This manuscript, which was discovered in the late twentieth century, is an outstanding source for the study of the figure and context of Cristopher Columbus. It is a collection of eight letters, written by Columbus and transcribed perhaps in the mid- or late-sixteenth century, most of which narrate the various events that occurred during the voyages of Columbus to the New World. These letters were not known until 1985; thus, they are fundamental tools for the study of the discovery of America from a new perspective.
This manuscript shows very interesting details not only about Columbus' voyages, but also about his family and geographic theories. Nevertheless, not all scholars agree that it is authentic. Although the discovery of the letters was widely welcomed by scholars, some authors were doubtful about the document. Be that as it may, this is a very interesting source for the early modern history of the Americas.
The Libro Copiador: A Fundamental Source on the Figure of Columbus
The Columbus copy book (Libro copiador in Spanish) is made up of thirty-eight folios, measuring 23 x 33 cm. The letters it contains were supposedly written by Columbus between 1493 and 1503 and sent to the Catholic Monarchs. According to the script and the type of the paper, it is believed that this is a late sixteenth-century transcription. The letters contain the following information:
This letter is dated 4 March 1493, and narrates the first voyage of Columbus. It is fairly similar to the other letters about the first voyage written by Columbus himself on 15 February 1493, which was printed and sent throughout Europe afterward. Nevertheless, this Document 1 includes less information about the discovered lands and their peoples than Columbus’ first letter.
This letter narrates the first months of the second voyage. Even though it is not dated, scholars have suggested that it was written in January 1494.
Here we can read about the exploration of Cibao (in the Dominican Republic) during the second voyage. This letter is not dated either, but it is believed to have been written on April 20th 1494.
The letter contains the narration of the exploration of La Española (Dominican Republic and Haiti), Cuba and Jamaica, during the second voyage. It is dated February 26th 1494.
This letter narrates the exploration of the island of La Española during the second voyage. It is dated October 15th 1495.
Here, Columbus narrates the third voyage. Although not dated, it is believed to have been written in September 1498.
This is a brief letter dated February 3rd 1500. According to the text, this note was a part of the copy of Columbus' letter from 1493 (Document 1).
This letter is also dated February 3rd 1500. Among other details, Columbus informs the Catholic Monarchs about the death of the friar Juan Pérez, companion of Columbus.
This letter was written in Jamaica on July 7th, 1503, and narrates the fourth voyage.
The Columbus Copy Book: A Surprising Discovery
In 1985, a bookseller from Tarragona (Spain) received a surprising and enigmatic document: a collection of manuscript letters, not known until then, narrating the four voyages of Columbus. In December of that year, two of the most renowned scholars in Spain, Juan Gil and Consuelo Varela, examined the manuscripts, and declared that the document was authentic, and it was purchased by the Spanish government in 1987 and entrusted to the National Archive of the Indies in Seville in 1988.
Although several scholars have expressed their doubts about the authenticity of the manuscript, the Columbus Copy Book is an interesting document not only for the study of the figure of Columbus and its context, but also for the early modern history of America.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Christopher Columbus Copy Book": Libro Copiador de Cristóbal Colón facsimile edition, published by Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 1989Request Info / Price