Rare Book Exhibit Completed in Peru

A University of Iowa Library Preservation team Gary Frost, Conservator, Joyce Miller, project support and technician and Bill Voss, Exhibit Conservator, has completed a project to prepare and install a 26 case comprehensive exhibit of the treasures of the Library of the Convent of the Recoleta in Arequipa Peru. The two week project (May 26 to June 5) was completed on-site with materials supplied by Archival Products and the UI Libraries.

exhibit cases

This education exhibit depicts the amazing story of historical libraries in this highland colonial city. These books introduced European learning into equally complex indigenous culture and so advanced dynamics of empire still in motion in the Americas. The library of the Recoleta contains 22,000 volumes spanning the 16th to 19th centuries and is rich in linguistics, history, sciences, arts and literature, religious doctrine and scripture, and philosophy. The library was founded in 1661. It features early Peruvian imprints including unique copies.

Fabulous voyages were required to bring European books to Peru. Outward voyages went southward to the Canary Islands where the westward winds were encountered. A long Atlantic crossing brought the cargo to Hispaniola in the Caribbean. Another voyage across pirate waters came finally to land at the isthmus of Panama. This overland crossing of swamp and mountains was no less difficult than the previous sailings. On the Pacific coast newly constructed ships began the long voyage down to Lima. Finally, books destine for Arequipa still required the long desolate crossing of the vast inland desert before the books reached the start of the highlands.

gary and guests in the workshop

The Library was used by a Franciscan Order with missions to many colonial communities. Here readers prepared their minds for great dramas of contact between cultures and great challenges of interaction. For the Padres the library is not just books but it is also a state of mind. UI Staff members enjoyed this exotic excursion into a different book culture. The UI team was honored at a spectacular opening reception given at the historical Cloister.