A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 06 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 750 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 06.

Two years after the before-mentioned letters patent, or on the 18th of February 1497, a licence was granted by the same king of England, Henry vii. to John Cabot, to take six English ships in any haven or havens of England, being of 200 tons burden or under, with all necessary furniture; and to take also into the said ships all such masters, mariners, or other subjects of the king as might be willing to engage with him.

It would appear that the patent of 1495 had never been acted upon; but in consequence of this new licence, John Cabot and his son Sebastian proceeded from the port of Bristol and discovered an island somewhere on the coast of America to which they gave the name of Prima Vista, probably the island of Newfoundland.  The short account of this voyage of discovery left to us by Hakluyt, is said to have been inserted in Latin on a map constructed by Sebastian Cabot, concerning his discovery in America, then called the West Indies; which map, engraved by Clement Adams, was to be seen in the time of Hakluyt in the private gallery of Queen Elizabeth at Westminster, and in the possession of many of the principal merchants in London.  This memorandum, translated into English, is as follows[2].

[Footnote 2:  Id.  III. 27.]


Discovery of Newfoundland by John and Sebastian Cabot in 1497, in the service of Henry VII. of England.

“In the year 1497, John Cabot a Venetian and his son Sebastian, discovered on the 24th of June, about five in the morning, that land to which no person had before ventured to sail, which they named Prima Vista[3], or, first-seen, because as I believe it was the first part seen by them from the sea.  The island which is opposite[4] he named St Johns Island, because discovered on the day of St John the Baptist.  The inhabitants of this island use the skins and furs of wild beasts for garments, which they hold in as high estimation as we do our finest clothes.  In war they use bows and arrows, spears, darts, clubs, and slings.  The soil is sterile and yields no useful production; but it abounds in white bears and deer much larger than ours.  Its coasts produce vast quantities of large fish, among which are great seals, salmons, soles above a yard in length, and prodigious quantities especially of cod, which are commonly called bacallaos[5].  The hawks, partridges, and eagles of this island are all black.”

[Footnote 3:  Presuming that this discovery was Newfoundland, a name nearly of the same import, perhaps the land first seen was what is now called Cape Bonavista, in lat. 48 deg. 50’ N. long. 62 deg. 32’ W. from London.  In the text, there is every reason to believe that it is meant to indicate, that Cabot named the island he discovered St Johns, and only the first seen point of land Prima-Vista.—­E.]

[Footnote 4:  By this phrase is probably to be understood, the island behind this first-seen cape named Prima-Vista.—­E.]

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