Exhibition seen in the Reading Room from October 2009 to January 2010.

Maury A. Bromsen (1919–2005) was a buyer and seller of antiquarian books, pamphlets, newspapers, maps, prints, and manuscripts relating to the Americas. Upon his demise Bromsen left the John Carter Brown Library more than four million dollars and approximately 10,000 books and several thousand manuscripts, one of the largest gifts the Library has ever received. From that treasure trove the staff of the John Carter Brown selected approximately 1,500 imprints and at least 500 manuscripts having to do with the Americas during the “colonial” and “independence” periods for inclusion in the Library’s rare, reference, and manuscript collections. (The exact number of manuscripts being retained has yet to be determined.) The remaining items have or will be sold to augment the Bromsen endowments for programs and acquisitions.

This exhibit highlights some of the rare and manuscript materials acquired from the Bromsen legacy. More importantly, it pays tribute to the man, a bookman’s bookman, for that is what Maury was. He loved buying and selling books.

He also loved and promoted bibliography. Bromsen was the founding editor of the Revista Interamericana de bibliografía - Review of Inter-American bibliography (1951–1998), the only periodical ever devoted to the bibliography of the Western Hemisphere. Without his vision and tenacity it is doubtful that the Revista would have come into existence. Bromsen also promoted the study of bibliographers, especially those of the Americas. Therefore, he organized an international symposium on the great Chilean bibliographer José Toribio Medina, held at the Pan American Union in Washington, D.C. in November 1952, the proceedings of which were published in English as José Toribio Medina, humanist of the Americas and subsequently in Spanish as José Toribio Medina, humanista de América. Medina was the most prolific and productive bibliographer Spanish America has ever known, producing volume after volume of historical bibliographies of the presses of Spain and her colonies, all of which continue to be indispensable references.


Maury Bromsen


Revista Interamericana de Bibliografía = Review of Inter-American Bibliography. (Washington, D.C., 1951–1998).

Maury A. Bromsen was a bibliographer as well as a bookman. Those who knew him as a book dealer are aware of how painstaking and meticulous he was in the descriptions of the broadsides, pamphlets, newspapers and, books he offered for sale. Not everyone knows, however, that he was the founding editor of the Revista Interamericana de Bibliografía = Review of Inter-American Bibliography, the only periodical ever devoted to the bibliography of the Western Hemisphere and its various countries and colonies. Although Bromsen was the editor of the Revista only during its first two years (1951–1952), he remained associated with and supported the journal until its demise in 1998. Furthermore, it is doubtful that the Revista would have come into existence had it not been for Bromsen’s vision and tenacity.



José Toribio Medina Humanist of the Americas: An Appraisal, edited by Maury A. Bromsen (Washington, D.C.,1960); and José Toribio Medina, Humanista de América, Maury A. Bromsen, editor (Santiago de Chile, 1969).

Perhaps Maury A. Bromsen’s crowning achievement as an editor was the organization of an international symposium on José Toribio Medina’s contributions to Americanist studies, held at the Pan American Union in November, 1952. These two volumes bring together in English and Spanish eighteen of the contributions presented at that symposium, including an introductory essay by Bromsen himself. Medina (1852–1930) was one of the greatest bibliographers the New World has ever known. He compiled volume after volume of meticulous descriptions of publications of all of the colonial period presses of Spanish America, beginning with the oldest, those of Mexico (1539) and Lima (1584). Medina’s bibliographies became classics shortly after coming off the press and continue to be indispensable reference tools. Medina was also an historian, producing seminal works on the Inquisition in the Spanish colonies, for example.



Ternaux-Compans, Henri, 1807–1864. Bibliothèque américaine (Paris, 1837; Chicago, 1968), and Essai sur la théogonie mexicanie (Paris, 1840). [B07-615]

Henri Ternaux-Compans was a member of the minor French nobility and a career diplomat. Stationed in several South American countries during the 1820s and 1830s, he acquired many Latin American imprints of the colonial, independence, and early national periods, becoming “the first collector of Hispanic-Americana,” according to his biographer Henry R. Wagner. That turned out to be fortunate for John Carter Brown as he was able to purchase many of Ternaux-Compans’ offerings when his library was put up for sale in the 1840s. Some of those materials constituted and continue to constitute only known copies and form one of the bases of the JCB’s extraordinarily rich Peruvian holdings. Ternaux-Compans was also a bibliographer and an author. His Bibliothèque américaine (Paris, 1837), shown here in its 1968 reprint, was the first chronological listing and, therefore, the first historical bibliography of early Americana, and insofar as Latin America is concerned, the first bibliography compiled by an European other than a Spaniard. Although Ternaux-Compans’s interests were wide ranging, he had a particular affinity for the prehistory of the New World as exemplified here by his essay on the gods of the Aztecs.

sacro bosco


Sacro Bosco, Joannes de, fl. 1230. [Sphaera mundi. Latin. 1515]. Habeslector [sic] Iohannis de Sacro Busto sphere textum (Paris, [1515]), and [Sphaera mundi. Latin. 1543] Ioannis de Sacrobusto Libellus de sphaera ([Wittenberg, 1543]). [B07-262, B07-206]

Bromsen gave two editions of Joannes de Sacro Bosco’s Sphere, “the clearest, most elementary, and most used textbook in astronomy and cosmography from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century,” to the JCB—the Paris 1515 and the Wittenberg 1543 editions. Apart from its venerable age, the 1515 edition is fascinating because of its provenance. Originally it reposed in the library of the Franciscan Convent of Alcalá de Xivert in Catalonia, where it appears to have been well used. The 1543 edition (shown here) is also “shop worn” and has fascinating volvelles, their moving parts still in working order.

    Exhibition prepared by Michael T. Hamerly.
bookman empires spanish north brazil anglo bookman John Carter Brown Library John Carter Brown Library