Facsimiles of old books, maps and even predecessors of comics that, in their time, were used to evangelize America. This is some of the rarest specimens in the collection of the Geography and History Library of the Complutense University. A series of volumes exposed to the public until the end of November for free in the Faculty’s sound library.
The exhibition, which also has its own website where these works can be consulted completely digitally and in high quality, coincide with a series of conferences where professors and researchers from the Complutense itself, the Autonomous University of Madrid and the Higher Center for Scientific Research will analyze in depth the most unique works of the exhibition. every Wednesday at 1 pm until November 22.
“This exhibit, called Treasures of the Geography and History Library, aim to see our heritage and will serve as a support teaching tool,” the director of the Library and Coordinator of the Humanities Area, María Ángeles Lacasa, told GRAN MADRID.
The books and maps, dealing with various disciplines including astronomy, politics and religion, were selected by the curator of the exhibition, Lorena Rodríguez, and by the professor of the Art History department of UCM, Laura Fernández.
“This is an exhibition that expresses the different lines of research of the teaching staff of this house and aims to teach our students, and the public, the potential of these materials,” explained Fernández. “Although devotional books (with religious themes) make up the majority,” said Rodríguez, “the goal is to reveal a wider repertoire dealing with the theme of travel in which many scientific disciplines unified fields, such as astronomy, stories, cartographic elements and atypical formats, as in the case of Tro-Cortesian Codex».
With the appearance of strip folded like a screen the Tro-Cortesian codex is a pre-columbian mayan document decorated with hieroglyphs and ideograms arranged in the form of a calendar where the political and religious scenes of this Mesoamerican culture are represented.
Next to this, with a size slightly larger than a credit card, is another rare specimen that reminiscent of modern comics: the Catechism of Fray Pedro de Gante. This small pictographic volume shows scenes from the Bible and the Christian liturgy. A work whose importance is inversely proportional to its size, and which played an important role in the evangelization of America during the reign of Charles I and Philip II for bring Catholic faith and morals closer to the natives.
Another of the most particular works is the Sufi Latinus, a large astronomical facsimile showing Ptolemy’s 48 constellations represented. according to the iconography of Persian astronomers (in present-day Iran) Abd Al-Rahman Al Sufi. However, the people who make up the constellations are visible dressed according to the fashion of the Christian West in the 15th century.
In addition to books, maps also occupy an important part of this exhibition. Among them, the World Map from the year 1375 stands out, which Pedro IV of Aragon gave to Charles V of France. A work consisting of six intricately crafted panels that collects knowledge of the time, combining geography with legends and customs of the Late Middle Ages.
“In the case of Europe and North Africa,” said Fernández, “the coast is completely divided from the geographical point of view, and the names of ports and cities appear written in red and black according to their importance.” A level of detail that disappears as the map moves towards the East, to the point that still represents the figure of an imp in the area of present-day Mongolia. «The Antichrist and his legend is one of the best themes of the time. He is represented by some branches that perform false miracles and are worshiped by the people of the earth,” said the teacher. “The legend says,” he continued, “that at the end of time he will go to that region to open the doors that will release Gog and Magog, which will cause the destruction of the world.”
However, this unique map is just one of many “luxury products made for a king” that can be enjoyed for free in Complutense’s Geography and History Library.