Christoforo Columbus, de insulis inventis, 1493


The first printed text to discuss the arrival of the Europeans to the Americas is the letter Columbus sent to King Ferdinand and members of his court. The original manuscript letters are lost, but the text appeared in print only months later in Barcelona, Rome, Basel, Antwerp and Paris. In the letter, Columbus describes how he encountered a series of islands he believes to be on the edge of the Indian Ocean in Asia, close to mainland China. Of the nine editions to appear in 1493, five are held at the JCB. The Basel edition was the first one to include images. In line with Columbus’s ideas, many of the illustrations refer to earlier examples of travels to the East, depicting Asian characters and Mediterranean ships.

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