Madrid, Fundación Casa de Alba

Christopher Columbus' documents in the Casa de Alba archive Facsimile Edition

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These manuscripts are among the most complete and important collections of documents written and signed by Christopher Columbus during his first voyages to the New World. The collection consists of twenty-one manuscripts, held in the archive of the Casa de Alba in Spain. They are very valuable tools for studying the first steps in the knowledge and colonization of the New World in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.

The collection includes reports, letters, and statements written by Columbus (though some of them were only signed by him), as well as the only known copy of the Diario de a bordo (Columbus’ logbook), written during his first voyage. Although not complete, this is one of the most important documents about Columbus’ journey.

Shedding Light on the Figure of Columbus

The twenty-one manuscripts, written on paper, are dated between 1493 and 1504. They contain valuable information not only on Columbus’ voyages to the New World, but also about his way of working. Most of the documents (except n. XIII) are in very good condition, lacking crossing-outs or corrections; this, as well as the lack of marginal notes, indicates that Columbus used to write drafts of his letters.

The manuscripts can be divided into two groups: those written in the West Indies during the four voyages, ranging from 1492 to 1504, and the documents written in Castile in 1498. Some of them were entirely written by Columbus, while others include only his signature, the text having been written by a scribe (please find a complete list below).

The Archive of the Casa de Alba. The Most Important Collection of Documents about Columbus

The archive of the Casa de Alba is one of the most interesting archives in Spain, holding a huge collection of documents from more than fifty noble houses. Nowadays, it contains 50.000 historical documents, including the greatest collection of original manuscripts of Christopher Columbus in one archive.

Twenty of the forty-three autograph documents of Columbus that have survived are preserved here, including the only known copy of Columbus’ logbook. Thus, much of our knowledge about Columbus’ life and journeys stems from this archive.

List of documents:

I. Logbook, 1493. (It includes a sketch map of a part of the island of La Hispaniola).
II. Torres Memorial, January 30, 1494. (This text was delivered by Antonio de Torres to the Catholic Monarchs. Here, Columbus narrates the first five months of the voyage).
III. Letter to Diego Colón. Seville, April 29, 1498. (Sent by Columbus from Seville to his elder son, Diego, who was in Toledo with the court of the Catholic Monarchs).
IV. Letter to Brother Gaspar de Gorricio. Sanlúcar, May 12, 1498. (Sent by Columbus to his friend Gaspar de Gorricio, a monk of the Monastery of Cartuja de las Cuevas in Seville).
V. Letter to Brother Gaspar de Gorricio. Sanlúcar, May 28, 1498.
VI. The Admiral’s response to the matter of his privileges.
VII. Relation of the people who went with Columbus on the first voyage. Santo Domingo, November 16, 1498.
VIII. Letter to Miguel Ballester. La Concepción, May 21, 1499. (Sent by Columbus to Miguel Ballester, the governor of the fortress of La Concepción).
IX. Letter to Brother Gaspar de Gorricio. Granada, February 26, 1501.
X. Letter to Brother Gaspar de Gorricio. Granada, May 24, 1501.
XI. Letter to Brother Gaspar de Gorricio. Granada, June 9, 1501.
XII. Letter to Brother Gaspar de Gorricio. 14 (…) 1501.
XIII. Letter to Brother Gaspar de Gorricio. Undated.
XIV. Concession of hundred gold castellanos (Spanish coins) to Alonso de Morales. Granada, October 22, 1501.
XV. Brief about the gold which has been sold in Castile up to the month of (…). 1501.
XVI. Brief from the Admiral about the grievances he had endured. 1501.
XVII. Brief of Grievances.
XVIII. Information about privileges and favors.
XIX. Deliverance of Diego Rodríguez. September 7, 1504.
XX. Deliverance of Rodrigo Vizcaíno and Francisco Niño. September 8, 1504.
XXI. Deliverance of Diego de Salcedo. September 9, 1504.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Christopher Columbus' documents in the Casa de Alba archive": Documentos Colombinos en la Casa de Alba facsimile edition, published by Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 1987

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Document / Fragment description compiled by Kevin R. Wittmann.

Documentos Colombinos en la Casa de Alba

Madrid: Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 1987

  • Commentary (Spanish) by Varela, Consuelo
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Christopher Columbus' documents in the Casa de Alba archive: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

Facsimile edition containing 21 documents written by or related to Christopher Columbus and owned by the Casa ducal de Alba in its archive in the Liria Palace in Madrid. The edition also includes a commentary in Spanish language with introduction, transcription and notes by Consuelo Varela.

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