Post-classical history

Notes on Selected Sources and Commentary

AS A COMPANION to the full bibliography, these notes provide guidance on selected sources and a few elaborating comments. I have focused here on primary sources related to the main exploration figures. The bulk of transcribed and translated documents and extracts from the standard early histories related to Columbus (including works by Barros, Herrera, Las Casas, Martire, and Oviedo, as well as extracts from the Fernando Columbus biography) can be found in Thacher’s Christopher Columbus (Vols. 1–2) and in Vignaud’s Historie Critique. See also Bernáldez’s Historia de los Reyes Católicos. As I have identified these early historians in the text and the sources are well known to scholars, I have mainly reserved these notes for specific documentary evidence where Thacher and Vignaud are concerned. For general historical material, consult the bibliography. I have referred to documents in the volumes of Repertorium Columbianumand Williamson’s Cabot Voyages by item number. Although I have listed the better-known and more recent Williamson volume as the source for documents, most were published earlier by Biggar in The Precursors of Jacques Cartier, and Biggar’s effort was superior in including transcriptions as well as English translations. Harrisse’s works can also be relied on for original transcriptions of documents.

In citing sources here, I have listed only the author’s or editor’s last name unless there is more than one work credited to that person in the bibliography, in which case I have also provided an abbreviated title. See the bibliography for full citations. The Nader volume ofRepertorium Columbianum (Vol. 2) was particularly useful for its contextual essays on the Columbus enterprise.

The Las Casas abstract of the 1492–93 Columbus log or journal has been widely translated into English; I have relied on “Diary: Christopher Columbus” by B. W. Ife. For the succeeding Columbus voyages, I turned to the translation of the Navarrete version of the Las Casas abstracts in Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 2. Quotations from the journal of Jerome Münzer are translations by me from Münzer, Jérôme Münzer, the French translation by Tarayre of the original Latin manuscript.


For Sanudo, see “Praise of the City of Venice, 1493,” in Chambers and Pullan. For an analysis of dialects in Cabot’s signatures and its implications for his origins and for a discussion of his citizenship, see Giuffrida. Ayala’s letter is item 37 in Williamson. Martire categorized Columbus as a Ligurian in the First Decade of his History of the New World and more specifically as a Genoese in the seventh book of the Second Decade. See Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1, Part I. The 1504 libretto of Trevisan is item 14 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. Documentary evidence for Columbus’s Genoese origins is well covered by Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1, Part III, and is summarized by Lyon. The controversy over Columbus’s origins, while neverending, was addressed well in 1939 by Nowell. Gallo’s 1506 recollection is item 10 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. The Tafur quote is from Tafur. For my discussion of the Assereto document and Columbus’s relationship to the di Negros and Gaspar de Spinola, including the solution to the tale of Columbus and the 1476 attack on the Flanders Galleys, I am indebted to Louis-André Vigneras’ unpublished papers edited by Jeffrey Reed, which are in his private possession. The Fernando Columbus account of the sea battle is translated by Thacher in Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1, 216–217.


For a discussion of early Portuguese voyages in the Atlantic, see Gutiérrez, “Una antinomia protorrenacentista,” and Diffie and Winius. For the Sanudo comment, see “Praise of the City of Venice, 1493,” in Chambers and Pullan. Columbus’s marriage into the Perestrello-Moniz family is explored by Thacher in Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1. See Gaio for genealogy. For details of Cabot’s membership and acceptance in San Giovanni Evangelista and the character of this Scuola Grande, see Giuffrida as well as McGregor. For a discussion of the Flanders Galleys, see Sanudo’s “Praise of the City of Venice, 1493,” in Chambers and Pullan, and Ruddock, Italian Merchants and Shipping in Southampton, 22–27. Cabot’s property records are item 11 in Williamson. For Cabot’s identification as apellizer, the possible range of his trading activities, his purchase and sale of a slave, and the community of mariners associated with San Giovanni Evangelista and Cabot’s properties, see Giuffrida. The Tafur quote is from Tafur. Nicolò de’ Conti is discussed by Breazeale. For Venetian patents, see Kostylo.


For Pietro Martire’s discussion of Sebastian Cabot in his third Decades, see Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1, Part I. The testimony of Sebastian Cabot is item 25.4 in Phillips, RC Vol. 8. Toscanelli’s letter is discussed in Thacher,Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1. For an explanation of India Sinus, India Magna, and India Parva-Ethyopis, see Nader, 19. Gallo’s commentary is item 10 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. For Ptolemy’s geography, see Berggren and Jones. Note that Ptolemy didn’t explicitly advocate degrees of latitude. Rather, he divided the Earth into horizontal zones called climates, which reflected the lengths of the day in daylight hours. However, degrees of latitude were naturally applied to cartography along the general Ptolemaic scheme and were described as an elevation above the equinoctial, or equator. The geographic distances of the Toscanelli scheme as interpreted by Columbus are discussed by Phillips, 6. The possibility that Febo Capella could have been the conduit through which Toscanelli’s ideas reached Cabot’s Venice is proposed by Giuffrida. Gallo’s discussion of Bartolomé Columbus is item 10 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. The evolution of navigation science is thoroughly explored by Waters.


For a discussion of early Portuguese voyages in the Atlantic, see Porro Gutiérrez, and Diffie and Winius. Note that João de Barros is our sole source on the existence of the Portuguese sun-sight junta, as discussed by Vignaud (Histoire Critique, Vol. 2, 433, n25). Vignaud cautioned that it is uncertain whether the junta ever existed, with the members cited by Portuguese authors. Nevertheless, Vignaud felt it was certain that the king submitted to learned and competent cosmographers the questions bearing on voyages of discovery the Portuguese were then undertaking. Geraldini’s recollections are item 17.5 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. The testimony of the physician Fernández is item 19.5 in Phillips. The Trevisan recollection is item 14 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. Columbus’s 1500 letter to Juana de La Torre is Chapter 94 in Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 2. The testimony of Rodríguez Cabezudo is item 7.2 in Phillips. Note that despite long-standing claims that Columbus was allied with Enrique de Guzmán, second duke of Medina-Sidonia (who died in 1492), Fundacíon Casa Medina-Sidonia notes there isn’t a single document among millions preserved in its archive indicating a formal relationship. Regarding Columbus’s initial contact with Isabel, in the 1492–93 voyage journal, Columbus on January 14, 1493, states how “I came to serve you, now seven years ago on 20 January this present month.” January 20, 1486 could have been the date his formal voyage proposal was first made to Isabel. For Cabot’s flight from Venetian creditors and their biographies, see Tiepolo as well as Giuffrida. Giuffrida notes the important role of Marin Mocenigo in Venetian trade with England. Fabri’s description of Venetian prisons is in Chambers and Pullan, 97–98. Documentation of Cabot’s sojourn in Valencia is item 12 in Williamson.


Geraldini’s recollections are item 17.5 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. For the letters of Martire, see Part I (“Peter Martyr”) of Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1. See Phillips for the testimony of Vélez (22.3), Maldonado de Talavera (11.2), and González (7.3). Columbus’s recollection of the fall of Granada is in Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1, 435. Giuffrida speculates that the hide trade may have drawn Cabot to Valencia. For Genoese merchant activity in Valencia, see Igual Luis and Navarro Espinach. Documentation of Cabot’s harbor project in Valencia is item 12 in Williamson.


Columbus’s initial connections to Berardi and Riveroli are mentioned by Nader, 215, n40. The presence of Berardi in Seville from 1486 to 1495 is noted by Otte, 191; see also Otte for a discussion of the Genoese merchant community in Seville, 184–89. For the financing and conquest of the Canary Islands, see Fernández Armesto, “La financiación de la conquista;” Rumeu de Armas, Alonso de Lugo; and Suárez Acosta et al. Cuneo’s letter of 1495 is item 7 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. For the life and loves of Beatriz de Bobadilla, see Rumeu de Armas, “Los amorios de doña Beatriz de Bobadilla.” For the history of Valencia’s harbor, including Antoni Joan’s pier (and photographs of its foundations), see Autoridad Portuaria de Valencia. For Cabot’s Venetian creditors, see Tiepolo. For the Spanish correspondence regarding Cabot’s harbor proposal, see item 12 in Williamson and Albardaner i Llorens.


For the letters of Martire, see Part I (“Peter Martyr”) of Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1. For the Arawakan people, see León-Portilla. Toscanelli’s letter is discussed in Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1. For Marco Polo’s travels, see Polo. For the men of the Columbus flotilla, see Gould. Historic trade between the Arawaks and Maya is noted by León-Portilla. See Phillips for the testimonies of the mariner Fernández (18.1), Vélez (22.3), and the physician Fernández (19.5).


See Phillips for the testimonies of Pérez Pinzón (19.12) and Medel (22.11). Comments about Charles VIII by the Florentine and Venetian envoys are in Lemonnier, 13. For the orders to Torres to begin the Valencia harbor construction, see Albardaner i Llorens. English translations of Columbus’s letters to his monarchs and Santángel can be read online at King’s College, London, “Early Modern Spain.” See also Columbus, “Letter from Columbus to Luis de Santángel,” as well as Part VI of Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 2. For Columbus’s letter to João II on his return from the Caribbean, see the Las Casas abstract of his journal as translated by Ife. Columbus’s 1500 letter to Juana de La Torre is Chapter 94 in Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 2. A copy of the March 9, 1493, letter by Annibale De Zennaro (Hanibal Ianuaris) made by Giacomo Trotti is item 1 in Symcox, RC Vol. 10. See Phillips for the testimonies of Pérez Mateos (23.1) and Arias (22.2).


For the March 30, 1493, letter from Fernando and Isabel to Columbus, see Nader, RC Vol. 2, 70. For the denouement of Cabot’s Valencia harbor project, see Albardaner i Llorens, and item 12 in Williamson. For the records of Cabot’s employment on the Seville bridge project, see the translation of and commentary on Juan Gil’s findings by Birden and Jones. The March 1496 letter by Fernando and Isabel to their ambassador Puebla is item 16 in Williamson but has been retranslated for me by Janet Ritch. See notes for Chapter 17 for details. Note that Harrisse in Jean et Sébastien Cabot gives his name as “Ruy Gonzáles de Puebla”; Williamson calls him “Gonsalez de Puebla.” I have followed the example of Bergenroth. The letter by the Milanese ambassador Raimundo di Raimundis (aka Raimondo de Raimondi de Soncino, among other variants) is item 24 in Williamson. The Scillacio letter relating the experiences of Coma is item 6 in Symcox,RC Vol. 12.


The papal bulls of 1493 are discussed and translated most authoritatively in Symcox, RC Vol. 10. See also Chapter 2.3 in Nader. Cuneo’s account of the 1493 voyage is part of his 1495 letter, item 7 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. For the relationship between the Arawaks and Caribs and the later discussion of Arawak culture and settlements, see León-Portilla. Nicolò de’Conti’s experiences on his Indies travels, as reported by Poggio Bracciolini, are translated in Major. Dr. Chanca’s account is Chapter 77 in Thacher, Christopher Columbus,Vol. 2. The Scillacio letter relating the experiences of Coma is item 6 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. The testimony of Martín is item 22.10 in Phillips.


An English translation of Columbus’s letter to Santángel can be read online at King’s College, London, “Early Modern Spain.” See also Part VI in Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 2. Isabel’s September 5, 1493, letter to Columbus is in Nader, 92. Fernando and Isabel’s August 16, 1494, letter to Columbus is in Nader, RC Vol. 2, 99. For the Treaty of Tordesillas, see the translation at the Avalon Project. For the letters of Martire, see Part I (“Peter Martyr”) of Thacher,Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1. For the statement of the notary Perez de Luna, see Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 2, 327–32. For Martire’s writings in Decades, see Part I, Chapter 7 of Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1. The Columbus letter of November 20, 1493, was authenticated in 1978. See Columbus, “Columbus Manuscript.” For the mentions of Antilla in association with Columbus in contemporary documents, see Vigneras, Discovery of South America, 3–4. The Strozzi letter is item 13 in Symcox, RC Vol. 10. Its original Italian reads “sono segnate ditte isole più de .XLIII. gradi .XXVI. in gradi .XXXI. sotto l’Equinotio; per aviso.” The RC translation renders this as: “these islands extend more than forty-three degrees, [from] twenty-six degrees north to thirty-one degrees below the Equator, according to report.” The editors observe: “This report clearly does not make sense. It represents deliberate misinformation to keep the actual location of the newly found islands secret.” Yet the Strozzi letter does make some sense, if the translation is reconsidered. The key verb is segnare, which means to mark or place. The letter is concerned with where the islands have been located, cartographically speaking, not with where they “extend.” The fact that 26 and 31 do not add up to 43 indicates that Strozzi was writing not about a north-south span in latitude but rather a westward measure of longitude. “More than 43 degrees” is as good as a perfect result for the span between São Vicente in the Cape Verdes and the eastern edge of Española. The Martire letter of December 29, 1494, which conveys similar figures in latitude and longitude, supports this interpretation of the Strozzi letter. Columbus’s eclipse results in his Book of Prophecies are recorded by Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 2, 631, n2. Cuneo related the abbot’s rejection of the idea Cuba was mainland in his letter of 1495, item 7 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. Gallo’s 1506 recollection is item 10 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12.


For the comitres of Triana and the local community, see Vigneras, Discovery of South America, 33, 36, 41, 84, 86. For Seville’s role in the mid-Atlantic trade, see Igual Luis and Navarro Espinach. Rodríguez de la Mesquita’s maintenance contract for the Puente de Barca is reported by Vigneras, Discovery of South America, 86. For the records of Cabot’s employment on the Seville bridge project, see Birden and Jones. For the career of Martin Behaim and his plans with Münzer for a westward voyage, see Vignaud, Histoire Critique, Vol. 2, “Sixième Étude: Le projet de Behaim et celui de Mûntzer. Leurs rapports avec le grand dessein de Colomb”; Morris; von Murr; Ghillany; and Görz. For letters written by and pertaining to Behaim, the most complete transcriptions (in German) appear in Ghillany. For Huerter and the first few generations of his Portuguese descendants, see Arquivo dos Açores, Vol. 1, 152–156. Regarding the friendship between Behaim and Columbus, Herrera in his Historia general de los hechos de los Castellanos en las islas i tierra firme del mar oceano (Decad I, Book. I, Ch. II.) stated: “Martin de Bohemia . . . su amigo . . . gran cosmographo.” Cited by Vignaud,Histoire Critique, Vol. 2, 436. The first Decad of Historia general was published in 1601. While Herrera had access to court documents as Felipe II’s official chronicler of Castile and the Indies, as Vignaud notes, it’s not clear how he formed his conviction that the two men were friends. The text suggests the information originated with Columbus.


For a transcription of the Dulmo-Estreito patents in their original Portuguese, see Arquivo dos Açores, Vol. 4, 440–446; for the award of Terceira to Jacome de Bruges, see ibid., 207; for documentation with respect to the Corte-Reals on Terceira, see the overview in ibid. beginning on page 157. For the claims that Corte-Real and Martins had discovered Terra do Bacalhau, see Diffie and Winius. For the larger story and genealogy of the Corte-Real family, see Harrisse, Les Corte-Real. For the explorations of Barcelos and Fernandes and the Bristol patent that succeeded Cabot’s, see source notes for Chapter 24. For the Toscanelli letter, see Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1. For sources on Behaim and Münzer, including letters, see the publications listed for Chapter 12. For the Behaim Globe, see also Görz and Holst. Behaim’s letter to João II survived as a partial draft in Latin in the papers of Hartmann Schedel and as a Portuguese transcription discovered in the library of Munich. The two versions were collated in a French translation by Vignaud inHistoire Critique, Vol. 2, from which I have made the English translation; see “Pièces Justicatives,” No. 25. Regarding the curious “Grulanda” of Münzer’s letter, there seems to be an almost mischievous coincidence: One of the five families whose crests appear on the Nürnberg globe as evidence of their support for the project was that of Nicolas Groland.


Cuneo’s account is part of his 1495 letter, item 7 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12. The travails of La Isabella are well summarized by Nader. The records of Cabot’s employment in Seville are covered by Birden and Jones. Regarding the identity of “Luis Méndez Portocarrero,” according to the database of the Fundacíon Casa Ducal de Medinaceli, Luis Méndez de Haro y Sotomayor married Pedro Portocarrero’s daughter Beatriz at an unknown date. It would not have been unusual for him to append the name of his wife’s noble family to his own. See also the Fundación’s database for information on the other Spanish nobles mentioned. The decree appointing Alfonso Enríquez admiral of Castile is item 48 in Nader. For the Cisneros petition, see Pescador. Juan Gil proposed a petition date coincident with Cabot’s time in Seville (see Birden and Jones), but it may have dated to 1497 when the monarchs were passing through Zamora. The letter of December 3, 1494, mentioning the return of Buyl is cited by Gould, 307. For the letters of Martire, see Part I (“Peter Martyr”) of Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1.


Ayala’s letter to his sovereigns is item 37 in Williamson. My appreciation to Conrad Heidenreich for securing a fresh translation of the March 11, 1494, Behaim letter (transcribed in Ghillany).It has been long proposed that the letter indicated Behaim was sent to Burgundy by João II to secure the support of other monarchs for his plan to have his illegitimate son (and sole offspring), Jorge de Lencastre, succeed him. But this is a serious misinterpretation, as the letter never mentions João II or Jorge. The oft-stated idea that the “king here in Flanders” employing Behaim was João II is impossible, not only because João II was in Portugal but also because his only male offspring, the illegitimate Jorge, could not be “the king’s son” in the Burgundian Netherlands, as is also routinely stated. Jorge was only twelve years old and never left João II’s court in Portugal. The “young King from England” has illogically been identified as Henry VII, who was neither young (he was thirty-seven) nor living with the King of the Romans, Maximilian I. Behaim clearly was referring to the pretender Perkin Warbeck, who was being sheltered by Maximilian I. The Raimundis letter to the Duke of Milan is item 24 in Williamson.


For Columbus’s April 1493 letter, see the sources in Chapter 8. For the friar Pané’s account, see Pané. Cuneo’s letter of 1495 is our main account of the roundup of slaves on Española and also provides his account of his female slave; see item 7 in Symcox, RC Vol. 12.News of the arrival of the Torres flotilla on April 12, 1495, is noted by Gould, 308, n1. The new permissions for the Indies of April 10, 1495 are item 12 in Nader. The status and nature of Spanish “subjects” and “citizens” are discussed by Nader, 201, n4, 5. For the surge of Italian merchants into Spanish citizenship, see Otte, 186. See also research by Juan Manuel Bello León compiled in Extranjeros en Castilla (1474–1501), 1994, cited by Asociación Cultural Cristóbal Colón. Bear in mind that the Asociación champions the theories of Gabriel Verd Martorell, which dispute the Genoese origin of Columbus. The Berardi flotillas, including the Sosa flotilla, are discussed by Gould, 309–317. For the Canary Islands conquest, see the sources in Chapter 6. For the Genoese domination of Canary Islands sugar plantations, see Suárez Acosta et al., 62.


The Flanders Galley disaster and the correspondence of the doge Barbarigo are found in Brown. The Milanese ambassador’s remarks about Henry VII’s attitude to France is in Hinds. Lemonnier makes the point (p. 30) that Henry VII seemed to go to war to extort money from his subjects and made peace to obtain it from his enemies. The many uses of saffron are noted by Brown in his introduction. The Venetian ambassador Marcantonio Contarini’s senate report on Sebastian Cabot and the recollection by the “Mantuan Gentleman” in Ramusio are items 57 and 58 in Williamson.

Regarding the connections between Cabot and the men involved with the Bragadina and the Flanders Galleys crisis in general, one of them is found in the run-down property Cabot acquired in San Giacomo dell’Orio in 1482. Cabot purchased it from a guardian of “Donna Marieta, daughter of the late Messer Pasqual Bragadin.” (Williamson, item 11.) So the property was from the Bragadin (Bragadino) family. In 1495, Piero Bragadin, captain of the Bragadina, was dining aboard ship in Southampton when the French pirates struck and carried him away. Cabot also had joined the Scuola Grande of San Giovanni Evangelista in the same year as the ship’s carpenter Zuan de Zorzi, who may have been from the Zorzi de Zuan family of shipbuilders. The merchant ship that was with theBragadina in Southampton Water was the Zorza, owned by the noble Hieronimo Zorzi and his brothers. Also, the Pasqualiga, the ship tasked by the Venetian senate in 1497 to provide haul-back service for Venetian merchants from England, belonged to the Pasqualigo family; Lorenzo Pasqualigo wrote home from London with news of Cabot’s exploration success on August 23, 1497. Lorenzo Pasqualigo’s uncle and father were members like Cabot of the Scuola Grande of San Giovanni Evangelista. Giuffrida turned up the connection between Cabot and the Pasqualigo family via their scuole membership but did not connect Lorenzo Pasqualigo with the vessel Pasqualiga.

Regarding the March 1496 letter of Fernando and Isabel to the ambassador Puebla, the standard translation by Biggar, first published in The Precursors of Jacques Cartier (1911) and reproduced in Williamson, is in error. Biggar rendered the critical sentence: “In regard to what you say of the arrival there of one like Colon for the purpose of inducing the king of England to enter upon another undertaking like that of the Indies, without prejudice to Spain or to Portugal, if he [the king] aids him as he has us, the Indies will be well rid of the man” (my italics). Biggar thus has the Indies becoming rid of Cabot, not the “one from the Indies” (lo de las Yndias) being at liberty. Janet Ritch undertook this fresh translation for me. She informed me that “there is no justification for assuming that that the Indies will be well rid of Cabot,” as the Biggar translation put it. Her version is more in line with the effort by Beasley, whose abstract in John and Sebastian Cabot(1898) said the final words meant, “He is quite at liberty.” But Beasley sidestepped the problem of lo de las Yndias altogether simply by using the pronoun “he.” An abstract had previously been included by Bergenroth, but it also omitted the “one from the Indies.” An alternate interpretation would be to read it as calling Cabot “the one of the Indies [scheme],” thus avoiding the issue of Cabot’s physical presence in the Indies. But that requires injecting a word that is not there. It also leaves the problem of accounting for Cabot’s whereabouts for some fourteen months that dovetail with the second Columbus voyage, and further denies us an explanation for why the correspondent of the Milanese ambassador in 1497 described Cabot as having experience in discovering new islands. Another option, of reading lo as a pronoun referring back to the Spanish affair or enterprise of the Indies, is problematic on two fronts. I cannot make sense of the resulting sentence, and the writer should have used the subject pronoun el, which he had in fact already done in his mention of “another affair like that of [or “the one of”] the Indies,” el de las Yndias. I have also considered the possibility that there was either a flaw in the trancscription or a botch by Alvarez of his dictated instructions, as lo de in modern Spanish at least means “about,” and y lo de “what about.” The passage could have been intended to convey something radically different: “If King Henry aids Cabot, then like us, what aspect of the Indies will be free from interference?” But as this is a rather free interpretation, I have not chosen it as the ultimate solution. The character of Alvarez is discussed by Martz, 106.


Evan Jones of Bristol University suggested to me that Cabot’s Italian origins might have given him a cachet of Renaissance sophistication at the court of Henry VII. Regarding the Count of Penamacor and the links of his children to Columbus, the count’s eldest son, Afonso Garcia de Albuquerque, married Leonor de Perestrelo, an in-law of Columbus. An adopted son, Diego Mendéz de Segura, would testify in the Columbus suits that he had been “in the royal camp and in the city of Grenada” when Columbus secured his 1492 capitulation and had also been at Barcelona in 1493 when Columbus returned from the first voyage, “and saw that he brought some Indians and great samples of gold” (Phillips, item 24.5). Mendéz would sail on the fourth Columbus voyage as secretary of the flotilla and write an account of it. He would also serve as alguacil mayor (assistant mayor) of Santo Domingo. The Latin original of the Cabot patent is transcribed in Biggar’sPrecursors of Jacques Cartier (appendix IV), along with an English translation. An English translation only is item 18 in Williamson. Puebla’s character, the origins of his ambassadorship, his attempt to arrange a marriage between James IV and Fernando’s illegitimate daughter, and his feud with Ayala, are covered by Bergenroth in his introduction. For Columbus’s capitulations, see Nader. For the papal bulls, see Symcox, RC Vol. 10. For a transcription of the Dulmo-Estreito patents, see Arquivo dos Açores, Vol. 4, 440–446. Regarding possible licensing of Cabot’s rights to silent partners or backers, Evan Jones made this crucial point in his 2006 paper, “The Matthew of Bristol.” As a poor man, Cabot effectively would have “secured the support of his financiers by mortgaging his future. In Cabot’s case, such a mortgage could have taken the form of a deed or charter in which he assigned a share of his rights to his financiers. By doing this, Cabot would not have been doing anything particularly novel, since rights granted through letters patent were often, not only assigned, but treated as negotiable assets.” While Jones had no evidence of a specific license, he noted such licenses were assigned in the case of the 1501 and 1502 royal exploration patents to Bristol interests (ibid., 781–782).


For an overview of contemporary banking practices, see de Roover. See also Ruddock, Italian Merchants and Shipping, for a portrait of Italian merchant and financial activity in London and Southampton. For Raimundis’s observation of Henry VII’s reliance on Florentine advisors, see Hinds. Alwyn Ruddock claimed in her Exeter Press chapter outline that she knew of an actual loan document and of a letter written by Cabot’s Italian bankers relating his 1497 voyage results on August 10, 1497, which should be taken seriously. In a note to an editor at Exeter Press, she alluded to two managing partners in an Italian bank off Lombard Street. Ruddock never revealed the identity of these bankers in the outline or in the surviving notes. (See Jones, “Alwyn Ruddock.”) But in September 2010, Evan Jones discovered in additional notes in Ruddock’s former home evidence that she had linked Cabot through Giovanni Antonio de Carbonariis to the Florentine House of Bardi. In October 2010, Francesco Guidi Bruscoli of the Cabot Project located the House of Bardi ledgers in Italy that contained a record of Cabot as a client. Jones shared the basic news of the discovery with me and has allowed me to identify the House of Bardi, prior to the Cabot Project publishing its complete findings. I am also indebted to Jones for encouraging me to consider whether “Bardi” and “Berardi” were one and the same family.

The spelling of Vespucci as Bespuche is noted by Gould, 316. Francesco Bardi’s appearance in Seville records is noted by Otte, 191. For Berardi’s dying rant against Columbus, see Fernández-Armesto, “God Bless Amerigo.” Regarding Carbonariis, he was already known incidentally to Cabot scholars from his participation in the 1498 Cabot voyage, but Ruddock left behind a series of statements and clues that greatly expanded his role in the Cabot enterprise. Jones’s paper “Alwyn Ruddock” summarizes what could be determined about Carbonariis following the discovery of Ruddock’s book outline and notes at Exeter Press and provides far more detail. For my discussion of the nature of “Brasil,” I am indebted to the unpublished papers of Louis-André Vigneras compiled by Jeffrey Reed. Vigneras in particular points out the equivalence of Terceira with Brasil. For the early English experience of Iceland and possible knowledge of the sagas, I have relied on the Bjorn Portsteinsson letters and manuscript in the Quinn papers at the Library of Congress (Box 80, “Iceland, 1967–1969”) as well as Portsteinsson’s “Henry VIII and Iceland.” For the Salazar account of the island of Brasil, see Sharrer and see Jones and Sharrer. For the account of Henry VII’s 1486 visit to Bristol, see Leland and Hearne, 199–202. For Bristol’s condition in 1490, see Adams, 76–77. For the fishery treaties between England and Iceland, see Jones, “England’s Icelandic Fishery,” 106. Regarding the idea of a “secret fishery,” David B. Quinn proposed Bristol mariners found “Brasil” between 1481 and 1491 but kept the news to themselves so they could exploit its cod without competition. Ruddock (and others) dismissed it. Ruddock supported what might be called the “lost-discovery” theory put forward by Vigneras, stating: “the land found had been lost again, and that there was no permanent contact between Bristol and whatever had been discovered across the Atlantic before 1497” (Ruddock, “John Day of Bristol,” 231). In a 1988 letter to Quinn, Ruddock advised: “I take the line that the Bristol discovery was pre-1470 but lost again until Cabot made landfall in 1497.” See Jones, “The Quinn Papers.”


The status of the Flanders Galleys service in 1496 is ambiguous in Brown. Ruddock in Italian Merchants is firm that the galley service was suspended for two years following the 1495 attack. A striking omission of her Cabot book outline for Exeter Press is any mention of the suspended Flanders Galleys service. Vigneras notes Columbus’s presence at the wedding at Burgos in Discovery of South America, 3. Columbus’s confirmation of his capitulations in 1497 is in Nader, Chapter 3.5. For Maurice Toby’s account in the Bristol Chronicle, see Williamson, item 19. For the documentary finds regarding William Weston, see Jones, “Henry VII and the Bristol Expeditions.” For Weston’s background, see Peacock. For the Raimundis account of Cabot’s 1497 voyage, see Williamson, item 24. Note that Toby’s account in the Bristol Chronicle is the source of the local tradition that Cabot’s landfall was June 24, 1497. The details of the “black king” of the Canaries are discussed at length by Rumeu de Armas in Alonso de Lugo.


For the accounts of events in England from the Venetian and Milanese perspectives, see Brown and Hinds. The king’s household books payment to Cabot of August 10–11, 1497, is item 26 in Williamson. For the rebuff of the Cornish rebels by Bristol, see Ricart, 48–49. The report by an unknown correspondent to the Duke of Milan on Cabot’s voyage is item 23 in Williamson.


For Andrea Trevisan’s comments on England and the character of its people, as expressed in his Relazione of 1498, see Sneyd. Note that at the time of Sneyd’s translation, its author was unknown. The Contarini establishment in London wher nowe one peter Conteryn dwellith was described in the parish record of St. Mary at Hill. See “An Isolated Inventory of the Furniture of a House in 1485,” in Littlehales. The Pasqualigo letter describing Cabot’s voyage is the standard Biggar translation that is item 22 in Williamson, which gives Cabot’s name as “Talbot.” But the translation is from the Sanudo diaries, where the name is “Calbot”; I have corrected it accordingly. The account of the Cornwall mob’s butchering of the proctor of Penrynis from the Kingsford’s “Chronicles,” is item 123 in Pollard. The confession of Perkin Warbeck, also from the Kingsford’s “Chronicles,” is item 124 in Pollard. Nicolò de’ Conti is discussed by Breazeale; the account of his travels is in Major. For the Raimundis account of his encounter with Cabot, see Williamson, item 24. Note that Raimundis’s observation of the plentitude of fish has caused historians to overestimate the importance of Cabot’s discovery to the English fishery. Despite the promised replacement of the Icelandic fishery, the English were slow to exploit the Grand Banks fishery, leaving it largely to the French, the Portuguese, and the Basques. Ludovico Sforza’s letter to Agostino Spinola is in Hinds. For Varthema’s clandestine visit to Mecca, see Jones and Badger. For Fabri’s travels, see Murray and see Prescott. Columbus’s 1500 letter to Juana de La Torre is Chapter 94 in Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 2. The journeys of Barbaro and Contarini appear in Thomas. Reliable information about Covilham is scant. The most thorough summary is the entry “Covilham (Covilhão, Covilhã), Pero or Pedro de” in Vol. 7 of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911. Santo Stefano’s journey is recounted in Major.


Vigneras published a brief account of his 1955 discovery of the “John Day” letter in 1956 (“New Light”). His further research on the mysterious Day turned up the 1499 suit at Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Vigneras never published this additional material; I was apprised of it through the Vigneras papers provided to me by Jeffrey Reed. Vigneras did not provide biographical material on the Spanish figures mentioned. For “Batista Negron” I have used Igual Luis and Navarro Espinach, the Fundación Casa Ducal de Medinaceli, and Vigneras’s Discovery of South America. Pinelo and the Dorias and their connections to Columbus’s financiers can be found in Nader as well as in Gould. For the English merchant community at Seville, see Otte. Vigneras’s translation of the letter is item 25 in Williamson. Vigneras’s Spanish transcription of the Day letter is in his 1961 paper “État présent des études sur Jean Cabot.”

Alwyn Ruddock made the breakthrough find that “John Day” was an alias of Hugh Say, in 1966 (“John Day of Bristol”). Much of the Say biography presented here, including the quotation from his will, derives from that article. Ruddock performed more research on Say, which turned up his family’s connections to the Warbeck insurrection, none of which was ever published. I have provisionally accepted some of her undocumented findings, as revealed in a February 9, 1992, letter to David B. Quinn (see Jones, “The Quinn Papers”).

Regarding the disputed “cape” at which Cabot made his landfall, a world map from about 1544 printed in Antwerp places the landfall on Cape Breton and attributes it wrongly to 1494 and also to both John and Sebastian Cabot. Although a 1549 second edition of the map printed in London is explicitly accredited to Sebastian Cabot, it’s not certain the map was Sebastian’s work or that he thought the 1497 landfall was in Cape Breton. Sebastian was otherwise remiss in the extreme for failing to give his father any credit of discovery.

With respect to the unknown Indigenous peoples Cabot seems to have glimpsed but not met, and who created the artifacts he reportedly brought back, archaeologists identify the “Little Passage” people as coastal inhabitants of Newfoundland from around A.D. 850 to 1500; the Beothuk were their descendants. Marshall (Chapter 2) notes that the Labrador Innu and the Beothuk probably were not only culturally similar, but genetically related as well. Marshall discusses population figures in Chapter 3 and the timing of the annual salmon run in Chapter 4.

Regarding Columbus’s latitude fix errors, on his 1498 voyage, according to Las Casas, Columbus placed Trinidad at 6° north, which is too low by 4 degrees. He also mentioned in the same voyage account that Espanola was at 24° north, when its north coast is actually at 20° north. The errors seem genuine, although it’s possible that when the letter was printed for public consumption, deliberate mistakes were inserted to obscure Spanish discoveries.

The disputed origins of the name “Labrador” is beyond the scope of this work, but the basis for it being the result of Portuguese exploration relies on the 1506 deposition by Pero de Barcelos in which he asserts having explored for three years with his fellow Terceiran João Fernandes Lavrador. But “Lavrador” was probably a description of Fernandes’s occupation—farmer or small landowner—as he is thought to be the Johan Fernandez named in the October 1499 letters patent from Manoel I. “Labrador” first appears in cartography on the world map at the Biblioteca Oliveriana de Pesaro, which is thought to date to 1508 to 1510. The “Mappamondo di Pesaro” contains the labels Cavo Laboradore and Insula Laboradore.

For the documents on the 1480–81 search for Brasil out of Bristol, see Williamson, items 6 and 7. See also Ryan. Vigneras addresses these voyages as well as the notions of Brasil in his unpublished papers, which may substantially reflect his work La búsqueda del paraiso y las legendarias islas del Atlántico, published by Casa-Museo de Colón, Seminario de Historia de América de la Universidad de Valladolid, 1976.

For the 1480–81 Trinity voyage to Andalusia, see Reddaway and Ruddock. Vigneras discusses the Andalusia voyage in his unpublished papers and makes the point that this Trinity could not have been the same Trinity that searched for Brasil in 1481. Note that the 1480–81 visit to La Rábida by the Trinity could explain how the Fernando Columbus biography managed to attribute to Christopher Columbus a voyage to Iceland and 100 leagues beyond it in 1477. It is a controversial aspect of a troubled book, and has been used by some historians to advocate secret Columbus knowledge of Norse passages to the New World. Ruddock demolished the notion that Columbus ever visited Iceland in “Columbus and Iceland,” suggesting the Trinity visit to Andalusia of 1480–81 as a source of Bristol-based knowledge that found its way imperfectly into the Fernando Columbus biography.


For the payment of Cabot’s pension, see items 27 to 29 in Williamson. The award to William Weston was discovered by Evan Jones and Margaret Condon in 2009 and has not yet been published. For the renewal of Cabot’s patent, see item 35 in Williamson. For the king’s household payments to Thirkill, Bradley, and Cair, see item 26 in Williamson. Evan Jones has communicated to me the discovery of a document (which has not yet been published) indicating the initiation of legal proceedings against Launcelot Thirkill and Thomas Bradley in June 1500 for nonpayment of a loan the king had advanced them in 1498 for going to the “new isle.” The Great Chronicle of London account of the 1498 voyage is item 31 in Williamson. For the Spanish diplomatic correspondence, see Bergenroth.The translation of Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis is from Vigneras’s unpublished papers, as is the translation of the Barcelos evidence. For the documentation of these Portuguese voyage plans to the northwest, see “A Terra do Labrador,” Arquivo dos Açores, Vol. 12, 353–368. See also Biggar for transcriptions and translations. Agostino Spinola’s June 1498 letter to the Duke of Milan is item 36 in Williamson. Ayala’s letter of July 1498 is item 37.


Puebla’s letter of July 25, 1498 (the year is missing, but it is unquestionably from 1498), is transcribed (in Spanish) by Harrisse as item XII in Jean et Sébastien Cabot. The letter was transcribed by Bergenroth in the course of preparingCalendar of State Papers, Spain,but was omitted from the print edition. Harrisse received a copy from an official at the Public Record Office. Beasley mentioned the letter in his volume on the Cabots, but it was overlooked by Biggar in compiling The Precursors of Jacques Cartier and consequently was also missed by Williamson, who relied particularly on Biggar for The Cabot Voyages. My thanks to Janet Ritch for undertaking the English translation. Ayala’s letter of the same date is item 37 in Williamson. The Great Chronicle of London mention of Cabot’s 1498 voyage is item 31 in Williamson. Vergil’s account is item 33 in Williamson. Columbus’s letter to Fernando and Isabel is in Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. 2, 399.


The accounts of the per verba de prœsenti marriage of Catherine and Arthur and the correspondence involving the Spanish envoys, are in Bergenroth. Note that following Arthur’s death in 1502, his widow Catherine became the first wife of his brother, the future Henry VIII. Pietro Pasqualigo’s letter regarding the 1501 voyage of Gaspar Corte-Real is item 38 in Williamson. Note that João Fernandes, Francisco Fernandes, and João Gonsalves teamed up with three Bristol merchants, Richard Warde, Thomas Asshurst, and John Thomas, to secure a letters patent from Henry VII on March 19, 1501. See item 42 in Williamson. Transcriptions and translations of documents relating to Portuguese expeditions that followed Cabot’s are in Biggar. Regarding the return of at least some of the ships from Cabot’s 1498 flotilla, as well as Cabot himself, Evan Jones of the Cabot Project informed me in late 2009: “We’ve got a number of documents that support [Alwyn] Ruddock’s claims about the return of Cabot’s 1498 voyage. In particular, we have the initiation of legal proceedings against Launcelot Thirkill and Thomas Bradley in June 1500 for nonpayment of a loan the king had advanced them in 1498 for going to the ‘new isle.’ And we have documents that seem to put John Cabot, mentioned by name, back in London by May 1500.” These findings have not yet been published. See Hunter, “Rewriting History.” For Henry VII’s stay of proceedings against William Weston, see Jones, “Henry VII and the Bristol Expeditions.” Stevenson’s monograph on the 1502 Caneiro map provides a good contextual overview of the La Cosa map and other early sixteenth-century maps. Harrisse covers well the sources of sixteenth-century historians on the Cabot voyages in the syllabus of John Cabot, the Discoverer of North America, and Sebastian His Son. Fernando and Isabel’s orders to Hojeda are in Vigneras, Discovery of South America.


Alwyn Ruddock’s unpublished theories on the 1498 Cabot voyage are covered by Jones in “Alwyn Ruddock.” Williamson commented on True’s interest in Carbonariis on page 93 (n5). For Beasley’s discussion of “loans” to Thirkill and Bradley, see Beasley, 102–03 and 271–72. For fresh evidence of the king’s loans to Thirkill and Bradley, see the sources for Chapters 24 and 26. For new research on Esterfeld and Foster, see Peacock. For the Esterfeld suit against Weston, see Jones, “Henry VII and the Bristol Expeditions.” For Foster’s will, see Jones, “Will of John Foster.” Morris speculated about the final years of Behaim on 46–47.

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