Volume 2, Chapter 7 -- Letters from Lisbon in the beginning of the Sixteenth Century, respecting the then recent Discovery of the Route by Sea to India, and the Indian trade.[1]
*Section 1* -- Letter from the Venetian Envoy in Portugal to the Republic
*Section 2* -- Letter from certain Merchants and Bankers of Spain, to their correspondents in the cities of Florence and Venice, respecting a treaty of peace and league between the kings of Portugal and Calicut
*Section 3* -- Letter from Peter Pasquali, orator of the Venetian republic at the court of the king of Portugal, to his brothers dwelling in Lisbon
*Section 4* -- Letter from Francis Sagitta of Cremona, from Lisbon, directed to the Venetian orator Peter Pasquali, residing at the Court of Castile
*Section 5* -- Of the Weights and Money of Calicut, and of the places whence they procure their Spices


The following letters bear to have been written by some Italian public agents and merchants, to their employers and friends, and contain a curious record of the first impressions made on the public mind by the wonderful discoveries which navigation was then opening up to the European world. They are selected from the Novus Orbis, a work which was published by Simon Grynæus early in the sixteenth century. According to M. de la Richarderie,[2] this collection was formed by Hans Heteirs, canon of Strasburg, and was printed under the care of Simon Grynæus, by Isaac Hervag, in folio, at Basil in 1532. We learn likewise that it passed rapidly through several editions, having been reprinted at Basil in 1535, 1537, and 1555; and at Paris in 1582. The edition used on the present occasion is printed at Basil in 1555 by Jo. Hervag. Its principal contents, besides those translated for the present chapter, are the voyages of Cada Mosto, already given; the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, which will form the first article in our subsequent volume; the voyages of Vincent Alonzo Pinzon, and of Americus Vespucius, which will be attended to hereafter; and the travels of Marco Polo, which have been already given at full length from a better source.

The language of the Novus Orbis is perhaps the most barbarous Latin ever composed for the press, and its punctuation is so enormously incorrect that it would have been easier understood without any points whatever.

As already mentioned, the edition here used is dated in the year 1555, little more than fifty years after the discoveries they commemorate; and the letters themselves are dated in 1501, 1502, and 1503, immediately after the return of the earliest of the Portuguese voyages from India. Indeed the first letter seems to have been written only a day or two after the arrival of the first ship belonging to Cabral's fleet.

This work is accompanied by a very curious map of the world, on one planisphere, much elongated to the east and west, which may be considered as a complete picture of the knowledge then acquired of the cosmography of our globe. The first meridian is placed at the island of Ferro, and the degrees of longitude are counted from thence eastwards all round the world, so that Ferro is in long. 0° and 360° E. In every part of the world, the outlines are grossly incorrect, and it would serve no purpose to give an extended critical view of this map; yet a few notices respecting it may gratify curiosity.

Europe is singularly incorrect, especially in the north and east. America, called likewise Terra Nova, has an approximated delineation of its southern division, stretching far to the south, as if the cosmographer had received some tolerable notices of Brazil, Cape Horn, and the coasts of Peru and Chili. But instead of the continent of North America, the island of Cuba is delineated in a north and south direction, reaching between the latitudes of 10° and 50° north; leaving a small strait or passage between its southern extremity and the Isthmus of Darien into the South Sea. About twelve degrees west from Cuba the island of Zipangri is placed; and at least twenty degrees east from Cathay or China. At sixteen degrees east from the northern end of Cuba, a large island is placed in the Oceanus Magnus or Atlantic, called Terra Cortesia; which the cosmographer seems to have intended to represent the kingdom of Mexico, recently discovered by Cortez; though placed almost in lat. 50° N. Perhaps this may be an error for Corterealis, an early navigator, who is said to have made discoveries on the eastern coast of North America.

In Africa there is an approximation towards its true shape; yet the Caput Viride, or Cape Verd, is placed to the north of the river Senegal, instead of between that river and the Gambia; and the sources of the Nile are brought down to lat. 15° S. at least twenty-two degrees too far to the southwards.

Asia, with India and China, are too much distorted for criticism. Calicut is placed in the peninsula of Cambaya or Guzerate. The Aurea Chersonesus and Regnum Malacha, or Malacca, are separated by a great gulf, while the latter is placed so low as 30° S. latitude. This much may suffice for an account of the incorrect yet curious specimen of cosmographical knowledge which had been acquired by the learned in Europe about 300 years ago.

To these four letters we have added a short account of several curious circumstances relative to the trade of the Europeans with India at the commencement of the sixteenth century, or three hundred years ago; which, though not very accurately expressed, contains some curious information.

[1] Novus Orbis Grynæi, p. 94-102.
[2] Bibl. Univ. des Voy. I. 55, and V. 486.



Volume 2, Chapter 7, Section 1 -- Letter from the Venetian Envoy in Portugal to the Republic.[1]

Most serene prince, &c.-- Believing that your highness has been already informed by the most excellent legate, of all the memorable things which have occurred in this place, and particularly respecting the fleet so lately dispatched for India by the king of Portugal, which, by the blessing of God, has now returned with the loss of seven ships; as it originally consisted of fourteen sail, seven of which only have come home, the other seven having been wrecked in the voyage. Their voyage was along the coasts of Mauritania and Getulia to Cape Verd, anciently called Experias; off which the islands called the Hesperides are situated. From thence they explored lower Ethiopia towards the east, beyond which the ancients never penetrated. They sailed along this eastern coast of Ethiopia to a line corresponding with the meridian of Sicily, about five or six degrees within the equinoctial, the gold mines belonging to the king of Portugal being about the middle of that coast.[2] Beyond that coast of the gold mines, and nine degrees to the south of the winter tropic,[3] they came to a great promontory called the Cape of Good Hope, which is almost 5000 miles distant from our country. From thence they came to the cape anciently called Prasum, which was considered by Ptolemy as the extremity of the southern regions, all beyond being unknown to the ancients. After that they reached the country of the Troglodites, now called Zaphala, or Sofala, which our ancestors affirm to have abounded in gold, infinitely more than any other part of the earth. Stretching from Sofala across the Barbaric Gulf,[4] they came into the Indian Ocean, and at length to the city of Calicut. Such was their voyage, which carefully calculated, as following the coasts of the ocean, extends to the prodigious length of 15,000 miles; but which, if the lands and mountains would allow in a direct line, were greatly shorter.

Before passing the Cape of Good Hope, in consequence of being forced out of their course by a S.W. wind, they discovered a new country to which they gave the name of the Land of Parrots, because they found there an incredible number of these birds, of many beautiful colours, some of them a cubit and a half in length and more. We have seen two of these birds, and can vouch for the truth of the description. On exploring this extensive coast, the navigators believed that it must necessarily belong to a continent, as they sailed along it for the space of 2000 miles without having seen either extremity. Its coasts are inhabited by people of a tolerably handsome appearance, who go quite naked.[5]

In this voyage they lost four ships. Two others were sent to the gold mines, which are not yet returned; and seven only reached Calicut, where they were honourably received, and had a house allotted them by the prince, and there they brought their ships to anchor. Soon afterwards there assembled many boats of the Moors and other neighbouring people, and some frigates belonging to the great sultan, all the people belonging to which conspired together against the Christians, being exceedingly adverse to the coming of the Christians into these parts, lest they should diminish their profits. They insisted therefore to have their ships first loaded, to the great dissatisfaction of the Christians, who immediately complained to the king of the insolence of the Moors, but soon discovered that he favoured them. The king of Calicut was a person of very doubtful faith, and made the following answer: that it did not seem equitable for the Moors to be permitted to finish their traffic before the Christians; and gave orders accordingly, that the Christians might carry on their trade. The Moors trangressed this decree, and took away the goods of the Christians at pleasure; upon which disputes arose between the Christians and the Moors, in which the whole inhabitants of the city took part with the Moors. Whereupon a great slaughter was made of the Christians, above forty of them being slain; among whom was their principal factor, when endeavouring to escape by swimming. In revenge for this cruelty, the Christians made severe reprisals; as they burnt ten ships belonging to the prefect of Syria, that is the sultan; and destroyed a considerable portion of the city by means of their catapults and bombards,[6], many houses being burnt to the ground, as they are covered with thatch like cottages, and exceedingly combustible.

After this, the fleet left Calicut, and went to another kingdom named Cochin, about forty miles distant, being conducted thither by a Jew who assumed the Christian faith. The king of Cochin hated the king of Calicut exceedingly, and on that account received the Christians with much kindness. Spices are in greater abundance at Cochin than at Calicut, and the Christians carried off such riches from Cochin as I dare scarcely venture to report; for they allege to have purchased a cantarus of cinnamon, which is a considerable measure, for one gold ducat. The king of Cochin gave two hostages to the Portuguese, in assurance of their safety, and sent even ambassadors to the king of Portugal. In the mean time, the king of Calicut fitted out an immense fleet against the Christians, in revenge for having burnt the ships in his harbour. This fleet exceeded 150 ships, and carried 15,000 men, yet on account of a north wind which they were unable to contend with, they dared not to attack the Portuguese ships, and withdrew from Cochin. As their great numbers were considerably formidable, the Portuguese ships went to a certain island in which the body of St Thomas is interred, the lord of which received them kindly, and gave them some relics of that holy person in token of friendship. He even offered them greater quantities of spices than they had ever seen before, without money, trusting that they would pay for them on their return from Europe. But being already laden, the Portuguese declined this friendly offer.

The Portuguese fleet employed fourteen months in this voyage, and returned to Lisbon in spring; but they say that it may be made much sooner, now that the course is well known, and may even be accomplished in ten months. All the ships that reached Calicut returned, except one which was lost on certain rocks, but the crew saved, which ship was of six hundred tons burden. As yet only one caravel has come into port, but the rest are said to be not far off. This lately arrived ship came into port on St John's day, 6th May, at which time I happened to be with the king, who addressed me in these words. "Hah! congratulate me, good sir, as my fleet is already in the river, loaded with all kinds of spices." I received the news joyfully, as became me, and made my compliments of congratulation to the king. The tidings were welcomed with exceeding joy and all kind of festivity, with the sound of trumpets, cymbals, and flutes, and the continual firing of cannon. On the day following there was a solemn thanksgiving, at which all the people assisted. When I again waited on the king, he desired me to apprize your serenity of his good fortune, saying that you may send your ships hither in safety to purchase his spices; adding, that he should take such measures as to prevent the prefect of Syria, that is the sultan;[7] from procuring spices in India. He founds this hope assuredly on the success which his fleet had lately in contending with the numerous vessels of the Moors, and has no doubt of being able to reduce India under his own authority. The ship already arrived is commanded by a Tuscan named Bartholomew, a native of Florence. Her cargo consists of 300 cantari or quintals of pepper, 120 cantari of cinnamon, 60 cantari of lac, and 15 cantari of castor and other perfumes of that kind.[8] They have no cloves or ginger, having been prevented by the Moors, as these could only be procured at Calicut; neither have they any of the lesser spices. They had purchased many pearls of different sorts, which were all lost in the disturbances at Calicut, in which many of their men and much riches were destroyed.

I must not omit to mention, that there have lately arrived messengers from Ubenus[9] king of Ethiopia to the king of Portugal, bringing gifts of ivory and many other things. These are soon to return in two ships, which are to go to India after stopping at the new gold mines. While this ship which has first arrived was on its voyage home, it met two ships steering their course from the new gold mines[10] for India. These, thinking themselves lost, or that they would be plundered by the Christians, offered to pay them a ransom of 15,000 ducats for leave to continue their voyage. But the Christians, though tempted by so much gold, gave these people many gifts and permitted them to continue their course, that they might hereafter be allowed a free trade with their country.

[1] This letter is dated on the 20th of June 1501, and obviously refers to the voyage of Cabral, who had returned from India not long before. The writer is described as a native of Crete, and envoy from the lords of Venice to the king of Portugal.--E.
[2] The strange geographical language here used is inexplicable, probably because the ideas of the writer were confused. He seems to mean the Mina in Guinea, which is five or six degrees within the equator, or to the north; but is at least 18º west from the meridian of Sicily. --E.
[3] Meaning the tropic of Capricorn, on which the sun is during our winter solstice--E.
[4] The recession of the coast inwards from Cape Delgado to Melinda, which may be called the Bay of Zanzibar.--E.
[5] In the map of Grynaeus already mentioned, this Terra Psittacorum or Land of Parrots, is placed on the south-west coast of Africa, between the Cape of Good Hope and Congo. Yet there can be no doubt that the recent discovery of Brazil on the eastern coast of South America is here alluded to: Consequently, instead of the lebeccio vento, or S.W. wind of the text, it would naturally have required a S. E. wind to force the Portuguese fleet so far to the westward of its intended course.--E.
[6] The author assuredly uses these words to denominate two kinds of ordnance or cannon then used in the Portuguese ships of war.--E.
[7] By the sultan or prefect of Syria, twice so designed in this dispatch, is evidently meant the Mameluk sultan of Egypt; but who was soon afterwards defeated and slain by the Turkish emperor. The ineffectual exertions of the Mameluks and Turks, instigated by Venice, to obstruct the Portuguese trade in India, will be afterwards mentioned.--E.
[8] It is difficult to say what is meant by a cantarus in the text; perhaps a quintal or 100 pounds. The castor of the text, and other perfumes, may mean musk, civet, and ambergris.--E.
[9] Perhaps the king of Congo, or some other prince of the west coast of Africa is here alluded to; or perhaps the xeque or prince of the Moors at Sofala.--E.
[10] By the new gold mines Sofala seems indicated, as contradistinguished from the old gold mines of Guinea. The story of the two ships on their voyage to India from Sofala, obviously alludes to the Guzerate vessels, more particularly mentioned already in the voyage of Cabral --E.



Volume 2, Chapter 7, Section 2 -- Letter from certain Merchants and Bankers of Spain,[1] to their correspondents in the cities of Florence and Venice, respecting a treaty of peace and league between the kings of Portugal and Calicut.

We have been informed by those who were on board of the fleet which sailed from Lisbon to India in May 1502, and returned on the 15th December 1503, that the king of Calicut has concluded a peace with our sovereign on the following conditions. As a compensation for the slaughter of our men, he is to pay 4000 bahars of pepper, equal to 12,000 quintals. That the Moors shall not be allowed to trade there from any place whatever, excepting only those who are natives of Calicut; and that these even shall not be permitted to trade with Mecca. That our king, if so inclined, may build a fort at Calicut, and shall be supplied with a sufficient quantity of stones, lime, and timber for that purpose by the zamorin, paying for these on delivery. That the king of Calicut shall aid and favour the Portuguese in all things, and that it shall be competent for our king to appoint one of his own subjects to administer justice among the Portuguese resident in that city, even with the power of life and death, and without appeal to the Zamorin. That when any of our people shall revolt from or be disobedient to our commercial agent, they shall immediately be delivered up to be judged by the aforesaid Portuguese consul. If any captive Moors are detained, they shall all be delivered up to our agent. That the two Milanese lapidaries, who had gone from Rome to India, and who there acted as military engineers and shipbuilders in the European fashion, to the disgrace of the Christian profession, and the vast injury of the Christians, should be delivered up in chains to the admiral of our fleet. That the kings or rajahs of Cochin and Cananore shall be included in this treaty as co-allies, mutually sharing all danger and advantages with the other contracting parties: so that if any one shall take arms against any of the parties to this treaty, he shall be declared an enemy to all the parties hereby confederated. If any of the parties to this league shall act contrary to its stipulations, the power of all the rest shall act against him, as a perfidious person, a traitor, and an enemy to good faith; all the contracting parties using their utmost to preserve the present peace and alliance inviolate. While the Portuguese fleet might remain in the harbour of Calicut, all other ships whatever were to be refused access, at least until after ours were laden. But when there were sufficient goods for all who wanted them, then all ships were to be at liberty to load; provided always that the accustomed prices should not be augmented, and expressly that the profit to the venders should never exceed 8 per cent which was usual in that port.

These are the conditions of peace and alliance which have been stipulated, to the great honour and renown of our sovereign, as must be evident to every one; as henceforwards he may not only be accounted sovereign of India, but has imposed laws on Turkey and the prefect of Syria,[2] since by this treaty all access to the city of Calicut is debarred to their traders. We do not even doubt that, in four years from hence, through the vigorous measures of our king, our sailors may safely navigate to Constantinople and Alexandria, the present most celebrated marts of eastern commerce, and shall take signal vengeance on the Moors by whom they have been infamously and frequently abused. For this purpose a fleet of twelve sail was fitted out this year, which found the rajah of Cochin expelled from his dominions, having fled for refuge from the hostilities of the king of Calicut to a strong place in a certain island. The only reason he could assign for the hostilities of the zamorin was, that, faithful to his engagements, he refused to deliver our people to the king of Calicut, and chose rather to live in exile than to betray his trust. In this extremity, our fleet brought opportune aid to the friendly rajah, and having landed troops for his assistance, they marched boldly against the perfidious zamorin, routed his forces with great slaughter, and triumphantly restored the rajah of Cochin to his dominions.

This kingdom is not far distant from the straits of the Red Sea, where they have erected a very strong fortress,[3] and are building another in the mouth of the bay of Cochin, provided with all kinds of warlike artillery, by which to repel the enemy, and to provide a safe station for our fleet; nor shall we recede from thence, however adverse the natives may be to our remaining; and when the same shall be done in the bay of Calicut, it will not then be difficult to defend these stations and the adjoining coasts against all aggressors. Our ships which remained in these seas last year made no small booty, as they took one morning five ships bound from the kingdom of Cambaya for Mecca, the shrine of Mahomet, in which they found 1000 cantari or quintals of clean cloves, besides a large quantity of the same spice not freed from the husk as is usual with us. These ships had likewise castor and other perfumes of that kind,[4] sanders wood, amber, purified lac, and excessively fine linen, and a large sum in gold and silver coin; insomuch that the value of this prize exceeded 200,000 ducats.

Having thus informed you of the wealth of that country, which abounds in almost everything, we now proceed to relate that two of our ships above mentioned have been cast away in a storm near the mouth of the Red Sea, their commander Vincentius and above six hundred men having perished, but the other two were saved,[5] Another vessel, which escaped that dreadful tempest, was soon afterwards dashed to pieces against a rock; so that the sea was covered with dead bodies and with rich merchandize of all kinds: Thus, as the proverb says, wealth ill acquired is ill lost. Of all these ships one small caravel only rode out the storm, and brought intelligence of the destruction of the others.

We have now to inform you, that our king has given permission to all who choose to proceed to India and to carry on trade, providing that he is paid a quarter part[6] of all returns, and that they purchase from him for the purpose such ships as he thinks proper, and the price of these ships must be paid before setting out on the voyage; because, considering the loss of ships which he has already sustained, he is desirous that others should now bear the risk. It will therefore require large funds to embark in this trade, so that we hardly believe the king will find any to engage on these conditions; but of this we shall inform you from time to time as it may occur. It must not, however, be concealed that the circumstances of this trade are by no means established on certain principles, which can only be determined by future events.

A Portuguese of the former fleet touched at a certain port in the kingdom of Sofala, and visited a gold mine of which he relates wonderful things. He assured us that a ship of the Christians had been there, and speaks of incredible quantities of gold to be found there. On this account, our king is resolved to erect a strong fort at that place, to keep the barbarians under subjection, and to keep away the Indians and the inhabitants of Cambaya, lest they should make themselves masters of the mine. He will therefore immediately seize upon this mine for his own use, which we certainly believe to have been the mine whence Solomon derived such vast riches, and where the queen of Sheba dwelt, who went to visit Solomon, as related in holy writ. These things are of such importance that they ought not to be concealed from you; and our king is to be deemed happy and fortunate; because he hath made the discovery of such vast riches.

It is believed by many that they will soon obtain permission from the king to go to India, paying him at the rate of 25 per cent. and taking his ships as before mentioned. It appears to be his wish that the merchants should send out their own factors or supercargoes with the care of their goods, but without any authority, as he wishes to rule in all things, and that everything may be directed by his officers, even the expences of the merchants. The trade in spiceries is to remain exclusively in the viceroy, and is not to be permitted to the merchants; for which reason it is not believed that this Indian trade will be very profitable. But we shall give you due information of all these things as they occur. We have formerly written you that Cairo failed in its commercial prosperity from the very same cause; and if this great eastern trade shall be appropriated by the king, it will certainly occasion a Babylonian confusion in the state, and very deservedly. For at Cairo the Moors were in use to [[=used to]] maltreat the Christians exceedingly, and they are now perhaps suffering for that error, as they will not any longer be allowed to carry away any kind of spices, or jewels of all kinds, or pearls and other valuable commodities; as by means of the Portuguese forts, they will in future be debarred from trading to Calicut and Sofala; for all which you will be thankful to God.

Concerning the gold mine of Sofala, which we mentioned before, and of which such wonderful things are told, it is said our king will be the sole proprietor in two years, which must prove of vast importance; as from that place, which is now possessed by the idolaters, all India and Persia used to procure the whole of their gold; although the mouth of the bay is under the dominion of a king of the Chaldeans,[7] at which place the trade is carried on with the idolaters by the Moors, who bring yearly their ships from Cambaya laden with low-priced articles, which they barter for gold. These goods are coarse cotton cloths, silks of various fashions and many colours, but chiefly of the Turkish fabric. The king of Quiloa, an island about sixty leagues from Sofala, it is said, will have to quit that place from fear of the idolaters. At Quiloa all ships going to Sofala have to stop and pay tribute, before going to the mine of Sofala. When they get to Sofala, they have to remain there six or eight months before completing their affairs; carrying from thence gold, ivory, and wax, all of the best kind. After this they have again to touch at Quiloa, and to pay a tax for their gold. Thence they go to Cambaya or Mecca. In our ships there are twelve or fifteen agents of the king of Quiloa, who pays a tribute yearly to our king of 1500 metigals, each of which metigals is worth 150 ducats, or in all 225,000 ducats. That king depends so entirely on the king of Portugal, that our king may dethrone him whenever be pleases to send there a force of 1000 men, which would oblige the king of Quiloa to run away; and it is believed this will be done shortly, the thing being so easy, and by this means an yearly revenue of 500,000 ducats would be secured.

If you have properly considered what those ships may bring which are daily expected, you will find that they will at least import about 222 quintals of all kinds of spice: And we shall ship for you of all these, using our endeavours that you may never be in want of them. Even after the before-mentioned treaty with the king of Calicut, no small risk still remains to those who navigate to the Indies, on account of a certain archipelago, containing about 14,000 islands,[8] and owing to the narrowness of a certain strait which is scarcely navigable. We shall persist notwithstanding, as by custom and experience these dangers will become of no consequence. At length we expect to have the glory of having discovered almost the whole of the world, and those parts of it especially to which the ancients never penetrated. It only remains for us to go to the island of Taprobana, or Ceylon, which according to Pliny is exceedingly rich in gold, gems, and ivory. Thus by our anxious endeavours, we shall lay open the whole of India to our trade. By letters from thence, it appears that our merchandize is not much valued in these parts, and that crusadoes ought to be sent out, if we wish to have our affairs speedily conducted, as other goods remain long in hand: For the Indians purposely procrastinate, that they may beat down the value of our commodities. The Indians give a high price for brass and alum; but this last must be white not red, and in large pieces, as they despise the small. They do not care for coral, unless large and finely wrought, which otherwise bears no value. Lead is valued, if in large bars. Quicksilver and amber are in no request. Wrought brass bears a low price, as it is always manufactured over again in their own fashion, so that the cost of manufacturing in Europe would be thrown away. All other goods besides these mentioned are in no demand, and will therefore bring small profit.

[1] This letter has no date, but must have been very early in the sixteenth century, probably in 1504, from the circumstance to which it alludes at its commencement. Although said to be from Spain, there is every reason to suppose it was written from Lisbon, as we find Portugal frequently considered as in Spain, which it actually is in the most extensive geographical sense.--E.
[2] This, as formerly observed, alludes to the Mameluk sultan of Egypt, through whose dominions the trade between India and Europe was entirely carried on before this era. This treaty of peace and alliance between Portugal and Calicut, may possibly have been proposed at this period, but certainly was not then agreed to; as there were long wars with the zamorin before his power was reduced under the influence and dominion of the Portuguese.--E.
[3] This is rather an anachronism, as at this period the Portuguese had no fortress on the Red Sea.
[4] The Castor of the text was probably musk, and its amber, ambergris. --E.
[5] This alludes to the misfortune of Vincente Sodre and his squadron, already more distinctly related in the preceding chapter.--E.
[6] The expression of the original, ex centenario lucro quadrugenarium, is not easily understood: It is here translated a quarter part of the return cargo, conformably with the regulations of Don Henry for the trade of Guinea, as already stated in Vol. I. p. 204, from which the present were probably copied.--E.
[7] It is difficult to guess what bay, and who may be the king of the Chaldeans here alluded to. Perhaps the town of Sofala, the emporium of the gold trade of Eastern Africa, which was ruled by an Arabian prince or sheik. By the idolaters in the text, are apparently meant the Negroes of the interior, where the gold came from by way of Sofala.--E.
[8] This alludes to the Maldives and Lakedives.--E.



Volume 2, Chapter 7, Section 3 -- Letter from Peter Pasquali, orator of the Venetian republic at the court of the king of Portugal, to his brothers dwelling in Lisbon.[1]

Beloved brothers! I formerly wrote you by Peter Verzo the carrier, informing you of all the news of this place; and now write again by Bartholomew Marquesi, the uncle of Dominic Benedicto of Florence, that you may be informed of our affairs, and may be assured of our desire to write whenever an opportunity offers. Know, therefore, that the vessel which was sent out last year towards the north by the king of Portugal under the command of Caspar Corterato, has now returned. He reports having discovered a continent about 2000 miles from hence, in a direction between the north-west and the west, hitherto utterly unknown. He is likewise said to have sailed almost 800 miles along its coast, without finding any end; on which account it is considered to be a continent, and not an island: and its coast appears to join with another land, formerly discovered almost under the very north.[2] But the vessel was unable to proceed so far, on account of the sea being frozen, and from excessive falls of snow. It is concluded, from the number of rivers which descend from the snowy mountains, that this land must be a continent, as no island could possibly supply so many rivers. The land is said to be well cultivated. The houses of the inhabitants are constructed of wood, covered with hides or the skins of fish. The vessel now arrived has brought over seven of the natives of both sexes, and the other ship, which is hourly expected, is said to have fifty. In stature, colour, appearance, and dress, these people are very like the Cingani. They are clothed in the skins of fish and otters, and other hairy skins like those of wolves; wearing the fur side inwards in winter, as we do, and outwards in summer; but these are not fashioned or sewed together, being used in their natural forms. These are principally worn on their arms and shoulders, and their loins are girded with many cords made of sinews. They appear a savage people, yet not impudent, and are well made in all their limbs. Their faces are punctured with many marks, like the Indians, having six or eight punctured lines, more or less according to their fancies, in which they seem to take great delight. They have a language, which is not understood by any one, although interpreters of almost every tongue have been tried. Their country is destitute of iron, yet they have swords edged with sharp stones; and their arrows are pointed by the same means, and are sharper even than ours. Our people brought from thence part of a broken sword with gilded ornaments, which seemed of Italian manufacture.

A certain boy is said to have been seen in that country, having two silver balls hanging from his ears, which certainly appeared to be engraved after our manner. On the whole, it may be concluded that this country is a continent, not an island, and that is a new discovery; for if any ships had ever been here before, we should assuredly have heard something respecting it. The coast abounds in fish, particularly salmon, herrings, and many others of that kind. There are forests, which abound in all kinds of trees; so that they build[3] ships, with masts, yards, benches, and all things conformable. On this account the king of Portugal has resolved to convert this discovery to profit, both on account of the abundance of wood which is fit for many purposes, and because the natives, being accustomed to labour, may become very useful, and indeed I have never seen better slaves. I have deemed it consistent with our friendship to acquaint you with these things; and when the other vessel arrives, which is daily expected, I shall communicate other particulars.

The fleet has sailed for Calicut, and the king has ordered that it shall seize the fleet of Mecca, that the soldan of Syria may neither have access there in future nor may export any more spices. The king of Portugal is satisfied that everything shall go according to his wishes in this respect, and the court and all the nation are of the same opinion. Should this purpose succeed, it is incredible how abundant this kingdom must soon become in all kinds of riches and merchandize; and from hence the ships of Venice in particular will have to bring their accustomed articles of trade. To us truly, who formerly sustained this branch of commerce entirely by our own resources, this decree will be injurious, unless he shew us favour.

[1] This letter is dated 9th October 1501. It is probable that Pasquali would hardly write this from the court of Portugal to his brothers in Lisbon; it being more likely that they resided in Venice.--E.
[2] The discovery here referred to, seems to have been the coast of Labradore; and the other country under the north may possibly be Greenland. This voyage was probably in quest of a north-west passage to India.--E.
[3] In this passage we surely ought to read ships may be built.--E.



Volume 2, Chapter 7, Section 4 -- Letter from Francis Sagitta of Cremona, from Lisbon, directed to the Venetian orator Peter Pasquali, residing at the Court of Castile.[1]

Most excellent orator! In two former letters, I have promised to omit no opportunity of informing your excellency what kind of merchandize might be brought in four vessels which were expected daily from India. They are now arrived, and I shall truly state all the merchandize which they have brought, which is as follows: one thousand quintals of pepper; 450 quintals of cinnamon; about fifty quintals of ginger; fifty quintals of lac; and as much cotton as may be bought for 400 ducats. The reason assigned for having brought so small a quantity of spice is, that they agreed among themselves, after sailing from hence, that two of the ships should steer for the gold mine, and the other two for Calicut. On this account, each took only such goods as it was thought would be valued in the ports to which they were bound. But when these ships came to Calicut they were not allowed to trade, and were obliged to go to other places. On going to Cananore, they there learnt what had been done by Peter Aliaris, the factor at Cochin for the king. The king or rajah of Cananore received our people honourably, and offered to supply our commanders gratuitously with all kinds of spices; but, thanking him gratefully for this kindness, he declined the offer, saying that he must go in the first place to the king's factor at Cochin, and would then return and accept his spices on credit. Setting out therefore for Cochin, he transacted business with the royal agent, Peter Aliaris; but as the ships did not bring money for their purchases, and as the goods they brought were in small request, and they could not therefore succeed in making purchases, the commander resolved to return to Cananore, where the rajah had expressed so much good will for the Portuguese, and where he bartered his merchandize for spices at a good profit. He here left three persons, with the ship's factor and a clerk, because the rajah had advanced money on credit for the spices, that they might not appear to have cheated the rajah. Yet after all, the ships had to come away only half loaded, because they had not taken out money for their purchases, and their goods were in no request. The conclusion from this is evident, that the Indians have no demand for our goods, and that money alone is especially desired by them, and of which they are in great need.

It has been reported since, that these kings of the Indies gave as much merchandize to our admiral without price as would load four ships, out of fear of the Christians; especially the king of Calicut, who has been told by his soothsayers to beware of the ensuing year, as the stars threaten him with a great slaughter of his men by the Christians, and that his kingdom even would be deserted, owing to dread of that people. We have this intelligence from three men who escaped from the battle at Araschorea with the barbarians. The same thing is reported by a native of Bergamo, who had dwelt twenty-five years at Calicut, which is likewise confirmed by a native of Valentia, who had sojourned there six years. In the meantime the king of Calicut fitted out a large fleet to attack our ships at Cananore; but they immediately sought for safety by setting sail. On this account the king of Portugal has ordered eight or ten ships of burthen to be fitted out by next January, of which seven are already built. Two ships have been sent out this summer, one of which is of 700 tons burthen, and the other of 500. There is a third in the port of Lisbon of 450 tons; two others at Madeira, one of 350, and the other of 230 tons; another is fitting out at Setubal carrying above 160 tons. Besides these six, a caravel is to be added which lately came from the island of Chio, all of which are entirely at the royal charges; and two are to be fitted out by the king for certain merchants, one of 450 tons and the other of 350. It is agreed between these merchants and the king, that the king shall be at the sole expence of the voyage and payment of the sailors, as in his service. That the merchants shall carry out as much money as may suffice for all their purchases; and on the return of the ships half of the goods shall belong to the king, and the merchants shall be at liberty to sell the other half for their own behoof. It appears evident to us that this mode of conducting business will be greatly more to the benefit of the merchants than going entirely at their own risk, as has been done hitherto; so that the king will probably find abundance of people willing to trade to India on these conditions. We have accordingly a share in these two ships; but of the event, God alone can judge.

[1] This letter is dated 16th September 1502; and by it P. Pascquali appears to have gone from Portugal into Spain:--E.



Volume 2, Chapter 7, Section 5 -- Of the Weights and Money of Calicut, and of the places whence they procure their Spices[1].

Having already treated concerning the articles of commerce of all kinds in the Indies, it is proper to give some account of the prices and weights of these. In the city of Calicut a bahar of nutmegs is sold for 450 favi. A bahar consists of four quintals, of 100 pounds each, and twenty favis are equal to a ducat. A bahar of cinnamon costs 390 favi. A faracula, or the twentieth part of a bahar of dried ginger, is six favi. A faracula of candied ginger is twenty-eight favi. A bahar of tamarinds thirty favi. A bahar of the best pepper 400 favi. A bahar of zerombeci forty favi. A bahar of myrabolans 560 favi. A bahar of zedoary thirty favi. A bahar of red sanders eighty favi. A bahar of lac 260 favi. A bahar of sanasius 160. A bahar of mastic 430 favi. A faracula of camphor 160. A bahar of pepper 360. A faracula of frankincense five favi. A faracula of benzoin six favi. A faracula of aloes wood 400 favi. A faracula of cassia eleven favi. A faracula of rhubarb 400 favi. A bahar of cloves 600 fevi. A faracula of opium 400 favi. A bahar of white sanders 700 favi. A mitrical of ambergris, or six ounces and a quarter. A bahar contains twenty faraculas. A faracula fourteen aratollae and a third; as twenty-three Venetian aratollae are equal to twenty-two Portuguese pounds. A golden ducat is equal to twenty favi.

As to those things which are carried from Europe for sale at Calicut, a faracula of brass sells for forty-five favi. A faracula of white coral for 1000. A faracula of silver for twenty favi. A faracula of spurious coral for 300. A faracula of alum twenty. An almenum of saffron sells for eighty favi: the almenum exceeds the Portuguese pound two aratollae and a half, and is therefore equal to about three Venetian pounds.

It appears proper to mention the regions from whence the various spices are brought to Calicut. Pepper is brought from a certain tower near the coast, about fifty leagues beyond Calicut. Cinnamon comes from a country called Zolon, Ceylon, 260 leagues beyond Calicut, and from no other place. Cloves come from the district of Meluza, which is twelve Portuguese leagues from Calicut, and is in the country of Cananore. Nutmegs and mastic come from Meluza, which is 740 leagues from Calicut[2]. Castor, which is musk, comes from a certain region called Pegu, 500 leagues from Calicut. Fine pearls come from the coast of Armuzi[3], 700 leagues from Calicut. Spikenard and myrabolans from the province of Columbaia[4], 600 leagues from Calicut. Cassia in twigs[5] is procured in the territory of Calicut. Frankincense is brought from Saboea[6], 800 leagues distant. Aloes-wood, rhubarb, camphor, and calinga, is sent from the country of Chiva[7], 4000 leagues from Calicut. Myrrh from the province of Fastica[8], 700 leagues distant. Calicut produces zeromba[9]; and Cananore sends cardamoms, being only twelve leagues distant. Long pepper is found in Same[10]. Benzoin from Zan, 700 miles from Calicut. Zedoary is produced in the territory of Calicut. Lac comes from the city of Samoterra[11], 500 leagues distant. Brasil wood from the region of Tannazar, 500 leagues. Opium from the coast of Adde, 700 leagues.

[1] This Section is taken from the Novus Orbus of Grynaeus, p 63. in which it forms part of the navigations from Lisbon to Calicut, attributed to the pen of Aloysius Cadamosto. The information it contains respecting the principal commodities then brought from India to Europe, and their prices, is curious: Yet there is some reason to suspect that the author, or editor rather, has sometimes interchanged the bahar and the faracula, or its twentieth part, in the weights of the commodities. Several of the names of things and places are unintelligible, probably from corrupt transcription.--E.
[2] Meluza may possibly be the city of Malacca, then a great emporium of Indian trade; but it is impossible to reconcile or explain Meluza in Cananore twelve leagues from Calicut, and Meluza 740 leagues from thence.--E.
[3] This may possibly refer to the island of Ramisseram in the straits of Manaar, between Ceylon and the Coromandel coast, near which the famous pearl fishery is still carried on.--E.
[4] Evidently Cambaya or Guzerat.--E.
[5] Probably Cassia lignea, or in rolled up bark like twigs, to distinguish it from the drug called Cassia fistula.--E.
[6] Perhaps the coast of Habesh on the Red Sea.--E.
[7] Probably a typographical error for China.--E.
[8] Alluding to some part of the coast of Arabia.--E.
[9] Perhaps Zedoary, repeated afterwards under its right name.--E.
[10] Same and Zan probably are meant to indicate some of the Indian islands. Same may be Sumatra. Zan may be some port in Zangibar, on the eastern coast of Africa.--E.
[11] Samoterra probably alludes to some port in the Bay of Bengal. Tannazar, almost certainly Tanaserim in Siam. Adde, probably is Adel or Aden in Arabia.--E.


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