Which discusses how Christopher Columbus was the one who taught the Spaniards how to navigate following the sun and the North Star, and how he went to Portugal and other parts to look for help and support in the discovery of these Indies, and how the Catholic Monarchs, Don Ferdinand and Doña Isabella, under whose behest he made this discovery, had news of his person.

Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

It is the opinion of many (and reason supports it and urges us to believe it) that Christopher Columbus was the first person in Spain who taught sailors how to navigate the very broad Ocean guided by the height of the angles of the sun and the North Star. And he put this in practice, because although that skill could be read about in schools, few (or better yet, none) had dared experiment with it on the seas until he came along; because it is a science that cannot be deployed fully so as to understand it through experience and effect but on very large gulfs very far from land. And sailors and pilots and seafaring men up to that point had plied their craft arbitrarily, according to the judgment of the navigator or pilot; but not with exactitude or with the reasoning now used in these seas, but as they used to do in the Mediterranean Sea, and along the coasts of Spain and Flanders, and throughout Europe and Africa, and the rest of the world, where they didn’t sail very far away from land. But to set sail for provinces as distant as these Indies are from Spain, and for the pilot to follow the indications of the quadrant, requires seas of many longitudes and latitudes as those between here and Europe or from here to the Spice Islands to the west of the Mainland of these Indies.

Columbus, moved, then, by this wish, as a man who understood the secret of that navigational art (as far as the path to follow) and as a man learned in this science, or because he was certain of his destination from the information shared with him by the pilot from whom he  had heard of this hidden land in Portugal or on the islands I mentioned (if that was the way it happened); or because of the authorities I touched upon in the chapter before this one, or in any manner that he developed this purpose, he worked through his brother Bartholomew Columbus with Henry the VII of England (father of the Henry the VIII who is now king) to favor him and outfit him to discover these western seas, offering to bring him much treasure through the increase of his crown and estates through very large holdings and new kingdoms. Informed the king by his advisors and by persons he commissioned to examine this proposal, he mocked everything Columbus said, and took his words in vain. Not discouraged by this, as soon as he saw that his services were not welcome he moved on to attempt negotiations with the King Don Juan, second of that name in Portugal; and he didn’t put his faith in him either, even though Columbus was married in that kingdom and had become a natural vassal through his marriage. But that did not give him any advantage and the king of Portugal would not favor or help Columbus to further his plans either. Therefore, he determined to go to Castile; and upon arriving in Seville, he had meetings with the illustrious and courageous Don Enrique de Guzmán, Duke of Medina-Sedonia; but he didn’t find what he was looking for there either. And he pursued the business in more depth with the very illustrious Don Luis de la Cerda, first Duke of Medinaceli, who also found his proposals to be illusory, although some people want to claim that the Duke of Medinaceli wished to equip Columbus from his village at the Puerto de Santa María and that the Catholic King and Queen would not give him leave to do so. And therefore, given that his estate was not sufficiently endowed to support such an enterprise, Columbus went to the court of the most serene and Catholic monarchs, Don Ferdinand and Doña Isabella; and there he remained some time in much need and poverty without being understood by those who heard him, attempting to the favored by those blessed monarchs to equip a few caravels so he could in their names discover this New World, or those unknown parts of it at the time. And since this enterprise was not one about which those who heard him shared Columbus’ ideas, enthusiasm, and hope of a good outcome, not only was he not given much credit, sometimes he was given none, and some considered what he said to be pointless. And his frustration lasted almost seven years, while he went on offering great riches and many estates for the crown of Castile. But since his cape was threadbare (or poor) they thought of him as a fantasist and a dreamer in everything he said or described—in part because he was a stranger and a foreigner and had no one to champion him, and partly because the things he proposed to accomplish were so extravagant and unheard of. You can see that God took great care in giving away this islands belonging to Him; since with England and Portugal, and the dukes I have mentioned being begged for their help, He did not allow any of those powerful kings, nor the very rich dukes, to venture the modest assistance Columbus asked for; so that he, to the displeasure of those princes, could go in search of those he found so deeply occupied, as they were at the time, with the holy war against the Moors in the kingdom of Granada.

It is not a cause of wonder if such Catholic monarchs as the King and Queen, moved to find souls to save (more than treasures and new estates so they could reign with greater zeal and care) agreed to favor this enterprise and discovery. Let no one believe that this could be attributed simply to their good fortune; because no eye could see, nor ear hear, no heart be filled with the things that God can bestow on those who love Him. These and many other examples of good fortune fell to those good monarchs of ours, since they were good servants of Jesus Christ and so eager for the expansion of their sacred religion. And therefore, divine will gave them word of Christopher Columbus; because God himself looks upon all the corners of the world and sees all things under the heavens. And when the time came to conclude such a momentous negotiation, it was in these terms.

During the time that Columbus, as I said, spent in the Court, he would visit the house of Alonso de Quintanilla, the Catholic Monarchs chief accountant (a worthy man anxious for the improvement and benefit of his monarchs), and he had them give him food and whatever was necessary to mitigate his poverty. And Columbus found in this gentleman a greater welcome and support than in any man in Spain, and through him and his intersession he became known to the very reverend and illustrious Cardinal of Spain, the Archbishop of Toledo, Don Pedro González de Mendoza, who began to receive Columbus in audiences and learned that he was wise and well-spoken, and that he gave a good account of what he proposed. And he came to acknowledge him as an ingenious and very able man; and once he realized this, he held him in good repute and wished to favor him. And as they were in a position to do so, Columbus was listened to by the King and the Queen through the efforts of the Cardinal and Alonso de Quintanilla; and his reports and petitions began to be listened to and the business came to a conclusion just as the Catholic Monarchs had laid siege to the renowned city of Granada in the year 1492 of the Nativity of our Redeemer. And from that royal encampment those blessed monarchs dispatched Columbus in that village they founded amidst their armies, one close to the hearts of the monarchs, called Santa Fe, where the discovery was begun.

Not content those saintly princes with only the sacred enterprise and conquest they had at hand, through which they put an end to any subjugation to the Moors throughout all Spain (where they had remained to the spite and offense of the Christians since the 720th year since the Virgin gave birth to the Savior, as many authors concur); but in addition to bringing all of Spain under our Catholic religion, they proposed seeking this other new world to spread the religion throughout it, so that not an hour in God’s service  could be wasted. And with this sacred purpose they dispatched Columbus, giving him provisions and royal decrees so that in Andalucía he would be given three caravels of the type and size he requested and with the crew and supplies needed for such a long journey and for which there was no greater certainty than the zeal and holy purpose of such Christian monarchs for whose prosperity and by whose command such a grand venture was begun. And since there was a need for funds for his expedition, because of the war, the Escribano de Ración[1] Luis de Sanct Angel, lent the funds to put together the first fleet to go to the Indies for their discovery. And this first capitulación or agreement signed between the King and the Queen and Columbus, took place in the town of Santa Fe, in the territory of Granada, on the 18th of April of 1492, before their secretary, Juan de Coloma. And this agreement was confirmed by a royal warrant given to him 13 days later, on the 30th of April of 1492, in the city of Granada. And Columbus departed with this warrant as has been told and went to the town of Palos de Moguer, where he organized his voyage.

[1] Royal accountant and notary. Review possible translations.