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of the first
page of the folio edition of the Spanish text of Columbus's letter
to Luis de Santangel, dated February 15, 1493. From the original
(unique) in New York Public Library.
Columbus's Letter on the First Voyage to the New World was written by Christopher Columbus on February
15, 1493, on board the caravel Niña at sea with a postscript written on March 14 when he
arrived back into port at Lisbon, Portugal.
The open letter to
Monarchs described his discoveries and unexpected items he came
Letter to Luis de
Columbus departing on a voyage. Colored engraving 16th
The first letter of February 15, 1493, was addressed to the
Escribano De Racion, Luis de
Santangel, finance minister to Ferdinand II and the high
steward or comptroller of the king's household expenditures.
He had been the one who made the case to Isabella I in favor of Columbus's voyage
eight months earlier.
Monarchs were swayed by Santangel's arguments to back
Columbus's project. Queen
Isabella and King Ferdinand first heard of Columbus's successful
undertaking from the lips of Santangel.
Columbus then sailed to Palos de la Frontera on March 15,
1493. The earliest Spanish news that Columbus had arrived in Lisbon
and found all that he went to seek is evidenced by a letter of Luis
de la Cerda y de la Vega, Duke of Medinaceli, of March 19,
Columbus's Letter on the First Voyage was placed into the hands
of a printer by Luis de Santangel to be widely circulated
Columbus's letter was printed at Barcelona as early as April 1, 1493, soon
after Ferdinand and Isabella had received the news.
A surviving Italian letter about Columbus' arrival was written by
Hannibal Zenaro to his brother at Milan on April 9, 1493.
Columbus didn't arrive at the port of Barcelona until mid
to Raphael Sanchez
Columbus wrote an almost identical letter March 14, 1493, to
Raphael Sanchez, the treasurer of Aragon.
It is sometimes described as the letter "to Gabriel Sanxi" or "to
Raphael Sanchez (d. 1505) was one of the three influential New
Christians that Luis de Santangel got help from to finance
Columbus' first voyage.
He was the high treasurer of the Kingdom of Aragon. Sanchez was of
the family of conversos
who traced their origins back to a Jew named Alazar Goluff of Saragossa.
One of Columbus's crew members was Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, a surgeon, who was a
relative of Raphael Sanchez.
History records that the inquisitor Pedro de Arbues was
murdered. The three brothers of Raphael Sanchez (a.k.a. Gabriel
Sanchez) - Juan, Alfonso, and Guillen - were accused of this murder
or at least participated in a conspiracy to eliminate the
Juan managed to escape but was condemned to death in effigy. Alfonso managed to flee
Aragon before the Inquisition could lay hands on him. Alfonso
was also accused of being a Marrano.
Guillen was allowed by the Inquisition to repent. Sanchez's
father-in-law who was also implicated was less fortunate than
Guillen. He was charged with Judaizing and sentenced to death. Sanchez
was also accused of having participated in the conspiracy, however
it could not ultimately be proved. Had it been proven the
Inquisition would have tarred him as a heretic. He continued to have the support of
Columbus regarded Sanchez as one of his staunchest supporters
like Santangel since he also had a hand in the voyage's
Sanchez's letter of Columbus' "discovery" of the first voyage to
the New World was reproduced by Sanchez and a copy was forwarded to
his brother Juan in Florence. Juan passed it on to his cousin
Leander de Cosco (a Marrano) who translated it into Latin and had
it published by April 29, 1493. It was then distributed throughout
Rome in May.
Within a year, the Latin translation ran through nine editions,
thus spreading the news of the New World throughout Europe.
Alexander VI issued the bull Inter caetera May 4 and extracts
were taken on the subject from Columbus's letter.
Columbus had sent a letter to the Pope as soon as he arrived in Castile to
prevent the Portuguese from attempting to claim the results of his
voyage. The papal bull
granted control to Spain of every island Columbus had encountered.
An imaginary line, called the "Line of Demarcation", was drawn in
the ocean about 300 miles west of the Cape Verde
Islands. All previously unknown land west of the line not
belonging to a Christian sovereign was declared to belong to Spain,
but the bull did not mention Portugal or its lands. This resulted
in an immediate conflict. A resolution was reached in 1494 when the
sovereigns of Spain and Portugal signed the Treaty
of Tordesillas, which moved the Line of Demarcation about 1,000
miles west of the Cape Verde Islands.
In its Latin version, Columbus's Letter on the First Voyage was
so popular that it went through three printings. The Roman printing
was followed by printings in Paris, Antwerp, Basel, and Florence before the end of 1493.
It was from the Latin version that the rest of Europe was given the knowledge of Columbus's new
Giuliano Dati published in Rome a poetical paraphrase of Columbus's
letter in June 1493, which is reprinted in Major's Select
Letters of Columbus.
Columbus's Letter on the First Voyage is the first eyewitness
report to become a best seller.
In Italy Columbus's letter was known as Epistola. Between
1493 and 1500 approximately 3,000 copies of his letter were
published throughout Europe, over half this amount came from Italy
Columbus's Letter on the First Voyage usually refers to one of
the 1493 printed editions of a letter from his first voyage
announcing his "discovery" of the New World. A traditional view
holds that Columbus wrote three letters:
- one addressed to Luis de Santangel, keeper of accounts of
Aragon, dated February 15, 1493
- another almost identical letter sent to Gabriel Sanchez,
treasurer of Aragon, dated March 14, 1493.
- an individual letter addressed specifically to Ferdinand and Isabella, of which no copy
has survived today.
Recent thinking on the subject is that all three letters were
derived from a single manuscript sent to Ferdinand and Isabella,
from which copies were then made and endorsed to several court
of first voyage
The New York Public Library
||The journal that
Columbus kept of his first voyage to the New World and presented to
Ferdinand and Isabella upon his return to Spain has not survived in
its original form. The journal is known to us today only in the
abridgement of Bartolome de las
Casas, a partly quoted and partly summarized version of the
original. The following are scholarly transcriptions and
translations of this document.
- Columbus, Christopher, The Diario of Christopher Columbus's
First Voyage to America, 1492-1493, abstracted by Fray Bartolome de
las Casas, Oliver Dunn and James E. Kelley, Jr., trs. (Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1989). HAN 89-4493.
- Columbus, Christopher, The Journal of Christopher Columbus,
Cecil Jane, tr. (L.A. Vigneras, reviser and annotator) (London: The
Hakluyt Society, 1960). HAN 1960.
- Columbus, Christopher, Journal of the First Voyage of
Christopher Columbus, B.W. Ife, ed./tr. (Westminster, England: Aris
& Phillips, Ltd., 1990). HAN 91-5853.
- Columbus, Christopher, The Log of Christopher Columbus, Robert
H. Fuson, tr. (Camden, ME: International Marine Publishing Co.,
1987). HAN 88-288.
- Columbus, Christopher, Select Documents Illustrating the Four
Voyages of Columbus, Including Those Contained in R.H. Major's
Select Letters of Christopher Columbus (Reprint: Hakluyt Society,
Works, Second Series) (Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint,
1967). JFL 75-29 / 2nd Series, nos. 65 & 70.
- Henige, David, In Search of Columbus: The Sources for the First
Voyage (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1991). HAN
- ^ a
Anzovin, p. 109, item #2282. The first letter containing a
description of America was written by the explorer Christopher
Columbus. On March 14, 1493, having docked in Lisbon at the end of
his first voyage to the New World, he dispatched two letters of
identical content, one to Raphael Sanchez and the other to Luis de
Santangel, describing his encounters and discoveries.
- ^ a
Morison, p. 376
- ^ a
Document No. AJ-063, p. 271-272
- ^ a
"CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS' VOYAGE
OF DISCOVERY: JEWISH AND NEW CHRISTIAN ELEMENTS". http://www.saudades.org/ccolumbusvoyage.html. Retrieved
A History of the Inquisition of Spain, by Henry Charles
Lea, 1906, MacMillan , New York. Santangel was referred to as
george de Santangel "Ferdand's financial secretary, who advanced to
Isabella the 16,000 or 17,000 ducats to enable Columbus to discover
the New World was penanced July 17, 1491. He still continued in the
Royal service but he must have been condemned for, after his death,
about 1500, Ferdinand kindly made over his confiscated property to
his children...", and that he was the cousin of another Luis de
Santangel "who had been knighted by Juan II for services in the war
with Catalonia, was beheaded and burnt..."
- ^ a
Morison, p. 375
- ^ a
Document No. AJ-063, p. 261
- ^ a
Morison, p. 367
- ^ a
Columbus". http://www.ems.kcl.ac.uk/content/etext/e022.html. Retrieved
- ^ "Destination: The New
World". http://www.myjewishlearning.com/history_community/Medieval/TheStory6321666/Expulsion/DestinationNewWorld.htm. Retrieved
- ^ "Judaic Treasures of the
Library of Congress: Columbus Sets Sail". http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/loc/loc12a.html. Retrieved
- ^ "MSN Encarta Encyclopedia
Article - Christopher Columbus". Archived from the original on
2009-10-31. http://www.webcitation.org/5kwRBtLlz. Retrieved
- ^ a
Anzovin, p. 294, item #4453. First eyewitnessness report to
become a best seller was a letter Christopher Columbus wrote to the
monarchs of Spain in March 1493, describing his voyage across the
Atlantic, from which he had just returned. By April 1, the letter
had been printed and distributed throughout Barcelona. By April 29,
this letter, or another written at about the same time (to Luis de
Santangel) was circulating in a Latin translation in Rome, where it
was so popular that it went through three editions. Before the year
was out, printed copies had been published in Paris, Antwerp,
Basel, and Florence.
- ^ Document No. AJ-063,
Major, Richard Henry, Select Letters of Christopher
Columbus by Christopher Columbus, Hakluyt Society 1847,
original at University of Michigan.
- ^ Discovering Christopher
Columbus: How History is Invented By Kathy Pelta, p.
25. http://books.google.com/books?id=syQdCfbj5DkC&pg=PA25&dq=%22Best+seller%22+columbus+first+letter+voyage&sig=W99l9TboWYPitHpqqkR1vvA0qnU. Retrieved
- ^ a
The European Outthrust
and Encounter: The First Phase C.1400-c.1700; p.
298-299. http://books.google.com/books?id=Dg-8ZOeBqcYC&pg=PA298&dq=%22Best+seller%22+columbus+first+letter+voyage&sig=EYDJ0iZrWbV3htfj9AfbyTZRsaM. Retrieved
- ^ a
"Christopher Columbus and
Early European Exploration - Primary Documentation". http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/grd/resguides/columbus/primary.html. Retrieved
- Dunn, Oliver, and James E. Kelley, Jr., eds. and trans.
"The Diario" of Christopher Columbus's First Voyage to
America, 1492-1493, Abstracted by Fray Bartolome de las Casas,
Norman, OK, 1989.
- Jane, Cecil, ed. and trans. Select Documents Illustrating
the Four Voyages of Columbus. 2 volumes, London, 1930,
- Varela, Consuelo, ed. Cristobal Colon: Los cuatro viajes,
testamento. Madrid, 1986.
- West, Delno C., and August Kling, eds. and trans. The
"Libro de las profecias" of Christopher Columbus. Gainesville,
- Columbus, Christopher, The Letter of Columbus on His
Discovery of the New World (Los Angeles: USC Fine Arts Press,
1989). HAN 89-21486.
- Major, Richard Henry, The Bibliography of the First Letter
of Christopher Columbus Describing His Discovery of the New
World (London: Ellis & White, 1872).
- Morison, Samuel Eliot, A New and Fresh English Translation
of the Letter of Columbus Announcing the Discovery of America
by (Madrid: Graficas Yagues, 1959).
- Columbo, Cristoforo, The Spanish Letter of Columbus to Luis
de Sant' Angel, Escribano de Racion of the Kingdom of Aragon, Dated
15 February 1493 (London: G. Norman and Son, Printers,
The following concerning Columbus's letter are at the New York
public library with a special permit required to view.
- Columbus, Christopher; The Columbus papers : the
Barcelona letter of 1493. A facsimile edition of the unique
copy in the New York Public Library / introduced by Mauricio
Obregón and with a new English translation by Lucia Graves ;
illustrated with maps of the period and with two original etchings
by Juan Antonio Roda. Call number JFE 97-6152
- Columbus, Christopher; La prima lettera di Cristoforo
Colombo annunziante la scoperta dell'America., Letter to
Sanchez. (Latin.). 1493, Rome: Plannck, "Ferdinand" (repr. 1932),
Call number KB 1493 (Columbus, C. Prima lettera di Cristoforo
Colombo annunziante la scoperta dell'America)
- Columbus, Christopher; The letter of Columbus to Luis de
Santangel concerning his voyage to the Indies, Call number KP
(Windsor) (Columbus, C. Letter of Columbus to Luis de Santangel)
- Columbus, Christopher; Letter of Columbus to Luis de
Santangel, dated 15 February 1493. [Valladolid: Pedro Giraldi and
Miguel de Planes, ca. 1497], Call number KB 1497 (Columbus, C.
Letter of Columbus to Luis de Santangel)
- Columbus, Christopher; Select letters of Christopher
Columbus : with other original documents, relating to his four
voyages to the New world - translated and edited by R. H.
Major, Call number HAN (1870) (Columbus, C. Select letters of
- Columbus, Christopher; Letters of Christopher Columbus,
describing his first voyage to the Western Hemisphere together with
the chapter in Bernaldez said to give the original Spanish version
of the same. Texts and translations. Call number ZH-659
- Columbus, Christopher; Personal narrative of the first
voyage of Columbus to America. From a manuscript recently
discovered in Spain. Tr. from the Spanish, Call number HAN
(1827) (Columbus, C. Journal (English). 1827. Personal narrative of
the first voyage)
- Columbus, Christopher; Letter of Columbus to Luis de
Santangel, dated 15 February 1493, Letter to Santangel.
(Spanish). 1493 folio., Call number KB+ 1493 (Columbus, C. [Letter
of Columbus to Luis de Santangel, dated 15 February 1493)