Gems found from Extramural Interlibrary Loan | Los Angeles Public Library
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Gems found from Extramural Interlibrary Loan

Steven Kilgore, Access Services,
Fortress of Hormuz

At Access Services, we provide a service called Extramural Interlibrary Loan that facilitates any quest for knowledge beyond the walls, so to speak.  For all the books we possess here in the Los Angeles Public Library system, there are those rare and exotic books that lurk outside our walls.

One such book I managed to obtain for one of our patrons was: Two letters of Dom Alvaro de Noronha from Hormuz: Turkish activities along the coast of Arabia, 1550-1552.  A Doctor of History asked us to locate this book for him for his research.  It turns out that the only one library in the world that lists this book in its catalog is a University Library in Great Britain.  Our patron was indeed fortunate that we were able to obtain this rare and precious item for him via Interlibrary Loans.  He was able to examine the book and proceed with his research.

Just the title alone inspires daydreams of adventures and conflicts during a gone by era.  This book collected letters of Dom Alvaro, a Portuguese aristocrat, who wrote about his encounters between the Hispano-Portuguese and Ottoman empires during the Sixteenth Century.  The island of Hormuz has a rich and varied history.  To the ancient Greeks, it was known as Organa, during the Islamic period it was called Jarun.  In the Twelfth Century, it was a minor principality that fought off the Mongols and Ottoman Turks.  In the Fifteenth Century, this island was visited several times by the Chinese Admiral Zeng He 鄭和, a pioneer explorer and court favorite of the Yongle Emperor 永樂大帝of the Ming Dynasty.  In 1507 Afonso de Albuquerque conquered the island, and it became part of the Portuguese Empire. The island of Hormuz has always been in a strategically crucial location of ancient East-West trade routes.

Being the son of Albuquerque the Great, Dom Alvaro was made the captain of Hormuz from 1550-1553. During this time he resisted the siege laid on the island fortress by Suleiman the Magnificent.   Dom Alvaro surviving the siege, but died in 1554 in a shipwreck off of the coast of Africa.  Hormuz was later captured by Anglo-Persian collaboration in 1622.

Isn’t it interesting how a title of one book can inspire you to probe outside the walls of your known universe into the past and ask questions like: who was Dom Alvaro? And discover the Portuguese had an outpost of their empire in a castle on the isle of Hormuz.