Supposing, as he did to his latest day, that he had found the eastern coast of India, and not another continent, Columbus gave the name of Indies to the islands he discovered, whose inhabitants he also called Indians; yet he did not have the honor of giving his own name to the New World which he made known to mankind.
In the following pages his own unstudied account of the first voyage and discovery, and the narrative from the biography of Columbus by his son, furnish a very complete history of the enterprise from which so large a part of the world’s later development has followed. It should be noted, however, that both of the accounts manifest the not unnatural desire to give full prominence to the part taken by Columbus himself. His able coadjutors, the Pinzons, scarce receive such adequate mention as they are given by more modern narrators.
The letter to Gabriel Sanchez appears here in a careful edition, one of the treasured possessions of the New York Public Library—Lenox Library—through the courtesy of whose officers it is presented in this work. It is the first letter of Columbus, giving the earliest information of his discovery, and is here rendered in a new translation, as contained in the little volume published in 1892 by the trustees of the Lenox Library, as a “tribute to the memory of the great discoverer.”
[Letter of Christopher Columbus, to whom our age owes much, concerning the islands recently discovered in the Indian sea, for the search of which, eight months before, he was sent under the auspices and at the cost of the most invincible Ferdinand, King of Spain; addressed to the magnificent lord Raphael Sanxis, treasurer of the same most illustrious King, and which the noble and learned man Leander de Cosco has translated from the Spanish language into Latin, on the third of the calends of May, 1493, the first year of the pontificate of Alexander VI.]
Because my undertakings have attained success, I know that it will be pleasing to you; these I have determined to relate, so that you may be made acquainted with everything done and discovered in this our voyage. On the thirty-third day after I departed from Cadiz, I came to the Indian sea, where I found many islands inhabited by men without number, of all which I took possession for our most fortunate King, with proclaiming heralds and flying standards, no one objecting. To the first of these I gave the name of the blessed Saviour, on whose aid relying I had reached this as well as the other islands. But the Indians call it Guanahani. I also called each one of the others by a new name. For I ordered one island to be called Santa Maria of the Conception, another Fernandina, another Isabella, another Juana, and so on with the rest.