Colón and his Projects in Contemporary Sources

An overview of the Biblioteca Hernandina in fourteen documents

HERNANDO, HUMANISM AND BOOK COLLECTION *

DOCUMENT Nº 1

Letter from Clenardus to Hernando, Salamanca, 14 May 1533.
Source: Alphonse Roersch. Correspondance de Nicolas Clénard. 3 vols. in 1. Bruxelles: Palais des Académies, 1940.

“Quid enim alia dicam de illa bibliotheca, quam aliquot iam annos, tot tantisque exantlatis laboribus moliris? Sane sumptu magnificentiaque mirum in modum spectandae sunt aedes istae tuae Hispalenses; at multo magis librorum thesauris commendandae, quo inde proferre liceat, quicquid usque scriptorum exortum est. Quas diuitias literatasque opes, ut undique uel et penitissimis angulis erueres, iam semel atque iterum, dulci relict patria, uniuersam ferme Europam perlustrasti: nullo neque pecuniarum dispendio, neque viarum periculo deterritus.”
(Roersch, 1940, vol. I, p. 27)”

What else can I say about the famous library which, for a very long time now, you have been putting together with so much labour and persistence? Truly, your Sevillian house is, for its splendour and magnificence, truly remarkable, but it is made even more admirable by the treasures of its library, where one can find all the volumes produced by authors up until our own days. To find all these abundant riches, to gather them from everywhere, from the most recondite corners, twice already, you have abandoned your sweet homeland, and have wandered about most of Europe without being deterred by expenses, or the dangers of the road.

“Novissime uero, cum iam uniuersa peragrata Germania me quoque peregrinationis comitem sumpsisses, quam subinde capitalibus molestiis fueris afflictus, ipse locupletissimus sum testis: ut, nisi infractum aduersus omnia mala Deus animum dedisset, sustinere nullo pacto potuisses. Sed, sine controuersia, in fatis esse auguror, ut tua industria partam habeat Hispalis omnium seculorum bibliothecam celeberrimam.”
(Roersch, 1940, vol. I, p. 27)

And most recently, after having travelled all around Germany, you chose me as your fellow traveller, I was the best-informed witness of the immense difficulties you faced; to the point that, if God had not given you a character resistant to all trials, you could have never faced them. But without any doubt, I can foresee that Fate has willed it that, thanks to your endeavour, Seville has been bestowed with the most famous library that has ever yet existed.

“Bene vale, uir ornatissime, et bibliothecam istam, librorum supellectile, quod strenue facis, in dies magis cumulare perge.”
(Roersch, 1940, vol. I, p. 28)

Farewell, then, most eminent man. Do persist each day to expand, as you so courageously do, your treasury of books, your famous library.

DOCUMENT Nº 2

Clenardus’ ‘Letter to the Christians’ concerning the teaching of Arabic and the organization of a crusade against Muhammad’ (ca. 1540-41)

“Sub id tempus uersabatur in Brabantia D. Fernandus Colon, cuius parenti Christophoro debemus repertas Indias. Sit pax et requies utriusque manibus: nam anno superiore defunctus est Hispali Fernandus; qui, ut plerique nostis, Europam uniuersam hac gratia peragrauit ut quas haberet opes memorabili ciupiam consecraret parandae bibliothecae. Eam contemplatus sum nuper Hispali, omne genus libri refertissimam.”
(Roersch, 1940, vol. I, p. 218)

In those days, Don Hernando Colón lived in Brabant, to whose father Cristóbal we owe the discovery of the Indies. May peace and repose be in both their hands, for Hernando also died in Seville last year. Hernando, as almost everybody knows, travelled all over Europe, with the aim of devoting all his fortune to the creation of a famous library. I have recently seen it in Seville, all full of books of all types.

DOCUMENT Nº 3

From the Memorial by Juan Pérez
Source Juan Guillén. Hernando Colón. Humanismo y bibliofilia. Sevilla: Fundación José Manuel Lara, 2004 p. 250

“Tuvo también don Hernando, mi señor, […] muy grande deseo de allegar muchos libros y aun todos los que se pudiese hallar como lo puso por obra, y allegó y puso en su librería todos los más que hasta su tiempo se imprimieron, y dejó renta para que siempre se comprasen los que demás se hallasen. Este deseo que tuvo tan intenso, fue y es digno de grande admiración, y de él resulta y siempre se seguirá provecho incomparable, aunque muchos inconsiderablemente se han engañado, no advirtiéndolo, pareciéndoles que sería mejor que estos dineros y tiempo, que en esta tan santa obra empleó, lo empleara en cetrería o en otros ejercicios de caballeros.”

My lord don Hernando also had a very grand desire to collect many books, even all that could be found as he set about it, and he collected and included in his library most of those that had been printed until his own times, and he left rent so that any other that would be found could always be bought. This keen desire of his was and is so worthy of admiration, and from it there sprung (and will continue to spring) peerless benefits, although many have deceived themselves, either by ignoring it, or by thinking that these moneys and all this time would have been better bestowed, rather than in this holy endeavour, in falconry or any other occupation worthy of a gentleman […]

DOCUMENT Nº 4

Marcos Felipe’s Declaración
(Marcos Felipe was the executor of Hernando’s will)
Source, Tomás Marín Martínez, “Estudio introductorio”, in Tomás Marín Martínez, José Manuel Ruiz Asencio, & Klaus Wagner. Catálogo concordado de la Biblioteca de Hernando Colón. Madrid: Mapfre y Cabildo de la Catedral de Sevilla, vol. I (1993), pp. 19-352, pp. 314-15.

“… don Hernando, por la capacidad y viveza de su alto y encumbrado ingenio emprendió cosas grandes y de mucha alteza e majestad entre las cuales la una no menos principal que las otras fue querer juntar todos los libros de todas las lenguas y facultades que por la christiandad y fuera della se pudiesen hallar, lo cual aunque se lea haberse hecho por algunos príncipes, al presente no hay quien lo haya intentado y los que en algún tiempo lo hicieron fue de los libros que viviendo hallaron; pero él no solamente juntó los que en su tiempo con mucho trabajo y largo espacio y crecida costa halló, pero dexó dado orden como perpetuamente se buscasen y juntasen los que después dél de nuevo se hiciesen y que después ansí juntos los tales libros, dellos se sacasen inestimables provechos, hasta hoy por otro no pensados”

Don Hernando, because of the capaciousness and vivacity of his elevated and lofty wit, took up great things and things of high import and majesty, among which not the least important in comparison with the rest was his will to gather all the books from all the languages and subjects that in Christendom and out of Christendom could be found, which although one can read that this has been achieved by certain princes, to this day there is [in fact] no one that has attempted it, and those who ever did try, collected books that they found while they were alive; but he [Hernando] did not just collect those that he found in his own lifetime with great effort as well as high cost over a long period, but he also gave orders that those that would be printed and published anew after him should be perpetually sought out and collected, and that after such books had been collected, great benefit could be extracted from them, a scheme until today never devised by anyone.

DOCUMENT Nº 5

Pedro Mexía. Silva de Varia Lección [Sevilla: Domenico de Robertis, 1540], Tercera Parte, Cap. III, “De la primera libería que hubo en el mundo, dónde fue, y de otras librerías que ha habido muy señaladas. Y cómo se ponían las imágenes y figuras de los excelentes hombres en letras en ella antiguamente” (ed. Isaías Lerner, Madrid: Castalia, 2003, pp. 549-554).

“Entre las cuales [bibliotecas] no es de olvidar el cuidado y provisión con que, sin ser hombre de grandes rentas ni estado, sino por ser varón docto y de varia lección, con mediano patrimonio tuvo don Hernando Colón […] de juntar y hacer librería en esta ciudad de Sevilla, para lo cual, él por su persona, anduvo todo lo más de la cristiandad buscando y juntando libros de todas las facultades; y juntó y dejó aquí más de 20.000 volúmenes de libros, y tenía propósito de buscar todos los más que pudiesen ser habidos; lo cual, atajado por la muerte, no pudo cumplir. Pero dejó situada tal cantidad de renta que basta para sustentar y guardar los que están juntos, si se pone en efecto lo que dejó ordenado.”

Among which [libraries] we must not forget the care and prevision which Don Hernando Colón —not being a man of great rents of estate, but because he was a learned and variously read man with a middling patrimony— […] collected to create a library in this city of Seville, and for which he personally travelled about most of Christendom in search of volumes of books, with the intention of searching for as many as could be possibly had; which, hindered by death, he could not fulfill.  But he left to this effect such an amount of rent as was enough to sustain and keep those that have already been collected, if the orders he left are actually put into effect.

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HERNANDO THE COSMOGRAPHER AND CARTOGRAPHER *

DOCUMENT Nº 6

On 6 October 1526, from Granada (where he was spending his honeymoon after his marriage to Isabel de Portugal in the Reales Alcázares of Seville), Charles V enjoins Hernando to undertake a master navigation chart to be deposited at the Casa de Contratación
Source: Archivo General de Indias, Indif. 421, vol. XI, f. 234r; quoted in Juan Gil, ed. El libro de Marco Polo. Las Apostillas a la Historia Natural de Plinio el Viejo. Madrid: Alianza, Universidad de Sevilla & Sociedad Quinto Centenario, 1992, pp. xiv-xv.

“El rey. Por cuanto yo he seído informado que, por la variedad que ay en los mapamundis y cartas de navegar, así en el sitio de las islas y tierras como en la grandeza y derrota d’ellas, se an siguido y siguen muchos dampnos, peligros y inconvenientes, espeçialmente a las personas que tratan y navegan en las mares de las nuestras Indias y tierra firme del mar Oçéano, y queriendo proveer y remediar sobr’ello, y siendo informado de la abilidad de vos, Don Hernando Colón, y de lo que en esta arte aveis estudiado y deseo que teneis para me servir, por la presente vos mandamos y encargamos que, luego que ayais informaçión así por escripto como por palabra y pinturas y de la manera que vos paresçiere que conviene de todas y cualesquier personas que sepan de la dicha arte y tengan notiçia y espiriençia de la navegaçión, a los cuales mandamos que se junten con vos y con juramente que d’ellos reçibais vos digan y declaren lo que çerca de lo susodicho supieren, y vos muestren las pinturas y escripturas que tovieren tocantes a ello, de que os pudiéredes aprovechar para este efecto…”

The King. Since I have been informed that, because of the great variation that there is in the mappa mundis and navigation charts, as well in the location of islands and lands, as in their size, and the routes that have been used and are still used to reach them, there have been and still is great damage, dangers, and much inconvenience, in particular for those persons who deal and sail in the seas of our Indies and terra firme and the Ocean; and meaning to provide a remedy for this, and having been informed of the skill that you have, Don Hernando Colon, and of how much you have studied in this art, I wish you to serve me, and do henceforth presently command and order you that, after gathering written and oral information, as well as paintings [i.e. maps and charts] in the best way you esteem convenient, from all and any sort of persons who are learned in such skills and they have news and experience in navigation, all of whom we order to be gathered under oath at your command, and that they tell you anything about the aforementioned matter that they may know, and that they show you the paintings and the writings that they may have touching this and which could be of profit for you to such effect…

DOCUMENT Nº 7

Letter from King Philip II (28 April 1569) ordering the Dean of the Seville Cathedral Chapter to deliver his representative at the Casa de la Contratación all the itineraries, navigation charts and all other documents gathered at the behest of Emperor Charles V with the purpose of composing a master navigation chart to the Indies. All these documents were in the possession of Hernando Colón with many other papers concerning the discoveries made by pilots and cosmographers, and after his death they had been moved, together with the books in his library, to the Cathedral, where they were seen to be of no profit to anyone.
Source: Despachos de Cámara, Archivo Histórico Nacional de Madrid, vol. I, fº 145; in Jean Babelon, La bibliothèque française de Fernando Colomb. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1913, pp. 333-4.

“Venerables Dean y Cabildo de la Santa Yglesia de Sevilla, porque he sydo informado que de los padrones de roteros, cartas de marear y relaciones, que se juntaron el año passado de treinta y cinco, por mandado del Emperador mi señor y padre de gloriosa memoria, para hazer el padrón general de la navegación de las Indias, quedó mucha parte dello en poder de Don Hernando Colón, y que después se llebó con su librería á la de essa Santa Yglesia, donde dizen questa, y con ello cantidad de papeles pequeños y mayores, en que hay relaciones de diversas cosas de la navigación de las Indias, que hasta entonces havía descubiertas, y los pilotos por cuya mano se hizo, y como veis estos papeles son de ningún fructo para la librería de essa Santa Yglesia, y podrian ser de alguno para las cosas que tocan a la dicha navegación, demas de que todo ello se haría por pilotos y cosmographos que para este effecto tendrian salario nuestro encargo mucho que en recibiendo esta proveáis y deis orden que se miren luego las escrituras y papeles que hay en la dicha librería, y que se aparten y recojan todos los padrones de roteros, cartas de marear, relaciones y papeles tocantes y concernientes a esta materia, assi los que fueron con la dicha librería del dicho Don Hernando Colón, como los que se hallaren en otra manera, y los hagáis dar y entregar con efecto a Francisco Duarte, nuestro factor en essa casa de la Contratación”

Venerable Dean and Chapter of the Holy Church of Seville: since I have been informed that the documents concerning routes, navigation charts, and relations, that were gathered in 1535 at the behest of my lord and father the Emperor of most glorious memory, to collate a master document of navigation to the Indies, remained in the hands of Don Hernando Colon; and that at a later date all this was taken with his library to that Holy Church, where I am told they are now, and with them large amounts of greater and lesser documents, with relations of a variety of matters on the navigation to the Indies, which had so far been discovered by the pilots; and as you can see these papers bear no fruit in the library of your Cathedral, and they could be of much use for all things concerning the said navigation, since they could be examined by pilots and cosmographers that we would employ at our own cost, I earnestly command that upon receipt of this you see to it and order that those writings and papers in the said library be examined, and that you select and collect all the documents concerning routes, navigation charts, relations, and all papers and documents concerning this matter, both those which were in the said library of Don Hernando Colon, as well as any other that may have found their way there, and that you have them delivered to Francisco Duarte, our factor in that Casa de la Contratación.

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HERNANDO THE EXPLORER *

DOCUMENT Nº 8

Hernando and his project to sail around the world.
Source: New York Public Library. Sign. Odabiah Rich Coll, Rich núm. II; ǂ I, p. 6 (quoted in Luis Arranz. Don Diego Colón, almirante, virrey y gobernador de las Indias. Madrid: Instituto Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo & Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1982, pp. 338-343.)

On 19 July 1511 Hernando, on behalf of Diego (his brother and Admiral of the Ocean Sea after their father’s death), writes a letter to King Ferdinand proposing a project to sail around the globe.

“Sevilla, a 19 de julio de 1511

“Católico y excelentísimo señor:
[…]
“Segund lo que hablando con vuestra alteza por el camino de Guadalupe senty, paresçiome ver su inclinaçion a mandar proseguir la empresa del prinçipal don que tenemos es el saber; otros muchos bienes que del dicho viaje resultaran dexo de explicar por vrebedad, así como el avatimiento y inbidia que los contrarios de tal vitoria ternan y, por el contrario, el goso que a los servidores y amigos sera causa el.
[…]
“Demas desto descubrir, espeçialmente a que se diese fin en el viaje de rrodear el mundo que el almirante mi padre muchas veses platico de poner en efecto; y a esto segund dixe con devido acatamiento, die lo que dello siento, asi por la experiençia de lo que alcançe navegando con mi padre, como por lo que del aprendi de palabra y de muchos libros y escripturas que del me quedaron y de otras partes he recojido.
Quanto a lo primero, digo que este es vn exçelente y laudable proposito: lo vno, porque de tal viaje ha de resultar que la doctrina del sacro Evangelio se aen vrebe tiempo de todo el mundo oyda y resçebida, segund largo por vna copilaçion tengo mostrado que a de venir en efecto en dias y por mano de vuestra alteza
[…]
“porque la esclareçida fama que de sus largas hasañas vuestra alteza dexa sera con este viaje muy avmentada y avn hoso dezie que es la lave y sello della, porque no solamente con el porna muchas tierras // y provinçias en su subjeçion, mas esperase que del resultara mucha copia de cosas de valor y riquezas que vuestra alteza con ellas mediante la divina gracia y su mucha prudençia y ventura porna el restante del mundo en su subjeçion, segund largamente por rason y profeçias tengo visto que a de ser, y porque lo dicho de las muchas riquezas que ay en la conquista que Dios milagrosamente por esta causa a vuestra alteza dio no parezca fiction, con esta presente envio lo que de algunos avtores que dello hablan he colegido. Asimesmo, con la execuçion deste viaje,[…], todas las generaciones y gentes del mundo generalmente la reçiben, pues alcançaran por experiençia lo que tan ignoto a nuestros pasado fue que es la rredondeza del mundo y la posibilidad de ser todo navegable y avitado por otros diuersos secretos que del dicho viaje an de resultar, la sçientia de los quales es a las gentes grandes benefiçio,
[…]
“Yten, digo que es posible ponerse en effecto y concluyrse el dicho viaje, y esto por las siguientes conclusiones, las quales largamente los sabios tienen probadas segund yo lo tengo en vn tratado colegido y probado, asi por razon como por avtoridad y esperiençia
[…]
“El Almirante”

Most Catholic and excellent lord
According to that which I perceived while conversing with your highness on the road to Guadalupe, it seemed to me that I saw your inclination to pursue that enterprise which is the main gift that we may have, that is, knowledge; many other benefits that from the said voyage could be obtained I refrain from explaining for the sake of brevity, and I shall also refrain from mentioning the dejection and envy that such victory will stir in our enemies, and the joy that friends and servants will derive from it.
[…]
Besides these discoveries, in particular that such a voyage circling the world could be achieved, which my father the Admiral many times proposed to put into effect; and I said what I felt about it according to due respect and obedience, as much from the experience that I gained sailing with my father, as from what I learned by word and also by reading many books and manuscripts which I inherited from him, and which from other parts I have collected.
As for the aforesaid, I say that this is a most excellent purpose and worthy of praise: on the one hand because from such voyage the doctrine of the Holy Gospel will be in a short time all around the world heard and received, as demonstrated by an anthology that I have had for some time, which will come into the hands of your highness.
[…]
… Because the excellent fame of the great deeds your highness leaves to posterity will be through this voyage greatly augmented, and I even dare to say that it is the key and seal of it, because not only will your highness put many lands and provinces under your subjection, but you can also expect copious amounts of things of value and riches so that with them your highness, through divine grace and your great prudence and fortune will put the rest of the world under your subjection; according to the long proof provided by reason and the prophecies I have seen it must be so, and so that what has been said (about the great wealth that there is in the conquest that God miraculously gave to your highness) should not appear as fiction, with this letter I send you what some authors have said to this effect. Besides, with the execution of this voyage… all the generations and nations of the world will profit, since they will attain by their own experience what was to our past so unknown, to wit, the roundness of the world, and the possibility of all of being navigable and inhabited by other diverse secrets which from the said voyage must result, the knowledge of which will be of great profit to all peoples …
[…]
I should also add that it is possible to put such voyage into effect and to conclude it, and this because of the attached conclusions, which the wise men have proved in great and copious detail, according to the collection that I have in one treatise that proves this, also proved by authority and experience.

The Admiral

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HERNANDO THE LEXICOGRAPHER *

DOCUMENT Nº 9

Source: Memorial by Juan Pérez, in Tomás Marín Martínez. Obras y Libros de Hernando Colón. Sevilla: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1970, pp. 686-87

“Como dixe arriba, todo intento de don Hernando mi señor era façilitar las çiencias y ansí quiso haçer un vocabulario, sacado de todos los otros la médula y lo mejor dellos, y ansí los (=lo) començó a haçer y dexó en la librería un libro grande de pliego, de papel, escrito de mano, de letra suya, cosido en pergamino blanco, y tiene muy grandes márgenes, el cual es diccionario o vocabulario por orden alfabético y no tiene más de la a y un poco de la b, y en él se espaçifican (sic) todos los significados que una dicción tiene y qué autores lo usan y [en] qué partes, trayendo allí autoridades; el cual fuera de mucho provecho si se acabara como lo demás, pero la muerte invidiosa de nuestro provecho no lo dexó llegar más de hasta la b. Las márgenes que tiene en blanco eran para, en hallando alguna autoridad que hiziese al propósito para algún vocablo, ponella allí. Tiene al principio una tabla alfabética de algunas dicciones que están en él, con su número, que remite a las planas a donde se trata de la tal dicción o vocablo, y cada hoja tiene dos números, en cada plana el suyo”

As I said above, all the intent of don Hernando my lord was to advance science, and thus he proposed to make a dictionary, extracted from the core of the best among all the others, and thus he commenced it, and left in the library in a large manuscript in his own hand, bound in white parchment, with wide margins; which is a dictionary or vocabulary in alphabetical order, and it only has A and a little bit of B, in which are specified all the meanings that a word has and which authors use it and in which parts, following the principle of authority; which would be of great use and profit if it could ever be completed; but death, jealous of our profit, did not allow him to reach beyond B. The blank margins were meant for those cases in which, finding some authority that could be relevant for a particular word, this could be included there. At the beginning it has an alphabetical table with some words which are in it, with their respective numbers, which refer readers to the pages where such word or item is included, and each folio has two numbers, one for each page.

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HERNANDO AND CHARLES V *

DOCUMENT Nº 10

The Real Cédula of 20 November 1536. Source: Guillén 2004 pp. 204-5.

“Nos, el Emperador de los Romanos, augusto Rey de Alemania, doña Juana su madre y el mismo Rey, su hijo, hacemos saber a vos, los nuestros oficiales de la isla de Cuba que, acatando lo que don Hernando Colón nos ha servido y sirve y lo que el almirante don Cristóbal Colón, su padre, nos hizo, nuestra merced y voluntad es que haya y tenga de nos, por merced, en cada un año, para en toda su vida, quinientos pesos de oro de a cuatrocientos y cincuenta maravedís cada peso, que suman doscientos y veinte y cinco mil maravedís para ayuda a su sustentación y de la librería que hace en la ciudad de Sevilla, y que se le paguen de las rentas y provechos que tuviésemos en esa tierra”

We, Emperor of Romans, August King of Germany; doña Juana his mother; and the king himself, her son, do all let you know, our officers in the Island of Cuba, that, on account of Don Hernando’s past and present services, and also the services that Admiral don Cristóbal Colón, his father, did for us, it is our beneficence and will that he have and obtain from us, through our mercy, every year, and during all his life, 500 pesos in gold, of 450 maravedís each peso, which adds to a total of 225,000 maravedís, to succor and sustain the library he is making in the city of Seville, and that these moneys be paid from the rents and benefices that we may have in that land.

DOCUMENT Nº 11

Memorial al Emperador, 1539

“Memorial de D. Fernando al Emperador sobre la Conservación de la Biblioteca” Source: Henry Harrisse. Excerpta Colombiniana. Paris: H. Welter, 1887, pp. 284-286

“D. Fernando Colon besa los Reales pies y manos de V.M. porque fue servido de le hazer merced que su peticion sobre lo tocante á la perpetuidad de la Librería se pusiesse para la Consulta: y porque á V.M. conste de los buenos efectos que de ella tienen de resultar:

“Dice que el 1.º será que aya cierto lugar en los Reinos de V.M. á do se recojan todos los Libros y de todas las lenguas y facultades que se podrán por la Christiandad y aun fuera de ella hallar. Lo qual hasta oi no se sabe que Principe aya mandado hacer: porque una cosa es instituir Librería de lo que en sus tiempos se halla, como algunos han hecho; y otra es dar órden como para siempre se busquen y alleguen los que de nuevo sobrevinieren.

[…]

“Lo 2.º es, que demás de estar los Libros Juntos para que no se pierda la memoria de tan notables varones como se desvelaron para nuestro bien, […] de cuya copia é posession pudiera resultar certitumbre y sosiego para en las cosas que tocan á la Religion y al govierno de la República, assi mesmo servirán para beneficio común y para que aya refugio donde los Letrados puedan recurrir á qualquier duda que se les ofreciere.

[…]

“Lo 3.º es que en todas partes aya de los susodichos autores notitia

[…]

“Por manera que con el tiempo verná esta Librería no sólo a tener todos los Libros que se pudieren aver; pero todo lo que en ellos ay estara en otros Libros reducido á orden alfabetico segun es dicho, a efecto que facilmente cada qual sea instruido de lo que saber quisiere.

[…]

“… suplica el dicho D. Hernando á V.M. […] la perpetuidad de los 500 pesos que para ayuda de lo susodicho de por vida se le hace merced pues á V.M. como à Principe y Emperador compete ayudar y favorecer y ser acompañado de las letras juntamente con las armas según que sus claros Predecessores en la compilacion de Sus Leyes lo testifican.

Don Fernando Colón kisses your Majesty’s Royal feet and hands. Since he was favoured with the mercy that his petition touching the perpetuity of the Library would be put through counsel, and so that Your Majesty may be informed of the good effects that may result from this, he declares that the first among these will be that there may be a certain place in your Majesty’s kingdoms where will be collected all the books in all the languages and disciplines that can be found in Christendom and even beyond it. Because it is one thing to found a library with the books from one’s own time, as some have already done, and a different thing is to have it ordained that they be always searched and collected all those that should be published anew. […] The second one is that, besides all these books being together so that the memory of such worthy men as were revealed to our profit be not lost […] from whose copying and possession there will be certainty and stability in things touching religion and the government of the republic, they will also be conducive to the common good, and a refuge for the learned who will be able to use them to solve any doubt that they might have. […] The third one is so that such authors may be known everywhere […] So that, in time, this library will have not only all the books that there might be, but all that there is in them will be in other books reduced to an alphabetical order, as I have just said, to the effect that anyone can easily become learned in anything he might want to know […] The said lord don Hernando begs your Majesty that […] , your Majesty would grant the favour that he begs to this end concerning the perpetuity of the 500 pesos which for the succour and maintenance of the aforementioned [library] he has been mercifully bestowed, since it is for you, as Prince and Emperor, to help and favour and walk hand in hand with arms and letters, as exemplified by your glorious Predecessors, and as testified by their laws.

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HERNANDO’S HOUSE AND GARDENS *

DOCUMENT Nº 12

Juan de Mal Lara’s Recibimiento que hizo la muy noble y muy leal ciudad de Sevilla a la C.R.M. del rey don Felipe N.S., Sevilla, En casa de Alonso Escrivano, 1570

Source: online edition at the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes.

“[Delante de la Puerta de Goles] don Fernando Colón, hijo de don Cristóbal Colón, el que halló las Indias Occidentales, comenzó a hacer un edificio y plantar una huerta de más de cinco mil árboles por lo largo del río, haciendo que la ciudad por allí tuviese lustre y la ribera quedase más fresca; juntó en ella copia de casi 20.000 libros, esperábase de hacer allí un verdadero Monte Parnaso, así por la frescura de la huerta como por las casas y multitud de libros, la cual está ahora en la iglesia mayor de Sevilla, en una pieza que corre desde la torre hasta el Sagrario.”

[In front of the Puerta de Goles] Don Fernando Colon, son of Cristobal Colón, he who discovered the West Indies, started to make a building and plant an orchard with more than five thousand trees along the river, beautifying the city over that part and making the river bank much cooler and more fresh; he put together in it almost 20,000 books, and he expected to make of that a true Mount Parnasus, as much because of the lushness of the orchard as for the houses and the amount of books, which is now in the Cathedral Church of Seville, in a room that runs from the tower to the Sacristy.

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HERNANDO’S LIBRARY AND THE EARLY HISTORIANS OF AMERICA *

DOCUMENT Nº 13

Bartolomé De las Casas’ use of Columbus’s copy of D’Ailly’s Ymago Mundi

Source: Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias. 3 vols. Ed. de A.M. Carlo y L. Hanke. México & Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1951, vol. I, book I, chapter 11, pp. 60-1.

“Traídas auctoridades de los antiguos filósofos y cosmógraphos e historiadores, que por su auctoridad e razones que traían, Cristóbal Colón les pudo dar crédito, con justa razón, para ofrecerse a tomar cargo de aquesta su nueva e arduísima empresa, o a proseguir la vieja que otros en querer descubrir antiguamente tuvieron, resta por traer las auctoridades de modernos autores, y que últimadamente le perficionaron en su propósito, y se determinó como si ya hubiera venido y visto estas tierras con tal certidumbre a venir a buscarlas. Lo primero es lo que Pedro de Aliaco, cardenal, que en los modernos tiempos fue, en filosofía, astrología y cosmographía doctísimo, cancelario de París, maestro de Juan Gerson y hallóse en el Concilio de Constancia por el año de 1416 (según Juan Tritthemio, en el libro De scriptoribus ecclesiasticis), dice en sus libros de astrología y cosmogaphía, y este doctor creo cierto que a Cristóbal Colón más entre los pasados movió a su negocio; el libro del cual fue tan familiar a Cristóbal Colón, que todo lo tenía por las márgenes de su mano y en latín anotado y rubricado, poniendo allí muchas veces en mis manos, de donde saqué algunas cosas escritas en latín por el dicho Almirante Cristóbal Colón, que después fue, para averiguar algunos puntos pertenecientes a esta historia, de que yo antes aún estaba dudoso.”

[Now that I have] brought forth the authority of ancient philosophers and cosmographers and historians — to whose authority and arguments Christopher Columbus could with just reason give credit, so much that he would voluntarily take up this new and most hazardous enterprise, or rather pursue the old one that others in wanting to discover it during antiquity had had — it remains now [for me] to bring forth the authority of more modern authors, who definitively established his [Columbus’] intentions, so that with great certitude he became so determined to search these lands that it seemed as if he had already been and seen them. The first among these [more recent authors] is the testimony of what Peter Alliacus —cardinal, and a most learned man in philosophy, astrology and cosmography in modern [i.e. recent] times, besides being the teacher of John Gerson, chancellor of Paris, and (as John Trithemius testifies) one of the attendees at the Council of Constance around the year 1416— [what Petrus Alliacus says] in his books on astrology and cosmography. And I verily believe this doctor to be the one among those who recently and most effectively persuaded Columbus to take up his business. Whose book [i.e. Petrus Alliacus’ Imago Mundi] was so familiar to Christoper Columbus that all of its margins were by him annotated in his own hand in Latin. And I had it [i.e. Columbus’ annotated copy of the Imago Mundi] in my hands many times, and from it I took certain things written in Latin by the said Admiral Christopher Columbus—as he would afterwards become—to clarify some points pertaining to this history, about which points I was in some doubt.

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THE EVENTUAL FATE OF THE LIBRARY *

DOCUMENT Nº 14

Source: Aparato o apuntamientos que para escribir la historia de Sevilla disponía y dexo principiados de su mano el erudito don Gonzalo Argote de Molina (ca. 1592)

The digital edition of a 1811 copy of the original manuscript can be consulted online at the University of Seville Library.

“Habiendo juntado en esta peregrinaciones con gran costo y trabajo […] libros de todas ciencias y facultades en varias lenguas, edificó una casa plantando un jardín en la ribera de Guadalquivir a la Puerta de Goles para hacer un ilustre museo y […] donó su librería a la Iglesia mayor de Sevilla, donde agora estan encarcelados en una sala alta a la nave del Lagarto, no siendo a nadie de provecho lo que se dexó para aprovechamiento y estudio de los ingenios.”

Having gathered during these pilgrimages, with great cost and labour […] books of all sciences and disciplines in several languages, he built a house and also planted a garden in the banks of the Guadalquivir, next to the Puerta de Goles, to make an illustrious museum and […] he donated his library to the Cathedral Church of Seville, where the books are now locked in a room atop the Nave of the Lizard, and what was left for the profit and study of wits is for nobody now of any use or profit.

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