Epistola Christofori Colom
The Columbus Letter
This bound letter contains Christopher Columbus's (1451–1506) observations of his first journey across the Atlantic Ocean to what he thought were outlying islands in the Indian Ocean. In reality, Columbus was describing the islands that are now the Bahamas. Commonly called the "Columbus Letter," the document describes people and places Columbus believed could easily be conquered by Spain and converted to Christianity.
The letter was first written in Spanish and printed in Barcelona in early April 1493; only one copy of that printing is known to survive. A month later, the Roman printer Plannck printed the letter in Latin at the behest of Pope Alexander VI so that all of Europe could learn of the Columbus’s voyage. It was widely circulated throughout Europe and is the source for most of the subsequent versions of the letter. Despite its original proliferation, this is one of roughly 16 known copies of the Latin printing to still exist in North America.
Courtesy Harlan Crow Library, Dallas
Time Period: BCE - 1518
Exhibit: Collectors' Gallery: Harlan Crow Library
This artifact is not on view.