South America 2015 · Travel writing

My Favourite Museum in Peru, pt. 2

(Part 1 — featuring Amazon animals and Amazonian costumes and portraits — is here).

My guidebook told me that the Recoleta monastery’s library was so precious that it was only open every fifteen minutes, forty-five minutes past the hour. I arranged to get there at about half past four — and found it entirely deserted and unlocked.

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“Miscellaneous”.

A small number of books were laid out in the centre of the room; the rest were in bookshelves that lined the walls on two floors. For the next half an hour I wandered slowly around the small room, trying to make out the titles, taking photos of everything I could. Time flew; it felt like I was only there for five minutes.

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“Moral theology”. Look how old some of the books are. Might they pre-date the printing press?

A leaflet I picked up told me that the library was founded in 1661, and that it now contains 23,000 books, many of which were shipped from Europe to Arequipa via Panama between the 16th and 18th century for the monks. Interestingly, fewer than half of the books are religious; the rest are on a broad variety of subjects.

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This was the only book I saw that I thought could potentially have been fiction. Published in 1750 in Mexico.

(I built a library in Minecraft a couple of years ago, and I’d love to build this one too because it was put together so nicely!)

The only negative thing in this otherwise sweet-smelling heaven was that everything was in Spanish — I could not read one word out of the trillions that surrounded me.

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I wondered if any of the books had already been read for the last time.
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Below is a tiny number of the photos I took.


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A book on “Nebrija” (?) grammar from 1492.
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A book on the circulatory system; undated.
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A mysterious handwritten book. Look how tiny and perfect the writer’s cursive is.
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An ‘antiphonal’ book of organ and religious music from 1608.
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Perhaps the frontispiece has info on when this was published? And I’m curious why this picture was chosen for the Jesus Christ Testament. (Note how it’s not called the New Testament yet).
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This book is from 1846. I would love to know what scripts the author is writing in.
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Might this also be fiction? Sent to Peru for monks who loved to read for pleasure?
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1544. From the time when it appears that Latin was still the lingua franca. This appears to be an original of the writing of Erasmus?
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I can’t read any of the information about this book, but the Roman numerals say that it was published in 1607. When was it torn? Who tore it? Were they punished?
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This book was published in 1668, written by a missionary about the South American indigenous people he “worked with”. I’d be fascinated to hear what he had to say.

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I was absolutely buzzing as I left the museum. I felt incredibly, ridiculously, amazingly lucky.