The Spanish Letter of Columbus . . . A facsimile of the original edition published by Bernard Quaritch in 1891. With an Introduction by Felipe Fernández-Armesto and essays by Martin Davies on Pere Posa and the printing of the Spanish Columbus Letter at Barcelona in 1493 and by Anthony Payne & Katherine Spears on Quaritch, the Spanish Columbus Letter, and America 1890–1892. Edited by Anthony Payne.

[London], Quaritch, 2006.

Small folio (350 x 255 mm), pp. li, [3], 33, with 10 coloured illustrations and a reproduction of the original Columbus Letter; blue cloth, pictorial dust-jacket.

£60

Approximately:
US $78€71

Add to basket Make an enquiry

Added to your basket:
The Spanish Letter of Columbus . . . A facsimile of the original edition published by Bernard Quaritch in 1891. With an Introduction by Felipe Fernández-Armesto and essays by Martin Davies on Pere Posa and the printing of the Spanish Columbus Letter at Barcelona in 1493 and by Anthony Payne & Katherine Spears on Quaritch, the Spanish Columbus Letter, and America 1890–1892. Edited by Anthony Payne.

Checkout now

Over the centuries, booksellers have contributed much to the elucidation and sometimes to the falsification of historical documents. The story of the first printed account of the New World, usually known as Christopher Columbus’s Letter to Santángel or simply the Columbus Letter, illustrates both themes.

The version of it which the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch bought in 1890 and sold in 1892 was and is, by common acclaim, the most valuable item of printed Americana ever to have appeared on the market. No other copy of this, the earliest edition, a folio printed in Spanish at Barcelona in 1493, is known. Samuel Eliot Morison, the enormously influential scholar who long occupied the chair of American history at Harvard, called it ‘the single most important document on the discovery of America’. Quaritch and his able assistant, Michael Kerney, were responsible for an enduring contribution to scholarship, producing in the Spanish Letter of Columbus – republished here in an edition limited to 500 copies – the first authoritative study of the document. But, as Felipe Fernández-Armesto recounts in his Introduction, it nearly got dismissed as a forgery.

Quaritch’s Spanish Letter of Columbus, appearing in the thick of contention and in the midst of forgeries, was therefore more than just the usual bookseller’s publicity material. It was an important piece of scholarly claim-staking on behalf of a genuine text against unwarranted assertions. Despite some errors – most of which were the result of assumptions common at the time or deficiencies of knowledge unremedied until later – Quaritch’s Spanish Letter of Columbus did its job effectively. It demonstrated, correctly, that the folio in question was printed at Barcelona in 1493 and that all other known editions of the Columbus Letter followed it. This was a service to his firm and to the Lenox Library (now part of the New York Public Library), which purchased the item – and to the whole world of learning, which has been able, ever since, to return with confidence to a precious and intriguing text: the first piece of printing to reveal to the Old World the existence of the New.

Besides Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s extensive Introduction, this new edition of Bernard Quaritch’s Spanish Letter of Columbus includes an account of the printing of the original Spanish Columbus Letter in 1493 and, drawing on materials surviving in the Quaritch Archive, the story of how Quaritch, and his son, Alfred, marketed it in America.

ISBN 0-9550852-2-5.

You may also be interested in...

TUNBRIDGE WELLS.

The Tunbridge Wells Guide; or an Account of the ancient and present State of the Place, to which is added a particular Description of the Towns and Villages, Gentlemens Seats, Remains of Antiquity, Founderies, &c. &c. within the Circumference of sixteen Miles.

The Tunbridge Wells Guide apparently first appeared in 1780; reissues and/or new editions, partly from standing type, with variously erratic pagination and a steady accretion of content, appeared throughout the 1780s and 1790s. ‘The hurry in putting this to the press,’ an ingenuous Preface explains, ‘may have subjected it to some few errors’. The text under the pasted cancel on the ‘Table of Distances’ shows that it was taken from The Kentish Companion, printed at the [King’s] Arms Printing Office in Canterbury in 1785.

Read more

INDIAN TRAVEL SULIVAN, Richard Joseph.

Philosophical Rhapsodies. Fragments of Akbur of Betlis. Containing Reflections on the Laws, Manners, Customs and Religions, of certain Asiatic, Afric, and European Nations. Collected and now first published … In three Volumes …

First edition of this eccentric travel-inspired treatise drawing upon the author’s experience in India and his travels in Europe. The prefatory ‘advertisement’ establishes the fiction that ‘the following fragments were written by a native of Assyria [Akbur], who … was removed to the continent of Europe, and thence to England … he then travelled; and in various countries threw together the reflections which appear in the following sheets’. Compartmentalised into ‘fragments’ rather than chapters, the work is generically indistinct, and offers a compilation of fiction, philosophy, history and travel to reflections on foreign lands, notably China, Japan, Tartary, Hindostan, Greece and the Middle East. Sulivan cites widely in order to illustrate his points, emphasising Akbur’s familiarity with Milton, Pope, Thomson, and Dryden, as well as law, the classical canon and contemporary scholarship.

Read more