Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert: Book VI, Chapter XL (A Noteworthy Repository of the Five Most Famous Ships Known to the World)

Book VI, Chapter XL

A noteworthy repository and record of the five most famous ships known to the world, from its beginnings to our times, these being the most renowned of all there have been.

Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

What will now be told I have set aside to address in the second part of this general history in Book XX, Chapter III. But for the continuation of this repository book it is appropriate and fitting to make a record of the most famous ships in the world, those best remembered; and I find that there are five such that take precedence over any others up to our time. The first one is the ark God commanded Noah to build, in which he and his wife, his three sons and his daughters-in-law, escaped the great flood, allowing these eight persons to reestablished the human lineage.[1] One should note its size, form, navigation, and divine inspiration, as it was built by God’s command for the purpose mentioned, and is therefore the noblest and the one that precedes all others. The second ship is that of Jason, on which he went in search of the Golden Fleece, a victory he attained through his love affair with Medea.[2] The third ship was that built by Sesoosis, whom others called Sesostris or Ramses, king of Egypt, whose length was two-hundred and eighty cubits, made of cedar wood, all golden on the outside and silver inside, which he dedicated to the god of Thebes. Its great magnificence and richness will be noted, but not its navigation and voyages, since about that we have no word.[3] The title of fourth most famous ship I give to that in which the first admiral of these our Indies, Don Christopher Columbus, discovered these parts and islands, called La Gallega, mentioned in Book II, Chapter V, of these histories; from whose navigation the establishment of the Christian faith and religion on this our Indies has followed. I say that the fifth ship is the Victoria, in which Captain Juan Sebastián del Cano sailed around the world; of all the ships that have sailed up to our time, it has made the longest voyage of all ships known since God made the world; it went to the Especiería, the Maluku Islands, and crossed through the famous Magellan Strait, and followed the eastern route to the Spice Islands, and loaded with spices, returned to Spain from the East. Thus its route took it around the entire circumference or roundness of the world following the course of the sun: which was a thing never written or seen or heard before or after till the present time.[4] And this should suffice for this repository, since my purpose in these varied stories is to give the reader to understand something of the nature of our Indies.

[1] Genesis, Chapter VI and VII. [GFO]

[2] Methamorphoses., Book VII. [GFO]

[3] Diodorus, Book II. [GFO]

[4] On the right margin of the original manuscript, and at the end of this chapter, the following curious and important note can be read, in reference to the first ship to have sailed around the world: “This ship Victoria had run aground in the King’s Shipyards in Seville; and I saw it there in the year 1580, where they built ships; there are some bits of it remaining.” [AR]