The First Three English Books on America

The First Three English Books on America: being chiefly translations, compilations, etc by Richard Eden from Pietro Martire, Sebastian Münster and Sebastian Cabot

edited by Edward Arber

Professor Edward Arber here offers "with heart-felt pleasure ... reprints of three exceedingly rare, curious, and costly Cosmographical Works; which are also the very earliest printed documents in our language, relating to South, Central, and North America."

The three books are translations by Richard Eden of works by

Pietro Martire, of Anghiera (1455-1526), who wrote of the voyage round Africa to India; of ten "christened" nations; and of the Legend of Prester John. This section concludes with a study of Richard Eden's contributions to English Literature, during the reigns of Edward VI and Mary.

Sebastian Münster, the Cosmographer (1489-1552), whose "boke of universall Cosmographie" covered the navigations from Spain eastward to the new India, describing many islands large and small, along with the riches and wonders found there — diamonds and spices, crops and trees, cannibals and devils. The voyages of Columbus, Magellan, Vespucci and others show the difficulties and dangers they endured, not only from the seas, the climate and the native populations but also from the jealousies and fears of lesser captains who accompanied them.

Sebastian Cabot, of Bristol, Grand Pilot of England (1474-1557) and a number of other contemporary writers are brought together in the final book, including Pietro Martire's "Decades" and Valdés' "Natural History of the West Indies". In fact this book is so wide-ranging it is difficult to give an idea of its scope:gold-mining; pearl fishing; devil-worship; the prices of precious stones and spices; strife between the Spaniards and Portuguese; manners and customes of the Indians, why they were called Indians and the reason for their colour; voyages to Muscovy; the discovery of Florida; the use of the compass; of Mexico and Peru; the manner of finding the Longitude ...

Please note that these books were written in the sixteenth century and that the spelling has not been modernised, though X-Ray has been used to given modern versions of many words to help the reader who is not familiar with the sixteenth century approach to spelling. The only change that has been made in the text itself is to replace the ſ character (the long "s" that looks like an f without the full cross-bar) with the modern "s" character.

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