Two documentary books about Christopher Columbus


FRAY BARTOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, abstractor, OLIVER DUNN and JAMES E. KELLEY, JR., transcribers and translators. The Diario of Christopher Columbus’s First Voyage to America, 1492–1493. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.
DELNO C. WEST and AUGUST KLING, translators and commentators. The Libro de las profecías of Christopher Columbus. An en face edition. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1991.

Much has been written about Columbus during this quincentennial year—perhaps too much. Nevertheless, many questions about the man and his impact on world history remain unanswered; indeed, some of them still remain unasked. A good deal of the writing has been polemical at best and at worst outright nonsensical. Just as happened one hundred years ago during the quadricentennial, many people took advantage of Columbus’s name and notoriety to get into print, knowing that no matter what they wrote on the subject, whether it had any scholarly merit or not, or did or did not adhere to the facts, it would likely be published. Some of the Columbian literature of 1992 carries the additional burden of being motivated by political agendas of various kinds.

Nevertheless, the five hundredth anniversary has also stimulated a number of commendable projects which, just as happened in 1892, have produced some valuable works, both documentary and interpretative. Two of the more significant publications of a century ago were the fourteen-volume collection of Columbian writings and related documents, known as the Raccolta, and the other was a remarkably perceptive and balanced interpretative history by Justin Winsor. Comparable to these monumental works are the current publications in progress called the Nuova Raccolta Colombiana and the Repertorium Columbiahum.

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