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- The Voyage of Verrazzano - 3/30 -


untrue.[Footnote: Verrazzano died in 1527; Louise, the mother of Francis I in September, 1582, and Francis himself in March, 1547.] Ramusio does not state when or how he obtained what he published. In the preface to the volume in which it is printed, dated three years before, he merely speaks of the narrative incidentally, but in a discourse preceding it, he obscurely alludes to the place where he found it, remarking that it was the only letter of Verrazzano that he had "been able to have, because the others had got astray in the troubles of the unfortunate city of Florence." The origin of the manuscript version is equally involved in mystery. It forms part of a codex which contains also a copy of a letter purporting to have been written by Fernando Carli, from Lyons to his father in Florence, on the 4th of August, 1524, giving an account of the arrival of Verrazzano at Dieppe, and inclosing a copy of his letter to the King. The epistles of Carli and Verrazzano are thus connected together in the manuscript in fact, and by reference in that of Carli, making the copy of the Verrazzano letter a part of Carli's, and so to relate to the same date. But as the Carli letter in the manuscript is itself only a copy, there is nothing to show when that was really written; nor is it stated when the manuscript itself was made. All that is positively known in regard to the latter is, that it was mentioned in 1768, as being then in existence in the Strozzi library in Florence. When it came into that collection does not appear, but as that library was not founded until 1627, its history cannot be traced before that year, [Footnote: Der Italicum von D. Friedrich Blume. Baud II, 81. Halle, 1827.] Its chirography, however, in the opinion of some competent persons who have examined it, indicates that it was written in the middle of the sixteenth century. There is, therefore, nothing in the history or character of the publication in Ramusio or the manuscript, to show that the letter emanated from Verrazzano. Neither of them is traceable to him; neither of them was printed at a time when its publication, without contradiction, might be regarded as an admission or acknowledgment by the world of a genuine original; and neither of them is found to have existed early enough to authorize an inference in favor of such an original by reason of their giving the earliest account of the coasts and country claimed to have been discovered. On the contrary, these two documents of themselves, when their nature and origin are rightly understood, serve to prove that the Verrazzano letter is not a genuine production. For this purpose it will be necessary to state more fully their history and character.

The existence of the copy which, in consequence of its connection in the same manuscript with that of the Carli letter, may be designated as the Carli version, is first mentioned in an eulogy or life of Verrazzano in the series of portraits of illustrious Tuscans, printed in Florence in 1767-8, as existing in the Strozzi library. [Footnote: Serie di Ritratti d'Uomini Illustri Toscani con gli elogj istorici dei medesimi. Vol. secondo Firenze, 1768.] The author calls attention to the fact, that it contains a part of the letter which is omitted by Ramusio. In another eulogy of the navigator, by a different hand, G. P. (Pelli), put forth by the same printer in the following year, the writer, referring to the publication of the letter of Ramusio, states that an addition to it, describing the distances to the places where Verrazzano had been, was inserted in writing in a copy of the work of Ramusio, in the possession at that time of the Verrazzano family in Florence. These references were intended to show the existence of the cosmography, which Tiraboschi afterwards mentions, giving, however, the first named eulogy as his authority. No portion of the Carli copy appeared in print until 1841, when through the instrumentality of Mr. Greene, the American consul at Rome, it was printed in the collections of the New York Historical Society, accompanied by a translation into English by the late Dr. Cogswell. It was subsequently printed in the Archivio Storico Italiano at Florence, in 1853, with some immaterial corrections, and a preliminary discourse on Verrazzano, by M. Arcangeli. From an inspection of the codex in the library, where it then existed in Florence, M. Arcangeli supposes the manuscript was written in the middle of the sixteenth century. This identical copy was, therefore, probably in existence when Ramusio published his work. Upon comparing the letter as given by Ramusio with the manuscript, the former, besides wanting the cosmography, is found to differ from the latter almost entirely in language, and very materially in substance, though agreeing with it in its elementary character and purpose. The two, therefore, cannot be copies of the same original. Either they are different versions from some other language, or one of them must be a recomposition of the other in the language in which they now are found. In regard to their being both translated from the French, the only other language in which the letter can be supposed to have been written besides the native tongue of Verrazzano, although it is indeed most reasonable to suppose that such a letter, addressed to the king of France, on the results of an expedition of the crown, by an officer in his service, would have been written in that language, it is, nevertheless, highly improbable that any letter could, in this instance, have been so addressed to the King, and two different translations made from it into Italian, one by Carli in Lyons in 1524, and the other by Ramusio in Venice twenty-nine years afterwards, and yet no copy of it in French, or any memorial of its existence in that language be known. This explanation must therefore be abandoned. If on the other hand, one of these copies was so rendered from the French, or from an original in either form in which it appears in Italian, whether by Verrazzano or not, the other must have been rewritten from it. It is evident, however, that the Carli version could not have been derived from that contained in Ramusio, because it contains an entire part consisting of several pages, embracing the cosmographical explanations of the voyage, not found in the latter. As we are restricted to these two copies as the sole authority for the letter, and are, therefore, governed in any conclusion on this subject by what they teach, it must be determined that the letter in Ramusio is a version of that contained in the Carli manuscript. This suggestion is not new. It was made by Mr. Greene in his monograph on Verrazzano, without his following it to the conclusion to which it inevitably leads. If the version in Ramusio be a recomposition of the Carli copy, an important step is gained towards determining the origin of the Verrazzano letter, as in that case the inquiry is brought down to the consideration of the authenticity of the Carli letter, of which it forms a part. But before proceeding to that question, the reasons assigned by Mr. Greene, and some incidental facts stated by him in connection with them, should be given. He says:

"The Strozzi Library is no longer in existence; but the manuscripts of that collection passed into the hands of the Tuscan government, and were divided between the Magliabechian and Laurentian libraries of Florence. The historical documents were deposited in the former. Among them was the cosmographical narration of Verrazzano mentioned by Tiraboschi, and which Mr. Bancroft expresses a desire to see copied for the Historical Society of New York. It is contained in a volume of Miscellanies, marked "Class XIII. Cod.89. Verraz;" and forms the concluding portion of the letter to Francis the First, which is copied at length in the same volume. It is written in the common running hand of the sixteenth century (carrattere corsivo), tolerably distinct, but badly pointed. The whole volume, which is composed of miscellaneous pieces, chiefly relating to contemporary history, is evidently the WORK OF THE SAME HAND.

"Upon collating this manuscript with that part of the letter which was published by Ramusio, we were struck with the differences in language which run through every paragraph of the two texts. In substance there is no important difference [Footnote: In this statement Mr. Greene was mistaken, as will be manifested in a comparison of the two texts hereafter given, in which the difference of language will also appear.] except in one instance, where by an evident blunder of the transcriber, bianchissimo is put for branzino. There is something so peculiar in the style of this letter, as it reads, in the manuscript of the Magliabechian, that it is impossible to account for its variations from Ramusio, except by supposing that this editor worked the whole piece over anew, correcting the errors of language upon his own authority. [Footnote: Mr. Greene adds in a note to this passage: "He did so also with the translation of Marco Polo. See Apostolo Zeno, Annot. alla Bib. Ital. del Fontanini, tom. II, p. 300; ed. di Parma. 1804." There is another instance mentioned by Amoretti in the preface to his translation of Pigafetta's journal of Magellan's voyage, and that was with Fabre's translation of the copy of the journal given by Pigafetta to the mother of Francis I. Premier voyage autour du monde. xxxii. (Jansen, Paris l'an ix.)] These errors indeed are numerous, and the whole exhibits a strange mixture of Latinisms [Footnote: An instance of these Latinisms is the signature "Janus Verrazzanus," affixed to the letter.] and absolute barbarisms with pure Tuscan words and phrases. The general cast of it, however, is simple and not unpleasing. The obscurity of many of the sentences is, in a great measure, owing to false pointing.

"The cosmographical description forms the last three pages of the letter. It was doubtless intentionally omitted by Ramusio, though it would be difficult to say why. Some of the readings are apparently corrupt; nor, ignorant as we are of nautical science, was it in our power to correct them. There are also some slight mistakes, which must be attributed to the transcriber.

"A letter which follows that of Verrazzano, gives, as it seems to us, a sufficient explanation of the origin of this manuscript. It was written by a young Florentine, named Fernando Carli, and is addressed from Lyons to his father in Florence. It mentions the arrival of Verrazzano at Dieppe, and contains several circumstances about him, which throw a new though still a feeble light upon parts of his history, hitherto wholly unknown. It is by the discovery of this letter, that we have been enabled to form a sketch of him, somewhat more complete than any which has ever yet been given.

"The history of both manuscripts is probably as follows: Carli wrote to his father, thinking, as he himself tells it, that the news of Verrazzano's return would give great satisfaction to many of their friends in Florence. He added at the same time, and this also we learn from his own words, a copy of Verrazzano's letter to the king. Both his letter and his copy of Verrazzano's were intended to be shown to his Florentine acquaintances. Copies, as is usual in such cases, were taken of them; and to us it seems evident that from some one of these the copy in the Magliabechian manuscript was derived. The appearance of this last, which was prepared for some individual fond of collecting miscellaneous documents, if not by him, is a sufficient corroboration of our statement." [Footnote: Historical Studies: by George Washington Greene, New York, 1850; p. 323. Life and Voyages of Verrazzano (by the same), in the North American Review for October, 1837. (Vol. 45, p. 306).]

Adopting the Carli copy as the primitive form of the Verrazzano letter, and the Carli letter as the original means by which it has been communicated to the world, the inquiry is resolved into the authenticity of the Carli letter. There are sufficient reasons to denounce this letter as a pure invention; and in order to present those reasons more clearly, we here give a translation of it in full:

Letter of Fernando Carli to his Father. [Footnote: The letter of Carli was first published in 1844, with the discourse of Mr. Greene on Verrazzano, in the Saggiatore (I, 257), a Roman journal of history, the fine arts and philology. (M. Arcangeli, Discorso sopra


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