July 16, 2018

Catholic University Press and the Oliveira Lima Library share grant from the Brazilian National Library Foundation

The Catholic University of America Press and the Oliveira Lima Library have received a grant from the Brazilian National Library Foundation to publish the first English edition of Manoel de Oliveira Lima’s classic work,D. João VI No Brasil (1808-1821). This revisionist account of John VI, king of Brazil, Portugal, and the Algarves from 1816 to 1825, is considered one of the most important scholarly works in Brazilian historiography.

“We are delighted to work with the Oliveira Lima Library to make this book finally available to an Anglophone audience,” said Trevor Lipscombe, director of the Catholic University of America Press. “To disseminate scholarship is the primary purpose of a university press, and to have the opportunity to make Oliveira Lima’s important book available in English to a new generation of European and Brazilian historians is an exciting prospect.” 

Oliveira Lima was a Brazilian diplomat whose career took him to diplomatic posts around the world. He was also a prolific writer and a dedicated collector of books and other materials. In 1916, he donated his personal library, containing thousands of rare and valuable items, to Catholic University. Due mostly to lack of resources, the library was effectively closed two years ago. It reopened early this year.

Two Brazilians at the University are spearheading an effort to preserve and protect their compatriot’s legacy. Professor Duilia de Mello, an astronomer in the Department of Physics who is serving as vice provost and dean of assessment, oversees the project. Nathalia Henrich, a postdoctoral scholar who is an authority on Oliveira Lima, is serving as the library’s interim curator. She will contribute a preface to the translated volume and serve as its editor.

“This deeply researched and innovative work sheds light on a pivotal moment for European history in the nineteenth century,” Henrich said, “as the impact of Napoleon’s role on the European continent had consequences for the New World.”

Currently located in the southwest corner of Mullen Library basement, the Oliveira Lima Library is a wonderland for scholars interested in topics ranging from slavery and diplomacy to religion and literature, especially as they relate to the history of Portugal and Brazil. The collection includes not only many rare books but paintings and other art objects, including landscapes by Nicolas-Antoine Taunay and Frans Post (the latter’s Brazilian Landscape, Probably Pernambuco, c. 1660, is on loan to the National Gallery of Art), as well as works by the Brazilian master Antônio Parreiras.

“We are looking at the next hundred years,” de Mello said. “Things that are made of
paper are going to disappear if we don’t take care of them.”

Fundraising is a major part of the project. University Trustee Enrique Segura and his wife, Alejandra, recently donated funds to fill a curatorial position and to provide seed money for a marketing effort to heighten awareness of the collection. Preservation work must be undertaken to protect its treasures; artworks need restoration. Expert catalogers and at least one resident librarian are needed; digitization will help preserve items and widen their availability. Finally, there is the dream of building a new, modern Brazil Center on campus, with space for performances, lectures, and exhibits, as well as reading rooms for scholars. 

To elicit support, de Mello and Henrich have traveled to Brazil, where the collection is well known among scholars, for meetings with government officials, foundation administrators, and journalists. Henrich proposed the idea of applying to the Brazilian National Library Foundation for a grant.

“Trevor Lipscombe of the University Press immediately accepted my proposal and made it happen on time,” Henrich said. “The translation will be done by Henry Widener. He is American but lives in Brazil, where he is doing his master’s thesis on the Oliveira Lima Library.”