Asia’s Oldest

Little known facts about UST’s Miguel de Benavides Library


On July 24, the Miguel de Benavides Library turned 414 years old.

As a growing repository of history and knowledge, it has withstood the test of time, serving many generations of Filipinos. Located along Alberto Drive inside the campus of University of Santo Tomas (UST), the six-storey institution houses a vast collection of resources ranging from Spanish royal decrees to original copies of Jose Rizal’s firebrand novels to newspaper headlines today.

Check out some interesting facts about Asia’s oldest university central library.

Its name pays tribute to the third archbishop of Manila.

Miguel de Benavides, the third archbishop of Manila, bequeathed his personal library and the amount of P1,500 for the establishment of a seminary-college for young men entering the priesthood before he died in 1605. It was only in 1611, six years later, when his Dominican confreres were only able to fulfill his will—the founding of Colegio de Santissimo Rosario and the library.

National Archives declared UST Library’s Baybayin documents as cultural treasure in 2014. 

On Aug. 22, 2014, the UST Archives’ collection of ancient baybayin scripts were declared as national cultural treasures by the National Archives of the Philippines. The two 17th-century baybayin documents were the oldest of their kind, both as being written in baybayin and as examples of early deeds of sale.
Baybayin, which consists of 14 consonants and three vowels, is an ancient, pre-colonial Filipino writing system, recorded as being in use in the 16th century and continued even during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.

WISDOM CORNER The inside of Benavides Library (Photo by The Varsitarian)

In 2017, the library put up the first edition of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere online.

Two years ago, UST launched an immense multi-volume catalogue of rare books and periodicals to allow a wider audience easier access to historical collections from 1492 to 1900.
Together with UnionBank, the multi-million-peso project titled “Semper Lumina” or “Always the Light,” features a six-volume catalogue of rare publications, a two-volume catalogue of UST Archives, and a digital library that includes one of the first copies of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere. It is a continuation of “Lumina Pandit,” an exhibit of UST’s rare books during its 400th anniversary in 2011.
Also among the exhibited manuscripts are Josephus Flavius’ Da Bello Judaico (1492), Nicolaus Copernicus’ De Revolutionis Orbium Coelestium Libri VI (1592), and Pope Leo the Great’s Opera Omnia (1614).

The oldest existing Spanish-Chinese dictionary was discovered in UST Library in 2018

The Vocabulario de la Lengua Chio Chiu, the oldest Spanish-Chinese dictionary, was discovered in the UST Archives of the library last year.

The 17th-century dictionary was discovered by researchers Fabio Yu-Chung Lee and Jose Luis Cano Ortigosa, professors from National Tsing-Hua University and Universidad de Sevilla, respectively. The dictionary was about 400 years old, consists of 21,000 characters, and connected to the Spanish occupation of Taiwan from 1626 to 1642.

Diplomat-lawyer Antonio Molina’s book collection was turned over to UST recently.

The collection comprised of 1,000 of his books that were housed in the Molinafamily’s collection both in their homes in Madrid and in the country.
Molina, a historian, educator, lawyer, polyglot, and diplomat, produced numerous books and translations of Philippine history and law.