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The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus

The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus: Being His Own Log-Book, Letters and Dispatches With Connecting Narrative Drawn from the Life of the Admiral ... n Hernando Colon and Other (Penguin Classics) by Christopher Columbus, J. M. Cohen (Compiler), Cohen J.M. (Editor)

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Summary

Parts of Columbus' own log book, letters and dispatches with narrative from The Life of the Admiral by his son, Hernando Colon and other historical narratives.

Reviews

5 out of 5 stars No, the Third Voyage is the best!, March 16, 2006

By yankee-in-ca (San Francisco area)

This book contains primary sources ONLY. (How do I "rate" the letters of Christopher Columbus? :-) You can read about the life and times of an historical character by the very best historians for years, but until you read what that character actually wrote about his own experiences, you're groping in the dark. Nothing compares to getting it from the horse's mouth.

These letters, beautifully translated, free of anyone's opinions, are history's nuclear core. Any gut sense YOU get from these words may well be closer to the truth than what you've read by any scholar. Occasionally you might realize that your favorite historian didn't actually finish reading some of the letters they're basing an argument on! Then you are in a position of knowing more than he/she does.

I do wonder why Penguin doesn't fix the date of Columbus's death. The editor has him dying in 1509 (not a typo since it's repeated) which is a shame. Columbus died 500 years ago this spring, and a quincentenary only happens once. It's "Goodbye, Columbus" May 20th, 2006.

FAVORITE VOYAGE: NO. 3, when he blesses the continent of South America with his tears (red with blood from exposure and illness) and warns the Monarchs that this is the Earthly Paradise and no one may enter without God's leave.

4 out of 5 stars Columbus Resurrected, March 11, 2004

By events3

J. M. Cohen's translation of various 1st-hand or near first-hand accounts, including that of Columbus' son, Hernando Colon's LIFE OF THE ADMIRAL brings the Columbus story to life.

The Introduction, coming from a translator of literature rather than a historian, is rather uninspiring; however, he does provide a rather thorough rebuttal of the argument, made by many supporters of Bartolome de Las Casas and referred to without explanation by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto in COLUMBUS, that Hernando Colon's work is a forgery. Indeed, since it appeared long before Las Casas' HISTORY was published, the issue of forgery may go in the other direction!

The book, through early Spanish sources, looks at the rumor that Columbus relied on the map of an ailing Portuguese sailor. It makes plain Columbus' error in thinking he was near Japan (Chipangu) and his belief that he would reach Cathay! We see his rather innocent introduction to the potent tobacco plant and how the natives fed his belief that gold, pearl and spices were nearby.

Columbus is shown to be of mixed character: on the one hand, he generally seems to respect the natives he meets and makes an alliance with one chieftain against the 'cannibal' Caribs. On the other, he takes several natives captive (to have them trained in Spanish so that they can serve as translators on future voyages), gives some Carib women to his men (who raped them as in the case of the vile Michele de Cuneo) and discusses conquest and enslavement of idolators [not particularly shocking considering the long history of conflicts and mutual enslavement between the muslim moors of Spain & Northern Africa and the Christians of Spain & Portugal].

Columbus' biggest problem appears to be his tendency to leave his men (39 on the first voyage) as colonies while he explores elsewhere. Whenver he returns, the natives have either killed the colonists or were at war with them - often due to the Spaniards' greed and licentiousness. Indeed, at one point, he leaves his brother in charge and the Spaniards, being forbidden to sleep with the native women revolt and found a rebel colony where the women were supposed to be more accomodating! Columbus ultimately is forced into an accomodation with these Spaniards and eventually conquers the natives. We also see the separate voyage of Ovando to Hispaniola and the beginnings of the gold mines. Columbus, not unlike a number of his successors, suffered arrest and trial and, after his last voyage, was deprive of power and authority.

Columbus' voyages, following in the footsteps of the Henrican discoveries, would likely have eventually been made by someone but Columbus seems especially driven to exploration. It was an unfortunate fact that he was also a very poor (and often absent) governor. His actions, sometimes courageous and thoughtful, sometimes harsh and reflexive probably represent the more civilized men of his time - when the Middle Ages was just ending, slavery and religious wars continued in Spain, Portugal, North Africa and Italy, and people were still being burned at the stake for heresy.

4 out of 5 stars This book takes you on one of the greatest voyages ever!, March 26, 2008

By P. V. de Metter "Software Entrepreneur" (Amsterdam, Netherlands) (REAL NAME)    

Christopher Columbus in his own writings, translated though, what could be more exciting? Well, maybe the hardships they faced during the journey, strange Islands and natives they [discovered] and all politics that were involved to arrange the journey.

The Four Voyages describes Columbus throughout his [career] as a ship commander and really comes to life in your mind. I saw a Pocahontas like film featuring Colin Farrell after reading this book and just felt a void of all detail being described in the book.

You want to read about what the [journeys] were like? Then buy this book.

 


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