UNC Celebrates 7 Millionth Book

A rare sixteenth century book with modern resonance will become the seven millionth volume in the Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A public celebration in March marked the acquisition of a book of Latin poetry published in 1573 by Juan Latino. Scholars have described Latino as the first person of sub-Saharan African descent to publish a book of poems in a Western language.

With this milestone, UNC becomes one of only 21 university libraries in North America to hold more than seven million volumes. It also becomes one of a handful of U.S. libraries—including Harvard, Yale, the Boston Public Library, and the New York Public Library—to own this first book of Juan Latino.

Juan Latino was born around 1518 in either Africa or Spain. He was a slave in a noble Spanish household, serving as a page to the family’s son. While accompanying the young duke to classes, Latino learned Latin and Greek. He eventually earned his freedom and became a professor of Latin grammar in Granada. He came to use the surname Latino or Latinus, reflecting his mastery of the Latin language.

The Hanes Foundation gift also included a copy of Latino’s second book, along with ten scholarly books about Latino’s life and work.

They will all become part of the Rare Book Collection in UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library, where librarians expect them to be consulted by students and scholars in many disciplines, including classics, history, comparative literature and Africana and Diaspora studies.

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