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 $73€69

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Over the centuries, booksellers have contributed much to the elucidation and sometimes to the falsification of historical documents.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...

[MOORE, John, attributed author.]

Scenes and adventures in Spain from 1835 to 1840. By Poco Mas.

First edition; rare. According to the anonymous (and slightly ungenerous) critic in the British Quarterly Review of August and November 1846, this unfairly neglected work is ‘written by a gentleman by the name of Moore, who was, we believe, the correspondent of the Morning Chronicle from 1835 to 1840 in the north of Spain, and with the army of Espartero. His work is, we believe, a most faithful and conscientious transcript of occurrences, and this is its only merit . . . . On the convention of Bergara, and of the events of the 25th of August, 1840, subsequent to the Queen’s journey to Catalonia, his work contains a full and faithful account. He is evidently an amiable, benevolent, and kindly man, and his work is trustworthy’.

Read more

FORD, Richard.

A handbook for travellers in Spain . . . Third edition, entirely revised, with great additions.

Third edition. ‘In the 1855 edition, the last in his lifetime, much of the previously rejected material was re-introduced, bibliographies were brought up-to-date, and obsolete data omitted. Ford’s prejudices are here less apparent; some of his more caustic references are toned down. But although this was Ford’s “last word”, much of the new matter which had been added was information which had reached him at second-hand; over twenty years had passed since he had left “well-beloved” Spain’ (Ian Robertson in the introduction to the 1966 Centaur Press edition, pp. xv–xvi).

Read more