450 years of history bound into an easy read

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St. Augustine’s 450 years of history can now be purchased in a 255-page hardbound book.

Developed out of the 450th Commemoration Department Office, “A Story of Unbroken History & Enduring Spirit” is a limited-edition book that honors St. Augustine’s 450 years of history.

The commemorative book is authored by Michael Francis, a professor of history at the University of South Florida and a charter member of the St. Augustine 450th Federal Commission appointed by former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and President Barack Obama.

Francis worked with Glenn Hastings, photographer and executive director of the Tourist Development Council, to produce content and images.

The development of the book took about two years, said Dana Ste. Claire, director of the 450th Commemoration Department.

“Packing four and a half centuries of history in one volume was a huge challenge. Dr. Michael Francis accomplished this very well,” Ste. Claire said. “He used much of his current research to write an up-to-date profile of St. Augustine’s history and what makes us unique as the nation’s oldest city and the site of the very founding of America. Glenn Hastings’ spectacular images bring this powerful story to life.”

Francis said he traveled to Spanish countries searching through archives and other research institutes to get all the information he could about St. Augustine.

He consulted prior researchers and current ones like archaeologists Carl Halbirt and Kathy Deagan. When he was finished, Francis said it was probably one of the most satisfying projects he’s ever done.

A Story of Unbroken History & Enduring Spirit By J. Michael Francis
A Story of Unbroken History & Enduring Spirit By J. Michael Francis

“On one level, it’s a local story about this remarkable place, but it’s also a story much more than a local story,” Francis said. “It’s a regional story, transatlantic story that includes Native Americans, Africans and eventually Americans.”

Hastings said in capturing photos for the commemorative publication, he traveled to Amelia Island, Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach, Savannah and other places to give St. Augustine’s history more context.

“We wanted to make sure it was not just a history book, but it’s also where you can experience history in St. Augustine today,” Hastings said.

“A Story of Unbroken History & Enduring Spirit” is geared toward residents as well as visitors.

“Our research has shown a lot of people are confused about our history, so this becomes an orientation point for them,” Hastings said.

The publication’s editorial board was made up of members of the 450th Commemoration office, which partnered with publisher Editions du Signe, of France, to produce the book.

The company specializes in commemorative editions and was represented by Rolf Herzbach, who managed the publication from beginning to end.

Ste. Claire said the publishing company absorbed all costs of development and publication, which included the author’s fee.

The commemoration department has purchased the books at a wholesale price for resale and distribution.

It is available for purchase at the Visitor Information Center gift store for $50.

“The book will become a lasting legacy of the 450th Commemoration, a publication that will make its way into libraries around the world and remind readers that the very genesis of America took place here in St. Augustine in 1565,” Ste. Claire said. “The book will also reflect the enduring spirit of how we got here (to 450 years) and the cultural diversity of who we were then in 1565 and whowe are today as a community. It is the story of America.”

Francis said his hope is that the commemorative book will get visitors asking more questions about the intricate history of St. Augustine.

“I hope those people go on to read the incredible corpus of works published about St. Augustine,” Francis said.