Christopher Columbus.

The journal of Christopher Columbus (during his first voyage, 1492-93) and documents relating the voyages of John Cabot and Gaspar Corte Real online

. (page 1 of 23)
Online LibraryChristopher ColumbusThe journal of Christopher Columbus (during his first voyage, 1492-93) and documents relating the voyages of John Cabot and Gaspar Corte Real → online text (page 1 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


TLhe Ifoaklirçt Society






A gran admiracion a gran espanto
Pensando sus grandezas me provoco
Y su mayor loor en qualquier canto
No se podrá decir escesco loco :

Pues Castilla y Leon le debe tanto
Que cuanto puedo yo decir es poço
No procuro deleites ni gasajos
Mas sufridor fue grande de trabajos.

Juan ue Castellanos, Elegia IV.




(During his First Voyage, 1492-93),







©ranulatrb, to it!) jiotre anir an SntroDurtion,








9 ■*




Clements R. Maekham, Esq., C.B., F.R.S., President.

Major-General Sir Henry Rawlinson, K.C.B., D.C.L., I.L.D., F.R.S.

Associe Etranger de L Instituí de France, Vice-President.
Lord Aberdare, G.C.B., F.R.S., late Pres. R.G.S.
S. E. B. Bouverie-Pusev, Esq.
Vice-Admiral Lindesay Brine.
Robert Brown, Esq., M.A., Ph.D.
Miller Christy, Esq.

The Right Hon. Sir Mountstuart E. Grant Duff, G.C.S.I., Pres. R.G.S.
Albert Gray, Esq.
A. P. Maudslay, Esq.
Admiral Sir E. Ommanney, C.B. , F.R.S.
E. A. Petherick, Esq.

Ernest SATOW, Esq., C.M.G. , Minister Resident in Uruguay.
S. W. Silver, Esq.
Coutts Trotter, Esq.
Prof. E. B. Tylor, D.C.L.
Captain Sir J. Sydney Webb, K.C.M.G.
Captain W. J. L. Wharton, R.X.

E. Delmar Morgan. Honorary Secretary.

f nr*0/i k


Introduction :

i. Journal of Columbus
ii. John Cabot
in. Sebastian Cabot .
iv. Gaspar Corte Real

Sailing Directions of Columbus.


Letters of Tosca-

journal of the first voyage of columbus

Documents relating to the Voyages of John Cabot
Letters Patent granted to John Cabot and his sons
Name of the ship ....

Date of sailing ....

Landfall. Legend on the map of Sebastian Cabot
Reward for John Cabot
Letter from Lorenzo Pasqualigo
First Despatch from Raimondo di Soncino .
Second Despatch from Raimondo di Soncino
Second Letters Patent granted to John Cabot
Despatch from Ambassador Puebla .
Despatch from Ambassador Ayala

Documents relating to Sebastian Cabot :
From the Decades of Peter Martyr
Ramusio. Recollection of a letter
Account by the Guest of Fracastor, in Ramusio
From Gomara .....
From Galvano .....
Venetian Intrigues. Letter from the Council of Ten









Reward to Cabot's agent

Despatch from Ambassador Contarini

Second Despatch from Contarini

Letter from the Council of Ten to Contarini

Letter from the Ragusan to Cabot

Third Despatch from Contarini

The Council of Ten to Soranzo



Documents relating to the Voyages of Gaspar Corte
Real :

Extract from Galvão ...... 229

Extract from Damian de Goes .... 230

Letter from Cantino to the Duke of Ferrara . . . 232

Letter from Pasqualigo to the Government of Venice . 235

Letter from Pasqualigo to his brothers . . . 236

Payment for the Cantino Map .... 238

Legends on the Cantino Map .... 239

Index to the Journal of Columbus . . .241

Index to the Documents relating to the Voyages of

John Cabot and Gaspar Corte Real . . 253


Sketch of the vessels in the first voyage of Columbus to face page iv
Map of Juan de la Cosa . . . . . „ xx

Map of Sebastian Cabot . . . . . xxxii

Restoration of the Toscanelli Map . . • » 3

Map of Cantino ...... 240

w ^y-fià

v 5E5E pugg 3E3E g, -^ c-.



I. — Journal of Columbus.

HE Council of the Hakluyt So-
ciety has decided upon issuing
a translation of the Journal of
the First Voyage of Columbus on
the four hundredth anniversary
of that momentous expedition. It has also been
arranged that translations of the documents relating
to the voyages of John Cabot and Gaspar Corte
Real shall be included in the same volume. Those
voyages were direct consequences of the great dis-
covery of Columbus. The Society has to thank Mr.
Harrisse, whose exhaustive works on the Cabots
and Corte Reals leave little but translation to be
done, for his kindness in giving permission for the
translation from his texts of some important docu-
ments, 1 the originals of which are difficult of access :
and also for permission to reproduce portions of the

1 Specified in their places.


Cantino and La Cosa maps from his impressions.
The thanks of the Society are also due to Mr. H.
Welter, the publisher of Mr. Harrisse's last work,
for permission to make use of the plates of the
maps of Juan de la Cosa and Cantino.

Our late Secretary, Mr. R. H. Major, by his pro-
duction of the Select Letters of Columbus (1847 ! 2n< ^
ed., 1870), brought within the reach of members of
this Society all the letters written by the Admiral
himself on the subject of his four voyages, as well
as some other original documents. There remains
for the Council to furnish the members with a trans-
lation of the Journal of the first voyage, the only one
that has been preserved, and this in a mutilated
form. Our series will then contain all the contri-
butions of the great discoverer himself, that have
escaped destruction, to the history of his mighty

It is necessary, for the proper understanding of
the Journal, that it should be preceded by the
Toscanelli correspondence, because constant allusion
is made to it by the Admiral ; the places mentioned
by Toscanelli were anxiously sought for at every
turn; and the letters of Toscanelli were practically
the sailing directions of Columbus. The famous
Florentine astronomer, Paolo Toscanelli, was looked
upon as the highest authority on cosmography and
navigation in that age. King Affonso V of Portu-
gal, through the Canon Fernam Martins, made an
application to Toscanelli for information respecting
the voyage westward to India. The astronomer


replied fully on June 25th, 1474, enclosing a map.
Soon afterwards Columbus, who was then at Lisbon,
and had long pondered over these questions, re-
solved to make a similar application to the Florentine
philosopher. He sent a letter, together with a small
globe embodying his ideas, to Toscanelli, entrusting
them to the care of an Italian named Lorenzo
Birardi, who was going to Florence. 1 The reply
was satisfactory. 2 Toscanelli sent his correspondent
a copy of his letter to Martins, and a copy of the
map, with some additional remarks. It was that
letter and that map that were destined to play so
important a part in the conduct of the first voyage.
Columbus replied, and received a second briefer but
equally cordial letter from Toscanelli. The Tos-
canelli correspondence is given in Italian in the
Vita dell Ammiraglio? and in Spanish in the History
of Las Casas. 4 Both these translations are inaccu-
rate, and several passages are inserted that are not
in the original, which was in Latin. This original
Latin text was discovered in i860, in the Colum-
bine Library at Seville, by the librarian, Don
José Maria Fernandez de Velasco. He found it
in the Admiral's own handwriting, on a fly-leaf of
one of the books which belono-ed to Columbus. 5

1 Las Casas, i, p. 92.

2 The date of the letter to Columbus is discussed in a note at
pages 3 and 4. 3 Cap. xiii.

4 Las Casas, i, 92-96. Las Casas, by mistake, calls Toscanelli
Marco Paulo, instead of Paulo, in two places.

5 The book is Historia rerum ubique gestarum, by Eneas Silvio
Piccolomini (Venice, 1477, small folio, 105 leaves).

b 2


I have translated from the Latin text, as given in
his life of Columbus by Don José Maria Asensio. 1
The Toscanelli map is lost. It was in possession of
Las Casas when he wrote his history, and that is
the last trace we have of it. But it is so minutely
described in the letter that its restoration, with help
from the globe of Martin Behaim, is not difficult.
This has been well done in Das Ausland (1867,
p. 5), and the restoration there given has been
repeated to illustrate this volume. 2

With the letter and map of Toscanelli as his
sailing directions and chart, Columbus began to
make entries in his Journal of Navigation, morning
and evening, from the day he left Palos. He gives
no special description of his three vessels, but it is
believed that sketches of them, drawn by his own
hand, have been preserved. In the Columbine
Library at Seville, in the edition of the first decade
of Peter Martyr, which belonged to the Admiral's
son Fernando, there is a map of Espanola drawn
with a pen, and showing the earliest Spanish forts
and settlements. In two places on the map there
are outline sketches of the three caravels, and in the
opinion of competent persons these sketches are by
Columbus himself. If so, they are the only authentic
representations of the first vessels that ever crossed

1 Cristobal Colon, por D. José Maria Asensio (Barcelona, 1890),
i, p. 250.

- The Ausland restoration is given by Winsor in his Narrative
and Critical History of America, ii, p. 103, and in his Columbus,
p. no.


the Atlantic. One of them has been reproduced to
illustrate this volume. 1

The Admiral diligently wrote his Journal until
the day of his return to Palos. It was forwarded to
Ferdinand and Isabella ; but it is now lost. Las
Casas had access to it when he wrote his history,
and gives a very full abstract, 2 which was condensed
by Herrera. 3 It was also used by Fernando Columbus
in the Vita dell Ammiraglio} In one place, where
the Admiral describes his proceedings in the storm,
when he threw a brief account of the voyage over-
board in a barrel, the version of Fernando is much
more full than that of Las Casas, and appears to be
copied word for word. I have noticed the differ-
ences in their place. It is probable that Bernaldez
also had access to the Journal, but made no great
use of it, 5 and Oviedo never appears to have seen it. 6

In the archives of the Duke of Infantado there
was, in the end of the last century, a small folio
volume in a parchment cover, consisting of seventy-
six leaves closely written. It is in the handwriting
of Las Casas. There is another old volume, but
somewhat later than that of Las Casas, also in folio,
and with a similar cover, consisting of 140 leaves.
These are duplicate copies of a full abstract of the

1 Asensio, i, p. 276.

2 Lib. 1, caps, xxxv to lxxv. The History by Las Casas was
printed for the first time in 1875.

3 Dec. I, Lib. 1, caps, ix to xx, and Lib. 11, caps, i to iii.

4 Cap. xxxvi.

'° Historia de los Reyes Católicos, first printed in 1856.
Historia General de las índias.


Journal of Columbus. They were carefully collated
by Don Juan Bautista Munoz, the learned cosmo-
grapher of the Indies, and by Don Martin Fernandez
Navarrete at Madrid, in February 1 791. The ab-
stract of the Journal, in the handwriting of Las
Casas, was printed by Navarrete in the first volume
of his Coleccion de los viages y descubrimientos que
hicieron p07 r mar los Espanoles, and published in
1825. The present translation is made from the
text of Navarrete. 1

The Prologue, which is in fact the covering- letter
to Ferdinand and Isabella, is piven in full. The
rest is an abstract of the entries of each day, but
there are long and frequent quotations, word for
word, which are shown by the phrases " the Admiral
says", or "these are the Admiral's words". In
more than one place Las Casas complains of the
illegible character of the handwriting of the original
document from which he is making his abstract, but
the mistakes appear to be chiefly with regard to
figures. The substitution, of leagues for miles occurs
several times ; and there are other blunders of the
same kind, due to inaccurate transcription.

The Journal, even in the mutilated condition in
which it has come down to us, is a document of

1 Sixty-six years ago a translation was made in America, at the
suggestion of Mr. Ticknor: Personal Narrative of the First Voyage
of Columbus, translated by Samuel Kettell (Boston, 1827). A
portion was also translated by Admiral Becher (12th Oct. to 28th
Oct.), for the purposes of his book, the Landfall of Columbus
(Potter, 1856).


immense value. Our sympathy and interest are ex-
cited in every page. We observe the conscientious
care with which the great discoverer recorded his pro-
ceedings, and with what intelligence he noted the
natural objects that surrounded him in the New
World. All were new to him ; but he compared
them with analogous products seen in other parts of
the world, and drew useful inferences. The fulness
of his entries was clue to the rapid working of
a vivid imagination, as one thought followed another
in rapid succession through his well-stored brain.
Even the frequent repetitions are not tedious, because
they give such life and reality to the document,
reminding - us of the anxious and overwrought hero
jotting down his thoughts whenever he could find
a spare moment amidst the press of work. It has
been said that his sole aim appeared to be the
acquisition of gold. This unfair criticism is made
in ignorance. It must be remembered that the
letter of Toscanelli was his guide ; and that the
gold, pearls, and spices were the marks by which he
was to know the provinces of the great Kaan ; so
that he was bound to make constant inquiries for
these commodities. The eagerness with which he
pushed his inquiries, and his repeated disappoint-
ments, are touching. He seeks to find the places
mentioned by his guide, by fancied resemblance of
names, as when he would identify Cipangu with
Cibao in Espanola. This search, however, only
occupied part of his thoughts. Nothing seems to
escape his observation, and he frequently regrets


his ignorance of botany, because it prevented him
from being able to report more exactly on the new
species of plants that surrounded him. But the
feature in his remarks which comes out most promi-
nently is his enthusiastic admiration of scenery, and
of the natural beauties of the strange land. The
Journal is a mirror of the man. It shows his
failings and his virtues. It records his lofty aims,
his unswerving loyalty, his deep religious feeling,
his kindliness and gratitude. It impresses us with
his knowledge and genius as a leader, with his
watchful care of his people, and with the richness of
his imagination. Few will read the Journal without
a feeling of admiration for the marvellous ability
and simple faith of the great genius whose mission
it was to reveal the mighty secret of the ages.

The Journal is the most important document in
the whole range of the history of geographical dis-
covery, because it is a record of the enterprise which
changed the whole face, not only of that history, but
of the history of mankind. Even during the four-
teen remaining years of the Admiral's life its imme-
diate result was the completed discovery of all the
West Indian islands and of the coast of the New
World from Cape San Agustin, 8° S. of the line, to
the Gulf of Honduras, either by the Admiral himself,
or by his followers and pupils.

The Admiral's achievement aroused a ieeling of
emulation in other countries. There is a direct
connection between the ideas and labours of the
illustrious Genoese and the vova^es of his country-


man John Cabot. From rather a different point of
view the undertakings of Gaspar Corte Real had its
origin in the discovery of Columbus. The work of
these two worthies, Cabot and Corte Real, therefore,
finds its proper place in the same volume with the
Journal of the Admiral.

The foot-notes in the Journal marked with N. are
by Navarrete. Interpolations by Las Casas are in

II. — John Cabot.

A remarkable fatality has deprived posterity of
any authentic record of the first English voyages to
America. Not a single scrap of writing" by John
Cabot has been preserved. The map and globe of
John Cabot no longer exist, and although a single
copy of a map by his son Sebastian has survived, it
was not prepared to illustrate his father's discoveries,
but is a compilation drawn for the Spanish Govern-
ment nearly half a century afterwards. The second-
hand information fails satisfactorily to supplement
the meagre official documents, which consist of two
Letters Patent and a few entries in the Privy Purse
Accounts of Henry VII and his son. There are two
short letters from Spanish Ambassadors, three news-
letters from Italians in London, the reports of what
Sebastian is said to have dropped in conversation
generally, written down years afterwards, the reports
of his intrigues with the Venetian Government, and


a few brief notices of doubtful authenticity in
English chronicles and collections of voyages. Even
the principal entry in the Chronicles, said to be
copied from Fabyan's work, is not to be found in
any known edition of Fabyan ; while the unfortunate
habit of our greatest authority, Richard Hakluyt, of
making verbal alterations in the documents of which
he made use, further increases our difficulties.

These are the sources of information, such as they
are, from which we must derive our knowledge of
the first English voyages to America. By a careful
use of them, and an equally careful avoidance of
conjecture and hypothesis, we can piece together all
that can now be known of the earliest important
maritime enterprises in which England was con-
cerned, and of the great navigator who conceived
and led them.

Mr. Charles Deane contributed an admirable
review of the materials forming our existing know-
ledge of the Cabot voyages to Winsor's Narrative
and Critical History of America (vol. iii, pp. 1-58),
in which he treats the various questions bearing on
the subject with sound judgment and great learning.

An exhaustive work on the Cabots, including the
original documents in their respective languages, and
valuable notes on the cartography, was published by
Mr. Harrisse, at Paris, in 1882. 1

Desimoni has published a work on the Cabots at

1 Jean et Sêbastien Cabot, lair Origine et leur Voyages, par
Henry Harrisse (Paris, 1882).


Genoa, 1 and a considerable work, also including all
the original documents, by Tarducci, has recently
appeared at Venice. 2

John Cabot was probably a Genoese 3 who, after
having resided in Venice for fifteen years, from 1461
to 1476, was admitted to the rights of citizenship in the
latter year. 4 He was married to a Venetian woman,
and had three sons, named Luigi, Sebastian, and
Saneio, all of whom must have been of age when the
Letters Patent were granted to them in 1497 ; so
that the youngest cannot have been born later than
1475. As this was within the period during which
John Cabot was qualifying for citizenship by resi-
dence at Venice, his sons must have been born there.

During the next twenty years the story of John
Cabot is an almost entire blank. The Genoese was
usually called a Venetian because he had acquired
Venetian citizenship. He became an experienced

1 C. Desimoni, Intorno a Giovanni Caboto (Genoa).

2 Di Giovanni c Sebastiano Caboto, Memorie Raccolte e Docit-
tnentate da F. Tarducci (Venezia, 1892).

3 "Another Genoese like Columbus" (Puebla, Spanish Am-
bassador, July 1498; also Ayala). "Sebastian Gaboto, a Genoa's
son" (Stow from Fabyan ; also Languet, Grafton, Holinshed).
These statements are, to a certain extent, confirmed by the fact
that John Cabot required to be naturalised in Venice, which
proves that he was not a Venetian born. On the other hand,
Tarducci puts forward arguments to establish his Venetian birth
{Di G. e S. Caboto, Memorie, cap. i).

4 " 1476, March 28th. That the privilege of citizenship, within
and without, be granted to John Caboto for having resided 15
years according to custom." {Arc/iivo di Stato Vaiezia, Libro
Privilegi, t. ii, p. 53 ; Tarducci, p. 339.)


navigator, and had commercial transactions along the
Arabian coast, even visiting Mecca, or its port, 1
where he witnessed the arrival of caravans with
spices from the distant East, and speculated on the
distance they had come, and on the difficulties of the
route. 2

When the news of the great discovery of Colum-
bus became known, John Cabot eagerly sought for
information, and was aroused to a spirit of emulation.
He went to Seville and Lisbon to seek for help in
the enterprise he contemplated 3 ; and adopted all the
ideas of his great countryman respecting Antilla and
the seven cities, the Isle of Cipango, and the king-
dom of the great Kaan. He then came to settle in
London as a merchant, 4 with his wife and three sons.
Of good address and an expert navigator, 5 John
Cabot presented himself at the Court of Henry VII

1 Soncino (see p. 204). He could not have actually visited
Mecca, as stated by Soncino, for Christians were not allowed to
approach within several leagues of that city. He may have been
at Jiddah.

2 Despatch of Raimondo di Soncino to the Duke of Milan,
dated London, iSth Dec. 1497 {Annuario sa'entifico, Milan, 1866,
p. 700; Arckiv (T Etat Milan ; Harrtsse, p. 324).

:i " Pedro de Ayala to the Catholic Sovereigns, 25 July 1498.''
In Calendar of Stale Papers (Spain), i, p. 176, No. 210.

4 The Anonymous Guest in Ranntsio, i, f. 414 (ed. Yen., 1550) :
" Nella citta di Londra." Sebastian told this witness that he was
then very young, yet old enough to have already learnt the
humanities and the sphere: "Che gli era assai giovane non gia
peroche non avesse imparato et lettere d'humanita et la sphera."'
There is no evidence that the Cabots were at Bristol previous to
the voyage in 1497.

5 Soncino, 1 8th Dec. 1497 (see p. 203).


at the right moment. The great discovery of
Columbus was being much discussed, and the
courtiers were declaring that it was a thing more
divine than human to have found that way, never
before known, of going to the east where the spices
grow. 1 In the midst of this excitement, John Cabot,
a navigator, "who had made himself very expert
and cunning in the knowledge of the circuit of the
worlde and islands of the same", was presented to the
King, and made his proposal to do for England what
Columbus had done for Spain. He would show a
new route to Cipango and the land of the great
Kaan, and would bring back his ships laden with
spices. He demonstrated his arguments by a chart,
and eventually gained the ear of the wary usurper.
Henry resolved to let the adventurer attempt the
discovery of new isles, and granted him and his sons
Letters Patent, as well as material assistance.

The Letters Patent, dated March 5th, 1496, 2 grant
to John Cabot, Citizen of Venice, and to his sons
Lewis, 3 Sebastian, and Saneio, the right to navigate
in any direction they please, under the King's flag,
and at their own costs and charges, to seek out and
discover unknown lands and islands. They were

1 Eden's Decades, f. 255; Ramusio, i, f. 415 : " Dicendosi che
era stata cosa piu tosta divina che humana" (see p. 213).

2 Old style.

3 Mr. Deane, quoting from the Armorial de la Noblesse de
Languedoc (Paris, i860, vol. ii, p. 163), mentions that Lewis Cabot
is said to have settled at Saint-Paul-le-Coste, in the Cevennes, and
that a family is traced from him to the present time. The arms
are : Azure, 3 chabots (fish) or.


authorised to become governors of the new terri-
tories, a fifth of all profits and revenues being re-
served for the King ; and merchandise coming from
the new lands was exempted from customs duties.
All British subjects were prohibited from visiting
the new lands without a licence from the Cabots, on
pain of forfeiture of ship and cargo ; and the King's
lieges were enjoined to afford all necessary assistance
to the adventurers.

John Cabot selected the port of Bristol for the
equipment of his expedition, and there he embarked
in a ship believed to have been called the Matt/ieiv?
with a crew of eighteen men, nearly all Englishmen,
and natives of Bristol. 2 His young son Sebastian,
then aged twenty-two at least, probably accompanied
him 3 ; but the other two sons are nowhere men-
tioned, except in the Letters Patent. The Matthew

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryChristopher ColumbusThe journal of Christopher Columbus (during his first voyage, 1492-93) and documents relating the voyages of John Cabot and Gaspar Corte Real → online text (page 1 of 23)