Star to determine latitude. The book, describing early Spanish voyages of discovery, was widely influential during the 16th  century among mariners of Spain, England, France, Italy and Holland. In addition to its scientific and historic importance, this rare volume is one of the most beautiful books printed in 16th-century Europe. Gift to University of Miami, Courtesy of the Jay I. Kislak Foundation.

The collection was assembled over many decades by 94-year-old collector and philanthropist Jay Kislak, who is well known in the rare book world for his 2004 donation of more than 3,000 rare books, maps, manuscripts and objects to the Library of Congress and for his generous support of the Kislak Center for Special Collections at the University of Pennsylvania. He has also sustained the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest for several years.

This most recent gift of approximately 2,300 rare books, maps, manuscripts, pre-Columbian artifacts, and related material, with its particular focus on Florida, the Caribbean, exploration, navigation, and the early Americas, finds an ideal home in South Florida. Each school will receive a first edition of the famous 1493 letter of Christopher Columbus, in which his describes the New World, as well as a selection of rare and important items. As a whole, the collection is valued at $30 million. Working together, UM and MDC will collaborate on exhibitions, collections care, and outreach.

Screen Shot 2017-01-25 at 12.03.44 PM.pngColumbus Letter: Printed by Johann Bergmann von Olpe in Basle, Switzerland, 1494, this edition includes the first images of what Columbus believed to be islands in Asia. The first section of the book is an epic poem by Carlo Verardus praising Ferdinand's expulsion of the Moors from Granada in 1492. The second part is Columbus' famous letter, De insulis nuper in Mari Indico, with five woodcuts purporting to be the earliest pictures of the New World. Gift to Miami Dade College, Courtesy of the Jay I. Kislak Foundation.

Said Kislak, "I think this is an ideal partnership. We have the opportunity to combine the special resources of each institution and create exhibitions and programs that will be enjoyed by Miami-Dade residents and the millions of people who visit here from all over the world." He added, "For 500 years, Florida has been a focal point of global exploration and cultural exchange. I'm thrilled that Miami's top two institutions of higher education, along with the Library of Congress, will now be using our collections to reveal the fascinating and important role of our community in world history."