As the time when he had promised to send news to the King and Queen approached, and as the season was moreover favourable [for sailing], Columbus decided not to prolong his stay. He therefore ordered the twelve caravels, whose arrival we have announced, to sail, though he was much afflicted by the assassination of his comrades; because, but for their death, we should possess much fuller information concerning the climate and the products of Hispaniola.
That you may inform your apothecaries, druggists, and perfumers concerning the products of this country and its high temperature, I send you some seeds of all kinds, as well as the bark and the pith of those trees which are believed to be cinnamon trees. If you wish to taste either the seeds or the pith or the bark, be careful, Most Illustrious Prince, only to do so with caution; not that they are harmful, but they are very peppery, and if you leave them a long time in your mouth, they will sting the tongue. In case you should burn your tongue a little in tasting them, take some water, and the burning sensation will be allayed. My messenger will also deliver to Your Eminence some of those black and white seeds out of which they make bread. If you cut bits of the wood called aloes, which he brings, you will scent the delicate perfumes it exhales.
Fare you well.
From the Court of Spain, the third day of the calends of May, 1494.
TO CARDINAL LUDOVICO D’ARAGON
You desire that another skilful Phaeton should drive the car of the Sun. You seek to draw a sweet potion from a dry stone. A new world, if I may so express myself, has been discovered under the auspices of the Catholic sovereigns, your uncle Ferdinand and your aunt Isabella, and you command me to describe to you this heretofore unknown world; and to that effect you sent me a letter of your uncle, the illustrious King Frederick. You will both receive this precious stone, badly mounted and set in lead. But when you later observe that my beautiful nereids of the ocean are exposed to the furious attacks of erudite friends and to the calumnies of detractors, you must frankly confess to them that you have forced me to send you this news, despite my pressing occupations and my health. You are not ignorant that I have taken these accounts from the first reports of the Admiral as rapidly as your secretary could write under my dictation. You hasten me by daily announcing your departure for Naples in company of the Queen, sister of our King and your paternal aunt, whom you had accompanied to Spain. Thus you have forced me to complete my writings. You will observe that the first two chapters are dedicated to another, for I had really begun to write them with a dedication to your unfortunate relative Ascanio Sforza, Cardinal and Vice-chancellor. When he fell into disgrace, I felt my interest in writing also decline. It is owing to you and to the letters sent me by your illustrious uncle, King Frederick, that my ardour has revived. Enjoy, therefore, this narrative, which is not a thing of the imagination.