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December 12, 2007

Library of Congress Publishes Catalog of Items From the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Early Americas

Catalog is Published in Conjunction with New Library Exhibition

"Collecting, for me, has always been an adventure, a journey of exploration … Over the years, the path of collecting has led me through wonderful passageways into history and cultures."

So explains Jay I. Kislak in his introductory note to "The Jay I. Kislak Collection at the Library of Congress," a broad introduction to Kislak’s gift to the Library. In 10 richly illustrated chapters, this book examines in detail more than 900 items from the collection that show the extensive range of the collector’s vision.

Assembled over the course of five decades by Kislak, the collection encompasses more than 3,000 rare books, maps, documents, paintings, prints and artifacts. Considered one of the finest collections of its kind in the world, the collection focuses on the early Americas from the time of the indigenous people of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean through the period of European contact, exploration and settlement.

"The Kislak Collection represents a lifetime of collecting informed by passion and intellect, and this publication is a record of a life of collecting, learning and exploring," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in his preface to the recently published catalog.

"This publication documents—and celebrates—the gift of the Jay I. Kislak Collection to the Library of Congress," said Arthur J. Dunkelman, curator of the Kislak Collection. "Its catalog and accompanying essays offer a glimpse into this truly remarkable collection, which has evolved over half a century and has now been transformed from a private treasure into a public legacy."

The catalog has been published by the Library in conjunction with a new exhibition titled "Exploring the Early Americas," which opens on Thursday, Dec. 13 in the Northwest Galleries of the Great Hall of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The exhibition is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Saturday.

"Exploring the Early Americas" features items from the Jay I. Kislak Collection and Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map—the first document of any kind to use the word "America." The exhibition, which focuses on the history and legacies of the Americas, includes rare and unique items such as the Tortuguero Box, a seventh-century Maya wood artifact; 17th-century murals depicting Cortés’ conquest of Mexico (1519–1522); and Alexandre Exquemelin’s "Buccaneers of America" (1678), an eyewitness account of the daring deeds of French, Dutch and English pirates raiding Spanish ships and colonies in the Caribbean.

The exhibition marks the beginning of a months-long transformation of public spaces in the Thomas Jefferson Building into an experience for visitors that merges cutting-edge technology with the knowledge and inspiration embodied in the Library’s unparalleled collections and curators.

Jay I. Kislak was born in Hoboken, N.J., and received a degree in economics from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania in 1942. After serving as a naval aviator in World War II, he joined the real estate brokerage and mortgage banking business started by his father in 1906. He began his collection some 50 years ago after moving from New Jersey to South Florida, where he formed the J. I. Kislak Mortgage Corporation in Miami. What began with books and maps to hang on his walls grew to some 3,000 items of historical importance. He and his wife, Jean, an art historian and consultant, continue to travel the world amassing items for their collections.

"The Jay I. Kislak Collection at the Library of Congress," a 200-page hardcover book with 100 illustrations, is available for $50 in the Library’s Sales Shop, Washington, D.C., 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557, or shop on the Internet at .

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PR 07-248
ISSN 0731-3527

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