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Venice a copy of the chart that had accompanied the original publication of the Discoveries, which he caused to be engraved for his work.*
But the most complete vindication of the Zeni, appears to have been made by Cardinal Zurla, (Vicar-General of the late Pope Leo the Twelfth,) himself a native of Venice, and distinguished for his learning and scientific attainments. He published, in 1808, "Dissertazione intorno ai Viaggi e Scoperte Settentrionali di Nicolò e Antonio Frat. Zeni ;" and again, in 1818, he pursued the subject in a general work “ upon the most illustrious Venetian travellers." Other eminent writers, within the present century, have espoused the same views of this interesting question, among whom may be mentioned Walckenaer, (author of "Géographie Moderne," 6 tomes,) Malte-Brun, the late Baron von Zach, and M. de la Roquette, one of the contributors to the "Biographie Universelle," and author of the article in that work relating to the brothers Zeni. In England, Barrow, Hugh Murray, and others, maintain the same ground.
The opposite view has, however, found of late a strenuous advocate among ourselves. The "Memoir of Sebastian Cabot," a work of learning and talent, published a few years since, speaks of "that memorable fraud, the pretended voyage of Nicholas and Antonio Zeno"; in another passage, it applies the expression "rank imposture" to the account, and, again, speaks of "a complex piece of roguery running through the several editions of Ramusio," with reference to the same unoffending narra
On the subject of this Chart, an error of some magnitude exists in the Appendix to Irving's Columbus, Vol. II. p. 275. The passage is as follows; "M. Malte-Brun intimates, that the alleged discovery of Vinland may have been known to Columbus when he made a voyage in the North Sea, in 1477, and that the map of Zeno, being in the national library at London, in a Danish work, at the time when Bartholomew Columbus was in that city, employed in making maps, he may have known something of it, and have communicated it to his brother." The Danish work referred to by Malte- Brun, as containing a copy of the chart of the Zeni, is that of Eggers, which, as it was first published in 1792, could not well have been seen by Bartholomew Columbus in the "national library at London." Malte-Brun simply states, that a copy of Eggers's work, with the chart, was in the national (now the Royal) library at Paris, in his time. If there had been such an institution at London as the "National Library," it would be difficult to understand, how a copy of Zeno's chart could have been there in the time of Columbus, when the original was yet buried in the family archives at Venice, among the forgotten and neglected papers of the navigators.-Géographie Universelle, Tom. XIV. p. viii, note. lbid. Tom. II. p. 284.
tive. These are serious charges, especially when they are made to bear, with concentrated force, on the head of the hapless bookseller, Marcolini, to whom the "Memoir" attributes the authorship, or rather the forgery, of the work in question. But it must be borne in mind, that the Memoir is a zealous vindication of the claims of Sebastian Cabot to the merit of having first discovered the American continent, and that, if the genuine character of the discoveries of the Zeni be admitted, there is an end to those claims. And if the Zeni are disposed of in this work with a very summary condemnation, observing readers will not fail to be put upon their guard, when they remember the freedom with which the same writer occasionally treats the labors of Hakluyt, Purchas, and others of the diligent and painful collectors of the world's discovery and history.
But let us examine for a moment the argument of the "Memoir," and see what ground there is for the strictures to which we have referred. The gist of the matter is contained in the following passage from that work.
"The Dedication of this work [the Discoveries of the Zeni], as originally published by Marcolini, bears date December, 1558. Ramusio died in July, 1557; and of course it is impossible that it could have been published by him, or that he could have marked it for insertion. It does not appear in the Ramusio of 1559, but was interpolated into the second volume in 1574, seventeen years after his death. This circumstance is decisive against its authenticity. Ramusio, a native of Venice, was not only a diligent and anxious collector of voyagers, but, it appears by his work, was familiar with the family of the Zeni of that city, and he speaks with pride of the adventurous Travels of Caterino Zeno in Persia. Had the materials for such a narrative existed, he would have eagerly seized the opportunity of embodying them, and it is plain, that the imposture dared not make its appearance in his lifetime. Yet, from the subsequent interpolation, this tract, by almost unanimous consent, has been considered to bear the high sanction of Ramusio's name." pp. 322, 323.
So far as respects the impropriety of claiming the authority of Ramusio for the publication, there can be no doubt. He died, as stated, before the work appeared. But the "Memoir" neglects to add, that the second volume of Ramusio's collection was not published until after his death, the first and third only having appeared in his lifetime. But the second volume
was not without a responsible editor and publisher; Tomaso Giunti, an intimate friend of Ramusio, performed the duties of both. His Preface to the volume bears date March 9th, 1559; and as the Preface to the Discoveries is dated the. preceding December, only two or three months before, it is probable, that both works appeared at about the same time. The same editor, in a subsequent edition of the second volume of Ramusio, inserted the Discoveries, so that they came honestly enough into that work, although not placed there by Ramusio himself.
It has been already stated, that the Travels of Caterino Zeno, the ambassador in Persia, were published in the same volume with the Discoveries; why was this work excluded from the first edition of Ramusio's collection, if the latter had so great a desire to extend the fame of the Zeno family, as assumed in the "Memoir?" The apology Ramusio makes for the omission, is a singular one; the work had been before printed, and the worthy compiler says, he was once so fortunate as to obtain a copy of it, but that, by some chance, it had got mislaid. It is strange, that so "diligent and anxious a collector," especially when animated by a particular regard for the family whose fame would be promoted by the publication, could not have procured another copy of the book, or at least obtained the materials for some notice of the adventures of the noble knight, when the editor of the Discoveries was enabled, so soon after the death of Ramusio, to publish an account of them. But Ramusio's alleged familiarity with, and great regard for, the family of the Zeni, is a gratuitous assumption on the part of the "Memoir "; there is no evidence to sustain it.
Giunti's edition of Ramusio, in 1574, contains not only the Discoveries of Nicolò and Antonio, but the Travels of Caterino, so that a double "interpolation" was effected, which bears as strongly against the authenticity of the latter, as of the former, except that Ramusio mentions the Travels, and assigns a frivolous excuse for not publishing them: But these were not the only "interpolations " made in that edition of the second volume; no less than three other works were inserted in it, which were not contained in the previous editions; a most flagrant breach of honest editorship on the part of Tomaso Giunti, truly, and, according to the "Memoir," enough to destroy all claims to authen
ticity those works might otherwise possess. However, the editor, between whom and Ramusio, as the former feelingly states in the Preface to the volume in question, there existed a strong and uninterrupted attachment of many years' standing, (grande amore continuamente per lungo spatio d' anni,) might console himself under the charge of adulterating the work of his friend, by pointing to the title-page of the volume, where, as usual in such cases, the reader is forewarned, that it is "a new edition enlarged " (accresciuto), of a work" originally compiled " (raccolto già), by Giovanni Battista Ramusio; and, if this were not enough, he might refer the captious critic to the table of contents, in which the additions to the volume are distinctly set forth, so that, if he chose, on making the discovery, he might shut the book at once, and demand an uncorrupted copy, -a Ramusio, a whole Ramusio, and nothing but Ramusio, under the pains and penalties against "interpolation" and "imposture"!
But we pass from this. The Cabots, who were also a Venetian family,* possess sufficient claims to the grateful remembrance of posterity, without subtracting from the wellearned laurels of any of their countrymen; and, whatever may be thought of the pretensions of the noble brothers, it is evident enough, that they cannot be seriously affected by either the arguments, or the unceremonious language, of the "Memoir" in question.
The most formidable assailant of the Venetian title to the discovery of the new world, is yet to be named. The Essay of Captain Zahrtmann, of the Danish Navy, originally published in the Transactions of the Royal Antiquarian Society at Copenhagen (in 1833), and subsequently communicated to the London Geographical Society, is by far the ablest attempt ever made, to shake the authority of the voyages of the Zeni. We must say, that our first impressions, after perusing that masterly production, were so strong against even the possible truth of the account, that we well nigh resolved to abandon the matter as beyond all hope of surgery, without bestowing another thought upon it. The writer brings such a mass of primâ facie proof to bear upon the subject, and discovers so many loose points and apparent inconsistencies in the story, that the argument comes upon one with the
* Sebastian, it appears, had his birth in England.
force of demonstration. At the same time, the perfect freedom of the paper from vituperative remark, and the admirable coolness, as well as skill, with which the operator dissects his victim, are far from diminishing the effect produced upon the mind. A more careful examination, however, of this elaborate effort from the pen of so profound a scholar has suggested several ideas that detract, to some extent, from the conclusive character of the argument, and leave a ray of hope to the sanguine admirers of Venetian prowess.
The first position of Captain Zahrtmann is as follows;"That there never existed an island of Frisland, but that what has been represented by that name in the Chart of the Zeni, is the Ferroë Islands." ("1. Der har aldrig existeret noget Frisland, men det, der under dette Naven er af bildet paa Zeniernes Kaart er Foeraerne.")
The identity of Frisland with the Ferroë islands seems to be generally admitted by the later writers, including those who defend the genuineness of the account. The name is
supposed to be a southern corruption of Ferrisland, or Ferris islands, by which they were known to the Danes and English of the Middle Ages. This is a suggestion of Eggers, adopted by Malte-Brun. It was the opinion of Reinhold Forster, in which he was followed by Dr. Belknap, the American historian,* that the Frisland of the Zeni had disappeared from the surface of the ocean in one of those submarine, volcanic convulsions, that sometimes occur in the northern seas, especially upon the coast of Iceland. Other writers have maintained the same opinion. A leading English Review, in describing an ancient artificial globe, the first ever made in England, has the following observations on this subject; "On this sketch, we see with pleasure the Drogeo and the Frisland of the two noble Venetians, the Zeni; we observe the latter where it always was, and still is, at the southern extremity of Greenland, a little above the sixtieth parallel of latitude, still holding its head above water, in spite of the volcanos and the earthquakes created by the Duke of Almadover and Delisle, the Abbé Zurla and Signor Amoretti, to overwhelm it in the ocean." As these different hypotheses distinctly admit, that such a locality as Frisland
* American Biography, Vol. I. p. 67.
+ London Quarterly Review, Vol. XVI. p. 165.