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er who rested in the vicinity of the
The recent discoveries had infamed their imaginations and had filled them with ideas of other islands of greater wealth and beauty, yet to be disovered in the boundless wastes of the Atlantic. The opinions and fancies of the ancients were again put inte choulation: the Nand of Antilla, and Plato's imaginare douantis once more found firm believers; and a thousand rumours were spread of unknown isaack ssually seen in the ocean. Many of these were were ables many of them had their origin in shelf-deception of voragers whose heated fancies
bold lands in those summer clouds which lie slong the horizon, and often beguile the sailor with the few of use land. The most singular instance of this kind of self-deception, or rather of optical decision, in shat recorded of the inhabitants of the Quanes Ther imagined that from time to time ky dodala hund to the westward, with lofty Mount and deep valleys Nor was it seen in our or dedious weather, but with all the distinctHow wind whed tant objects may be discerned in great atmosphere of a tropical climate. It
was only seen transiently, and at long inwhile at other times, and in the clearest wester mot a restige of it was visible; but so wded were the people of the Canari that they obtained permission fro
tugal to it out various ev
The island, however, w
it still continued occas identified it with a been discovered in
priest of the name of St. Brandan, and it was actually laid down in many maps of the times, by the name of St. Brandan, or St. Borondon.
All these tales and rumours were noted down with curious care by Columbus, and may have had some influence over his imagination; but, though of a visionary spirit, his penetrating genius sought in deeper sources for the aliment of its meditations. The voyages he had made to Guinea, and his frequent occupation in making maps and charts, had led him more and more to speculate on the great object of geographical enterprise; but while others were slowly and painfully seeking a route to India, by following up the coast of Africa, his daring genius conceived the bold idea of turning his prow directly to the west, and seeking the desired land by a route across the Atlantic. Having once conceived this idea, it is interesting to notice from what a mass of acknowledged facts, rational hypotheses, fanciful narrations, and popular rumours, his grand project of discovery was wrought out by the strong workings of his vigorous mind.
Grounds on which Columbus founded his Belief of the Existence of undiscovered Lands in the West.
We have a record of the determination of Columbus to seek a western route to India, as early as the year 1474, in a correspondence which he held with Paulo Toscanelli, a learned cosmographer of Florence; and he had doubtless meditated it for a long time previous. He was moved to this determination by a diligent study of all the geographical theories of the ancients, aided by his own experience, by the discoveries of the moderns, and the advancement of astronomical science. He set it down as a fundamental principle, that the earth was a terraqueous globe, which might be travelled round from east to west, and that men stood foot to foot when on opposite points. The circumference from east to west, at the equator, he divided, according to Ptolemy, into twenty-four hours, of fifteen degrees each, making three hundred and sixty degrees. Of these he imagined, comparing the globe of Ptolemy with the earlier map of Marinus of Tyre, that fifteen hours had been known to the ancients, extending from the Canary or Fortunate Islands, to the city of Thine in Asia, the western and eastern extremities of the known world. The Portuguese had advanced the western frontier one hour more by the discovery of the Azore
and Cape de Verde Islands: still about eight hours, or one-third of the circumference of the earth, remained to be explored. This space he imagined to be occupied in a great measure by the eastern regions of Asia, which might extend so far as to approach the western shores of Europe and Africa. A navigator, therefore, by pursuing a direct course from east to west, must arrive at the extremity of Asia, or discover any intervening land. The great obstacle to be apprehended, was from the tract of ocean that might intervene; but this could not be very wide, if the opinion of Alfraganus the Arabian were admitted, who, by diminishing the size of the degrees, gave to the earth a smaller circumference than was assigned to it by other cosmographers; a theory to which Columbus seems, generally, to have given much faith. He was fortified, also, by the opinion of Aristotle, Seneca, Pliny, and Strabo, who considered the ocean as but of moderate breadth, so that one might pass from Cadiz westward to the Indies in a few days.
Columbus derived great support to his theory, also, from a letter which he received in 1474 from Paulo Toscanelli, the learned Florentine already mentioned, who was considered one of the ablest cosmographers of the day. This letter was made up from the narrative of Marco Polo, a Venetian traveller, who, in the fourteenth century, had penetrated the remote parts of Asia, far beyond the regions laid down by Ptolemy. Toscanelli encouraged Columbus in an intention which he had communicated to him, of seeking India by a western course, assuring him that the distance could not be more than four thousand miles in a direct line from Lisbon
to the province of Mangi, near Cathay, since ascertained to be the northern coast of China. Of this country a magnificent description was given according to Marco Polo, who extols the power and grandeur of its sovereign, the Great Khan, the splendour and magnitude of his capitals of Cambalu, and Quinsai, or Kinsay, and the wonders of the island of Cipango, or Zipangi, supposed to be Japan. This island he places opposite Cathay, far in the ocean, and represents it as abounding in gold, precious stones, and spices, and that the palace of the king was covered with plates of gold, as edifices in other countries are covered with sheets of lead.
The work of Marco Polo is deserving of this particular mention, from being a key to many of the ideas and speculations of Columbus. The territories of the Grand Khan, as described by the Venetian, were the objects of his diligent search in all his voyages; and in his cruisings among the Antilles, he was continually flattering himself with the hopes of arriving at the opulent island of Cipango, and the shores of Mangi and Cathay. The letter of Paulo Toscanelli was accompanied by a map, projected partly according to Ptolemy, and partly according to the descriptions of Marco Polo. The eastern coast of Asia was depicted in front of the coasts of Africa and Europe, with a moderate space of ocean between them, in which were placed, at convenient distances, Cipango, Antilla, and the other islands. By this conjectural map Columbus governed himself in his first voyage.
Beside these learned authorities, Columbus was attentive to every gleam of information bearing upon his theory, that might be derived from veteran