COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER. -- BERNARDUS ALBINGAUNENSIS. Dialogo nuperrime edito Genue in 1512. Contiene sotto compendio ... tutti li circuli et sphere celeste ...i quattro elementi e cosse a lorol pertinente ... le cita principue de tutto lo orbe ... hore equale et inequale et como se augmentano et minuiscono soi di et nocte ... che distantia sera tra oppido et oppido in miliari ... Nota quo modo et personis uersus mare indicum reperta fuerint nauigatio. Et que insule alias incognite inuente fuerint a Genuensi Columbo. Necnon et terra firma nostrorum antecessorum nemini cognita ..., in Italian. AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER. Monterossa al Mare (near Genoa), Benedictine monastery of Mary Magdalene, 10 February-15 April 1512
Mezzo-median 4o (240 x 170 mm). ii+46+ii leaves: 1-210 38 (vi+410+54) 64. Modern pencilled foliation 1-50 includes flyleaves. Double column, 47 lines written between 48 horizontals and 6 verticals ruled in lead. Written in dark brown ink in a single humanistic hand, numerous calligraphic initials in the same ink, chapter numbers and some titles in red, 18 ASTRONOMICAL DIAGRAMS in red and brown, one with additional coloring in pink, yellow and green, 25 pages with astronomical and geographical tables on various grids ruled in red. (Minor fraying to corners of first and last leaves, clean tear to f. 48, light foxing to extreme blank margins, occasional small spots of a silvery pigment evidently used for contemporary corrections.) Contemporary stiff paper wrappers, vellum spine, lined with a portion of a vellum leaf from a 14th-century manuscript breviary with musical notation consisting of square neumes on five-line staves with one line drawn in red (worn, frayed, repaired with ?18th-century paper, sewing tacket partially detached from spine).
Provenance: Written between 10 February and 15 April 1512 by Bernardo of Albenga, a Benedictine monk of the monastery of St. Mary Magdalene at Monterosso al Mare, and dedicated to Lorenzo Fieschi, bishop of Ascoli: title and verses to reader on f. 3r (Hec ego Bernardus scripsi, quem sanguis alunne Albinge genuit, sed Benedictus habet), dedication and colophon on f. 3v (Ex cenobiolo diue Magalene, die 10 Februarii 1512 ...), colophon on f. 45v (Finis in Cenobiolo diue Marie Magdalene, apud Montem Rubrum, a Genue Ligurie regionis urbe primaria distante milibus quinquagenta, anno domini nostri Jesu Christi 1512, die quintadecima Aprilis ...) -- Canezzo family of Genoa: genealogical notes dated 1567-1633 and 1622-1641 on ff. 48v-50v, ff. 1v-2v -- Robert B. Honeyman: sale, Sotheby's London, 2 May 1979, lot 1147 -- H.P. Kraus: America Vetustissima, catalogue 185, no. 16.
Contents: Canezzo family, genealogical notes (ff. 1v-2v, f. 1r blank); title and address to the reader (f. 3r); dedication to Lorenzo Fieschi (f. 3v); the Dialogo (ff. 3v-28v); celestial diagrams and geographical tables (ff. 29r-43r); alphabetical index to the Dialogo (ff. 43v-45v); colophon (f. 45v); discovery texts (ff. 46r-48r); Canezzo family, genealogical notes (ff. 48v-50v, ff. 49v-50r blank).
A NEAR-CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNT OF THE VOYAGES OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, VESPUCCI AND OTHER EXPLORERS OF THE GREAT AGE OF DISCOVERY
The discussion of the voyages of Columbus and other early explorers is found at the end of the codex as an appendix to the Dialogo of Bernardo di Albenga and, like the rest of the manuscript, is written in his hand. This text mentions the first voyage of Columbus (1492-1493), the second voyage of Columbus (1493-1494), a rebellion against Columbus which occurred in Hispaniola during his fourth voyage (1502-1504), the voyages of Alonso Nino and Pinzon, the experiences of Michele de Cuneo on Columbus's second voyage, the discoveries of Cadamosto in Africa (1455), the voyage of Cadamosto and Antonieto Modinare (Africa), the voyages of Vasco da Gama and others (1497-1499), Portuguese exploration of the Red Sea (1499), Pedro Cabral's voyage to India (1500-1501), and Amerigo Vespucci's voyage to America (1501-1502). This account is remarkable for its early references to recent discoveries in America and Asia, and its author's fascination with "the means by which a way was found for sailing to the most distant lands near India, the unknown islands, and lands not known to our ancestors."
Bernardo's account of Michele de Cuneo's experiences is particularly important, in that it includes information not otherwise recorded. "Michele de Cuneo belonged to a noble family of Savona, on the Ligurian littoral a few miles west of Genoa. His father, Corrado de Cuneo, in 1474 had sold to Domenico Colombo, father of the admiral, a country house near Savona; and it is probable that he and Christopher were boyhood friends" (Samuel Eliot Morison, ed. and tr., Journals and Other Documents on the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, New York 1963, p. 209). Cuneo joined Columbus's second voyage as a gentleman volunteer. He participated in the first explorations into the interior of Hispaniola and sailed with Columbus on the expedition which discovered Cuba and Jamaica in April-September 1494. After Cuneo's return to Savona in 1495, he wrote a long letter describing his experiences to a friend and fellow-citizen of Genoa, Hieronymo Annari, who had asked him for information about the New World. The complete letter is known from a copy made ca. 1511 (University of Bologna, ms. 4075, ff. 24r-46r; Italian text published in Cesare de Lollis, Raccolta di documenti e studi pubblicati dalla R. Commissione Colombiana pel quarto centenario dalla scoperta dell'America, III/2, Rome 1893, pp. 95-107; English translation in Morison, op. cit., pp. 210-228). THE PRESENT TEXT, THOUGH ABBREVIATED, CONTAINS INFORMATION NOT FOUND IN CUNEO'S LONGER LETTER, e.g., the first statement that "the basis of the discovery of these islands [the West Indies] was a book of Ptolemy which came into the possession of Columbus." This version must derive from an independent tradition, or possibly it embodies information supplied directly by Cuneo to Bernardo of Albenga. Also unique to this version are repeated estimates of distances, in leagues and miles, between various points in the West Indies. These probably reflect Bernardo's own preoccupation with such calculations, evident elsewhere in the manuscript, but they may also be based on information he obtained from Cuneo.
Bernardo, the author and copyist of this manuscript, was from Albenga, a town on the Ligurian coast ca. 70 km. west of Genoa. At the time this codex was written, he was a Benedictine monk in the monastery of St. Mary Magdalene at Monterossa al Mare, about 70 km. east of Genoa. Nothing is known of him except what can be gleaned from his writings, none of which have ever been published. Kristeller, Iter italicum, records four manuscripts containing works attributed to him: Genoa, Biblioteca Durazzo, MS. B II 9; Rome, Biblioteca Casanatense, MS. 1173 (C VI 1); Chicago, Newberry Library, MS. Ayer 41; and the present codex. In addition to several works of a religious nature, Bernardo wrote extensively on scientific topics: the calendar, the almanac, the astrolabe, cosmography, and geography, including commentaries on the works of Regiomontanus and Ptolemy. These concerns are reflected in the Dialogue which occupies the larger part of the present manuscript. This covers a long list of topics -- the celestial spheres, the four elements, the principal cities of the earth, the variation in length of night and day, the distances in miles from city to city - and is copiously illustrated with carefully drawn tables and diagrams. The manuscript bears striking, and largely unexplored, witness to the current awareness and scientific interests of an Italian monk at the beginning of the 16th century.