08-06-2018  (1247 lectures) Categoria: Articles

Colom's 20 letters

Columbus's First Letter - Carlos Sanz Classification - Diffusion through Europe, 1493-1497

1. Barcelona edition
15 February 1493
1 Colom 1. Barcelona edition, untitled, in folio, undated and printer unnamed. The existence of certain Catalan-influenced spellings it was from the outset presumed to be probably published in Barcelona. Some early historians assumed the printer to be Johan Rosenbach, but he has been more recently identified as probably Pere Posa of Barcelona on the basis of typographic similarity.[1] The date of the edition is estimated to be late March or early April, 1493. Only one copy from this edition has ever been found. It was discovered in 1889, in the catalog of the antiquarian dealer J. Maisonneuve in Paris, and was sold for the exorbitant price of 65,000 francs to the British collector Bernard Quaritch.[2] After publishing a facsimile edition and translation in 1893, Quaritch sold the original copy to the Lenox library, which is now part of the New York Public Library, where it remains.[3]
2. Ambrosian edition 1 Colon 2. Ambrosian edition, in quarto, date, printer name and location are unspecified. It is sometimes assumed that it was printed sometime after 1493 in Naples or somewhere in Italy, because of the frequent interpolation of the letters i and j (common in Italian, but not in Spanish); but others insisted it was printed in Spain;[4] a more recent analysis has suggested it was printed in Valladolid around 1497 by Pedro Giraldi and Miguel de Planes (the first Italian, the second Catalan, which may explain the interpolation).[5] Only one copy is known, discovered in 1856 at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. The Ambrosian letter was originally in the possession of Baron Pietro Custodi until it was deposited, along with the rest of his papers, at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in 1852 after his death.[6] After its discovery, a transcription was published in 1863, and a facsimile in 1866.[7]
3. First Roman edition 20 Colom 3. First Roman edition, De insulis indiae supra Gangem nuper inventis, undated and unnamed, but assumed printed by Stephanus Plannck in Rome (on basis of typographical similarity) probably c. May 1493. Plain text, bereft of the ornaments or stamps typical of the time, it has the appearance of being hurriedly printed, and was probably the first of the Latin editions.[8] Opening salutation hails only Ferdinand II of Aragon ("invitissimi Fernandi Hispaniarum Regis"), conspicuously neglecting Isabella I of Castile; it refers to addressee as "Raphael Sanxis" (wrong first name, surname spelled in Catalan), and to the translator as "Aliander de Cosco". It was published in quarto, four leaves (34 lines per page).
4. Second Roman edition 33 Colom 4. Second Roman edition, De insulis indi(a)e supra Gangem nuper inve(n)tis, undated and printer unnamed, assumed to be again by Stephen Plannck in Rome because of typographic similarity (identical to first edition). This is a corrected edition, presumably put out in late 1493; the salutation now refers to both Ferdinand and Isabella ("invictissimorum Fernandi et Helisabet Hispaniarum Regum"), addressee's name given as "Gabriel Sanchis" (correct first name, surname now in half-Catalan, half-Castilian spelling) and the translator as "Leander de Cosco" (rather than Aliander). It is published in quarto, four leaves (33 lines per page).[9]
5. Third Roman edition 10 Colom 5. Third Roman edition, De insulis indi(a)e supra Gangem nuper inve(n)tis by the Roman printer Franck Silber (who was known as "Eucharius Argenteus"). It is the first edition to be explicitly dated and inscribed with the printer's name: the colophon reads "Impressit Rome Eucharius Argenteus Anno dni M.cccc.xciij". It is also a corrected edition: it refers to addressee as "Gabriel Sanches" (Castilian name), the translator as "Leander de Cosco" and salutes both Ferdinand & Isabella. It is uncertain whether this Silber edition precedes or follows Plannck's second edition.[10] It is published in three unnumbered leaves, one blank (40 lines to the page).[11]
6. Antwerp edition 1 Colom 6. Antwerp edition, De insulis indi(a)e supra Gangem nuper inve(n)tis by Thierry Martins in Antwerp, 1493, directly from first Roman edition.
7.¬†First Basel edition 5 Colom 7.¬†First Basel edition,¬†De Insulis inventis. It is the only early edition missing the phrase "Indie supra Gangem" in the title, substituting instead "Insulis in mari Indico" ("islands in the Indian Sea"). Otherwise, it seems to be a reprint of the first Roman edition (hails only Ferdinand II, spells Raphael Sanxis, Aliander de Cosco). It is the first edition with illustrative¬†woodcuts ‚Äď eight of them.[12] Two of the woodcuts ("Oceana Classis" and the Indian canoe/galley) were plagiarized from earlier woodcuts for a different book.[13] This edition is undated, without printer name nor location given, but it is often assumed to have been printed in¬†Basel largely because a later edition (1494) printed in that city used the same woodcuts. Some have speculated the printer of this edition to have been Johannes Besicken[14] or Bergmann de Olpe.[15] It was published in¬†octavo, ten leaves (27 lines per page).
8. Second Basel edition 50 Colom 8. Second Basel edition,De insulis nuper in mar Indico repertis, dated and named, printed by Johann Bergmann in Basel, 21 April 1494. This is a reprint of the first Basel edition (uses four of the six woodcuts). This edition was published as an appendix to a prose drama, Historia Baetica by Carolus Verardus, a play about the 1492 conquest of Granada.[16]
9. First Paris edition 3 Colom 9. First Paris edition, Epistola de insulis repertis de novo, directly from the first Roman edition (hails only Ferdinand II, Raphael Sanxis, Aliander de Cosco). Title page has woodcut of angel appearing unto shepherds. Undated and printer unnamed, but location given as "Impressa parisius in campo gaillardi" (Champ-Gaillard in Paris, France). The printer is unnamed, but a later reprint that same year identifies him as Guyot Marchant. In quarto, four leaves (39 lines per page).
10. Second Paris edition 3 Colom 10. Second Paris edition, Epistola de insulis de novo repertis probably by Guyot Marchant of Paris. Straight reprint of first Paris edition.
11. Third Paris edition 2 Colom 11. Third Paris edition, Epistola de insulis noviter repertis. Reprint of prior Paris edition, but this one has large printer's device on the back of the title page, identifying Guyot Marchant as the printer (ergo the deduction that the two prior editions were also by him).[17]
12.¬†German translation 6 Cristoferus Colon 12.¬†German translation,¬†Ein sch√∂n h√ľbsch lesen von etlichen Inslen, translated into¬†German in¬†Strassburg, printed by Bartholomeus Kistler, dated 30 September 1497.
13. First Italian verse·edition 1 cholombo 13. First Italian verse edition, La lettera delle isole novamente trovata, First edition of the Italian verse version by Giuliano Dati, published by Eucharius Silber in Rome, and explicitly dated 15 June 1493.
14. Third Italian verse·edition 1 christofano colombo 14. Third Italian verse edition, Questa e la hystoria delle inventioe delle diese isole Cannaria in Indiane, reprint of Dati verse edition. Undated and printing location unknown.
15. Second Italian verse·edition 1 xpofano colombo 15. Second Italian verse edition, La lettera dell'isole che ha trovate novamente il re dispagna, revised verse translation by Giuliano Dati, printed in Florence by Laurentius de Morganius and Johann Petri, dated 26 October 1493.[18] It has a famous woodcut on its title page, which was later re-used for a 1505 edition of Amerigo Vespucci's Letter to Soderini.[19]
16. Fifth Italian verse edition 1 xpofano colombo 16. Fifth Italian verse edition, Isole trovate novamente per el Re di Spagna, reprint of Dati verse, undated and unnamed (post-1495), lacks title woodcut.
17. Fourth Italian verse·edition 2 xpofano colombo 17. Fourth Italian verse edition, La lettera dell'isole che ha trovata novamente el re dispagna, reprint of Dati verse, by Morganius and Petri in Florence, dated 26 October 1495.
18. First Italian fragmentmanuscript 1 colombo 18. First Italian fragment manuscript translation into Italian, held at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. The Italian translator's note claims this to be a copy of a letter written by Columbus "to certain counsellors" ("ad certi consieri") in Spain, and forwarded by "the treasurer" (i.e. Gabriel Sanchez) to his brother, "Juan Sanchez" (named in the text), a merchant in Florence.
19. Second Italian fragmentmanuscript 1 colombo 19. Second Italian fragment manuscript fragment held at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence. The Italian translator simply notes that it is a copy of the "letter that came from Spain" ("copia della letera venuta di Spagna"). There is a close connection between this Florentine fragment and the first Latin edition, suggesting one is derived from the other, or they were both using the same Spanish document.[20]
20. Third Italian fragment ·············manuscript················ 1 colombo 20. Third Italian fragment manuscript fragment held also by the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence. It contains no translator's notes about its origin or provenance.

It might be worth noting here that the first known French translation appeared in Lyon in 1559, in a volume by Charles Fontaine.[21] The first known English translation appeared in the Edinburgh Review in 1816.[22]

Manuscrit de Simancas

Martín Fernández de Navarrete va donar a conèixer el manuscrit de la carta conservat al Arxiu General de Simancas.
Viquitexts Text complet del manuscrit

A l'Arxiu General de Simancas es conserva un manuscrit que coincideix gairebé exactament amb el text de la carta publicada a Barcelona. Una de les diferències més cridaneres és que aquest document diu Guanabam a la primera illa albirades pels descobridors, mentre que la versió impresa diu Guanaham.

La lletra no és la de Colón ni porta la seva signatura. De fet, en 1818 va ser catalogat per l'arxiver Tomás González com "còpia de mà de Lluís de Santàngel" per la similaritud amb la lletra de l'escrivà de ració.

El text del manuscrit va ser publicat per primera vegada per Martín Fernández de Navarrete el 1825, transcrit en la seva Coleccion de Viages.[23] Es va demostrar que aquest document era una còpia manuscrita de la carta impresa a Barcelona[24][25] encara que Demetrio Ramos al seu estudi de 1986 pensa que es podria tractar d'un hipotètic esborrany en net lliurat a la impremta de Pere Posa.[26]

Letter to the Catholic monarchs (Libro Copiador)

The existence of this manuscript letter was unknown until it was discovered in 1985. The manuscript letter was found as part of a collection known as the Libro Copiador, a book containing manuscript copies of nine letters written by Columbus to the Catholic monarchs, with dates ranging from March 4, 1493 to October 15, 1495, copied by the hand of a writer in the late 16th century. Seven of these nine letters were previously unknown. Its discovery was announced in 1985 by an antiquarian book dealer in Tarragona. It was acquired in 1987 by the Spanish government and is currently deposited at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville.[27] A facsimile edition was published in Rumeu de Armas (1989). A transcription and English translation can be found in Zamora (1993).[28]

Although scholars have tentatively embraced the¬†Libro Copiador as probably authentic, it is still in the early stages of careful and critical scrutiny, and should be treated a bit cautiously.[29] The first letter in the copybook purports to be a copy of the original letter sent by Christopher Columbus to the Catholic Monarchs from Lisbon announcing the discovery. If authentic, it is prior to the Barcelona edition, indeed it precedes all known versions of the letter.[30] It contains significant differences from both the Spanish letter to Santangel and the Latin letter to Sanchez‚ÄĒnotably more details about Indian reports, including previously-unmentioned native names of islands (specifically: "Cuba", "Jamaica", "Boriquen" and "Caribo"), and a strange proposal to use the revenues from the Indies to launch a crusade to conquer Jerusalem. It omits some of the more economic-oriented details of the printed editions. If authentic, this letter practically solves the "Sanchez problem": it confirms that the Latin letter to Gabriel Sanchez is¬†not a translation of the letter that the Spanish codicil said Columbus sent to the Monarchs, and strongly suggests that the Sanchez letter is just a Latin translation of the letter Columbus sent to Luis de Santangel.


  1. Anar‚ÜĎ Sanz L√≥pez (1962: p. 19)
  2. Anar‚ÜĎ Winsor (1891: p. 13); Sanz Lopez (1962: p. 18)
  3. Anar‚ÜĎ The Spanish letter of Columbus to Luis de Sant' Angel, Escribano de Racion of the Kingdom of Aragon, dated 15 February 1493, fascimile with M.P. Kerney trans., 1893, London: Quaritch.¬†online
  4. Anar‚ÜĎ Harrisse, 1866: p. 26
  5. Anar‚ÜĎ Sanz (1959: p. 194)
  6. Anar‚ÜĎ Thatcher (1903:¬†p. 41)
  7. Anar‚ÜĎ The transcription of the Ambrosian letter was published by G. Daelli with a foreword by Cesare Correnti (1863:¬†pp. 63‚Äď86), followed by an Italian translation. Daelli & Corrente erroneously presumed it was addressed to Raphael Sanxis. A fascimile was published by Gerolamo d'Adda (1866:¬†pp. xxxv‚Äďxliii), with the correct identification of being a letter to Santangel.
  8. Anar‚ÜĎ Harrisse (1866: p. 10)
  9. Anar‚ÜĎ A fascimile of the second Roman (Plannck) edition is reproduced in¬†The Latin letter of Columbus: printed in 1493 and announcing the discovery of America. London: Quaritch.¬†online.
  10. Anar‚ÜĎ Harrisse (1866: p. 14) assumes Silber precedes Plannck's corrected edition.
  11. Anar‚ÜĎ For a Latin transcription (with English translation) of the third Roman (Silber) edition, see R.H. Major,¬†p. 1.
  12. Anar‚ÜĎ The eight woodcuts are 1. coat of arms of¬†Castile-Leon, 2. a vessel with the words "Oceanica classis", 3. landing on "Insula hyspana" with galley/canoe in foreground; 4. sort of map with islands named; 5. a repetition of "Oceanica classis" woodcut. 6. fort of La Navidad being constructed, finally on the tenth page (missing in some copies) 7. a full-length portrait of Ferdinand of Aragon, over the shields of Castile-Leon and¬†Granada and (in recto) 8. coat of armas of Granada. (Henry Harrisse, 1866:¬†p. 16). Some of the woodcuts are reproduced in the¬†1494 edition.
  13. Anar‚ÜĎ See Davies (1911: p. xxix).¬†Erhard Reuwich did the engravings for a 1486 edition of¬†Bernard of Breydenbach's¬†Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam, published in Mainz. The "Oceana Classis" image is copied from a woodcut showing the¬†harbor of Modone, while the indian canoe/galley is copied from the¬†harbor of Rhodes.
  14. Anar‚ÜĎ Harrisse (1866:¬†p.9, p. 13).
  15. Anar‚ÜĎ Clough, 1994:¬†p. 301)
  16. Anar‚ÜĎ M. Edney (1996, 2009) "The Columbus Letter: Concerning the Islands Recently Discovered in the Indian Sea", at the University of Southern Maine, reproduces the¬†fascimile,¬†Latin transcription and English¬†translation, of the 1494 second Basel edition.
  17. Anar‚ÜĎ The Marchant colophon is reproduced in Harrisse (1866):¬†p. 22
  18. Anar‚ÜĎ For a copy of the Dati verse, see R.H. Major, (1848:¬†p. lxxiii)
  19. Anar‚ÜĎ For a fascimile of the 1505 edition of Vespucci's letter to Soderini published by Pacini, see B. Quaritch,¬†First Four Voyages of Amerigo Vespucci (1893:¬†p. 11)
  20. Anar‚ÜĎ Jane (1930: p. 35)
  21. Anar‚ÜĎ Charles Fontaine (1559)¬†La Description des terres trouv√©es de nostre temps, avec le sommaire de plusieurs belles antiquitez, contenant une partie de l'excellence magnificence des richesses, triomphes et largesses des anciens, Lyon: Benoit Rigaud. See Harrisse (1866: p. 55).
  22. Anar‚ÜĎ Edinburgh Review, December 1816,¬†pp. 505‚Äď11. Apparently based on the Basel edition.
  23. Anar‚ÜĎ FERN√ĀNDEZ DE NAVARRETE, Mart√≠n.¬†P√†g.167. Transcripci√≥ del manuscrit de la carta de l'Arxiu de Simancas, amb llic√®ncies importants.
  24. Anar‚ÜĎ MORALES PADR√ďN, Francisco.¬†Primeras cartas sobre Am√©rica, 1990.
  25. Anar‚ÜĎ
    • SANZ L√ďPEZ, Carlos.¬†La Carta de Col√≥n: 15 febrero-14 marzo 1493. Madrid: Gr√°ficas Yag√ľes, 1962.
  26. Anar‚ÜĎ RAMOS P√ČREZ, Demetrio.¬†La carta de Col√≥n sobre el Descubrimiento. Diputaci√≥n provincial de Granada, 1983.
  27. Anar‚ÜĎ Arran M√°rquez (2006: p. 44); Diaz-Trechuelo (2006: p. 47)
  28. Anar‚ÜĎ Margarita Zamora (1993)¬†Reading Columbus, Berkeley: University of California press. Available online at UC Press E-Books collection:¬†transcription and English¬†translation (accessed February 12, 2012).
  29. Anar‚ÜĎ Zamora (1993), Henige (1994)
  30. Anar‚ÜĎ Davidson (1997: p. 197)

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