Odds and quads

July 22, 2010

This national flag and official currency of the Republic of New Atlantis, founded by the brother of the novelist Ernest Hemingway, are owned by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

"There's no law that says you can't start your own country," Leicester Hemingway announced to The Washington Post when he established New Atlantis in 1964.

His country, which started with six inhabitants, consisted of a bamboo raft anchored by a railroad axle and an old Ford engine block, six miles off the west coast of Jamaica - which New Atlantis solemnly declared it "would not threaten".

Hemingway was able to take advantage of the obscure Guano Islands Act of 1856, which allowed American citizens to take possession of any unoccupied "island, rock or key" with deposits of guano (or bird excrement), which was then a valuable fertiliser.

The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum, holds 36 million manuscripts, more than 1 million rare books and 5 million photographs.

Among them are the artefacts from the Leicester Hemingway collection, which also includes postage stamps, the draft of the New Atlantis Constitution and the handwritten manuscript of the New Atlantis Cookery Book.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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