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- The Voyage of Verrazzano - 1/30 -


THE VOYAGE OF VERRAZZANO;

A CHAPTER IN THE EARLY HISTORY OF MARITIME DISCOVERY IN AMERICA.

BY HENRY C. MURPHY.

TO THE MEMORY OF

BUCKINGHAM SMITH,

OF ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA.

The following pages, intended to show the claim of discovery in America by Verrazzano to be without any real foundation, belong to a work, in hand, upon the earliest explorations of the coast which have led to the settlement of the United States by Europeans. They are now printed separately, with some additions and necessary changes, in consequence of the recent production of the map of Hieronimo de Verrazano, which professes to represent this discovery, and is therefore supposed to afford some proof of its authenticity; in which view it has been the subject of a learned and elaborate memoir by J. Carson Brevoort Esq.

Certain important documents in relation to Verrazzano, procured from the archives of Spain and Portugal by the late Buckingham Smith, on a visit to those countries a year or two before his death, are appended. They were intended to accompany a second edition of his Inquiry, a purpose which has been interrupted by his decease. They were entrusted by him to the care of his friend, George H. Moore Esq., of New York, who has placed them at our disposal on the present occasion.

The fragmentary and distorted form in which the letter ascribed to Verrazzano, appeared in the collection of Ramusio, and was thence universally admitted into history, rendered it necessary that the letter should be here given complete, according to its original meaning. It is, therefore, annexed in the English translation of Dr. Cogswell, which though not entirely unexceptionable is, for all purposes, sufficiently accurate. The original Italian text can, however, be consulted in the Collections of the New York Historical Society, accompanying his translation, and also in the Archivio Storico Italiano, in which it is represented by the editor to be more correctly copied from the manuscript, and amended in its language where it seemed corrupt; but such corrections are few and unimportant. In all cases in which the letter is now made the subject of critical examination, the passages referred to are given, for obvious reasons, according to the reading of the Florentine editor.

We are indebted to the American Geographical Society of New York for the use of its photographs of the Verrazano map, and to Mr. Brevoort for a copy of the cosmography of Alfonse, from which the chart of Norumbega has been taken. And our thanks are due to Dr. J. Gilmary Shea of New York, for valuable assistance; and to Dr. E. B. Straznicky of the Astor Library, Mons. O. Maunoir of the Societe de Geographie of Paris, Dr. J. Hammond Trumbull of Hartford, Hon. John R. Bartlett of Providence, and James Lenox Esq. of New York, for various favors kindly rendered during the progress of our researches.

BROOKLYN, SEPT. 1875

CONTENTS.

Page I. The Discovery Attributed to Verrazzano

II. The Verrazzano Letters not Genuine

III. The Letter untrue. I. No Voyage of Discovery made for the King of France, as it states

IV. II. Misrepresentations in regard to the Geography of the Coast. The Chesapeake. The Island of Louise. Massachusetts Bay

V. III. Cape Breton and the Southerly Coast of Newfoundland, here claimed to have been discovered, were known previously. Perversion of the Text of the Letter by Ramusio

VI. IV. The Description of the People and Productions of the Land not made from the Personal Observations of the Writer of the Letter. What distinctly belonged to the Natives is unnoticed, and what is originally mentioned of them is untrue. Further important Alterations of the Text by Ramusio,

VII. The Extrinsic Evidence in Support of the Claim. I. Discourse of the French Sea Captain of Dieppe,

VIII. II. The Verrazzano Map. It is not an Authoritative Exposition of the Verrazzano Discovery. Its Origin and Date in its present Form. The Letter of Annibal Caro. The Map presented to Henry VIII. Voyages of Verrazzano. The Globe of Euphrosynus Ulpius

IX. The Letter to the King founded on the Discoveries of Estevan Gomez. The History of Gomez and his Voyage. The Publication of his Discoveries in Spain and Italy before the Verrazzano claim. The Voyage described in the Letter traced to Ribero's Map of the Discoveries of Gomez

X. The Career of Verrazzano. An Adventurous Life and Ignominious Death. Conclusion

Appendix

Index

[Proofreaders note: ILLUSTRATIONS and MAPS omitted]

THE VOYAGE OF VERRAZZANO:

A CHAPTER IN THE EARLY HISTORY OF MARITIME DISCOVERY IN AMERICA.

I.

THE DISCOVERY ATTRIBUTED TO VERRAZZANO.

The discovery of the greater portion of the Atlantic coast of North America, embracing all of the United States north of Cape Roman in South Carolina, and of the northern British provinces as far at least as Cape Breton, by Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine, in the service of the king of France, has received until quite recently the assent of all the geographers and historians who have taken occasion to treat of the subject. This acknowledgment, for more than three hundred years, which would seem to preclude all question in regard to its authenticity at this late day, has, however, been due more to the peculiar circumstances of its publication than to any evidence of its truth. The only account of it which exists, is contained in a letter purporting to have been written by the discoverer himself, and is not corroborated by the testimony of any other person, or sustained by any documentary proof. It was not published to the world until it appeared for the first time in Italy, the birth place of the navigator, more than thirty years after the transactions to which it relates are alleged to have taken place; and it has not, up to the present time, received any confirmation in the history of France, whose sovereign, it is asserted, sent forth the expedition, and to whose crown the right of the discovery accordingly attached. Yet it is not difficult to comprehend how the story, appealing to the patriotic sympathies of Ramusio, was inconsiderately adopted by him, and inserted in his famous collection of voyages, and thus receiving his sanction, was not unwillingly accepted, upon his authority, by the French nation, whose glory it advanced, without possibly its having any real foundation. And as there never was any colonization or attempt at possession of the country in consequence of the alleged discovery, or any assertion of title under it, except in a single instance of a comparatively modern date, and with no important hearing, it is no less easy to understand, how thus adopted and promulgated by the only countries interested in the question, the claim was admitted by other nations without challenge or dispute, and has thus become incorporated into modern history without investigation.

Although the claim has never been regarded of any practical importance in the settlement of the country, it has nevertheless possessed an historical and geographical interest in connection with the origin and progress of maritime discovery on this continent. Our own writers assuming its validity, without investigation, have been content to trace, if possible, the route of Verrazzano and point out the places he explored, seeking merely to reconcile the account with the actual condition and situation of the country. Their explanations, though sometimes plausible, are often contradictory, and not unfrequently absurd. Led into an examination of its merits with impressions in its favor, we have nevertheless been compelled to adopt the conclusion of a late American writer, that it is utterly fictitious. [Footnote: An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Documents concerning a Discovery in North America claimed to have been made by Verrazzano. Read before the New York Historical Society, Tuesday, October 10, 1864. By Buckingham Smith. New York, 1864. pp. 31, and a map.] The grounds upon which our conviction rests we propose now to state. Some documents will be introduced, for the first time here brought to light, which will serve further to elucidate the question, and show the career and ultimate fate of Verrazzano.


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