Exploring the New World

Columbus, Christopher. De insulis nuper in mari Indico repertis. In Historia Baetica. [Basel]: I[ohann] B[ergmann, de Olpe], 1494.

On display is a printed copy of a letter written by Christopher Columbus upon his return from the New World. After landing in Lisbon in March 1493, Columbus sent a letter describing his discoveries to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. In the letter, Columbus describes the geography and people of the islands that he believed were in the "Indian Sea."

The letter was first published in Barcelona and immediately went into multiple editions, becoming one of Europe's earliest "bestsellers." Eleven editions were published in 1493 alone. Of all the copies that were disseminated throughout Europe, only eighty copies from the seventeen editions published survive today. No manuscript versions of the letter are extant.

The edition on display, entitled De insulis nuper in mari Indico repertis, was published on April 21, 1494. It contains the same woodcuts as the first illustrated edition of the letter, printed in Basel the year before. Unlike any other edition of Columbus's letter, this edition was published together with another text, Historia Baetica, a prose drama by Carolus Verardus celebrating Ferdinand and Isabella’s reconquest of Granada in 1492.

A translation is available at:

Fracanzano da Montalboddo. Cum priuilegio. Paesi nouamenti retrouati. Et Nouo Mondo da Alberico Vesputio Florentino intitulato. Vicenza: La impensa de M[a]g[ist]ro Henrico Vicentino, 1507.

Though there is some dispute about this book's authorship, it is generally attributed to Fracanzano da Montalboddo, who was a professor of belles-lettres at Vicenza near Venice. This rare first edition, written in the Venetian vernacular, is one of the earliest printed collections of travel accounts. The work recounts the voyages of many explorers including Amerigo Vespucci, Christopher Columbus, and Vasco da Gama.

White, John. Americæ pars, nunc Virginia dicta. [Frankfurt am Main]: Theodore de Bry, [1590]. First issue.

White, John. Americæ pars, nunc Virginia dicta. [Frankfurt am Main]: Theodore de Bry, [1590]. Second issue.

[Wytfliet, Cornelius.] Norumbega et Virginia. N.p.: n.p., 1597.

Wytfliet, Cornelius. Descriptionis Ptolemaicæ avgmentvm. Louvain: Tijpis Iohannis Bogardi, 1597.

Brereton, John. A Briefe and True Relation of the Discouerie of the North Part of Virginia; Being a Most Pleasant, Fruitfull and Commodious Soile: Made This Present Yeere 1602, by Captaine Bartholowmew Gosnold, Captaine Bartholowmew Gilbert, and Diuers Other Gentlemen Their Associats London: George Bishop, 1602.

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