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once existed, we shall not stop to examine them at the present time.
But there is on record one unquestionable recognition of the name of Frisland, that has not a little puzzled the disbelievers of the Zenonian discoveries, and is well worthy of the most weighty consideration under this head. We refer to the following passage from the "Life of Columbus," written by his son, Fernando.
"In a memorial or annotation which he [Columbus] made, demonstrating and proving, by the experience of navigators, that all the five zones are habitable, he says; 'I navigated, in 1477, in the month of February, 100 leagues beyond the island of Thule, the southern part of which is distant from the equator 73 degrees, and not 63, as some will have it; neither does it lie within the line that includes the west of Ptolemy, but is much more westerly. And to this island, which is as large as England, the English go with their merchandise, especially those from Bristol. And at the time I went there, the sea was not frozen, though the tides were so great, that in some places they rose 26 braccia, and fell as many. The truth is, that the Thule, which Ptolemy makes mention of, lies where he says, and this by the moderns is called FRISLAND.'"*
It is a little singular, that Irving, in citing the above passage,† should omit the last sentence, of which he takes no notice in his subsequent remarks upon the voyages of the Zeni. Captain Zahrtmann contends, that it refers to Iceland, which he supposes to have been known to the southern navigators under the name of Frisland. It is conceded, therefore, that the name of Frisland was in use in the south of Europe, applied to an island in the northern seas, and was so employed by Columbus himself. This is an important point gained in favor of the account of the Venetian brothers. The question, as to its particular application, is one of subordinate importance, and need not detain us at the present time.
The second position of Captain Zahrtmann is the follow
"That the Chart of the Zeni has been compiled
London Atheneum, No. 514, (1837.) The above is declared to be a literal translation from the original edition of Fernando's biography of his father.
t Life of Columbus, Vol. I. p. 29. Irving translates braccia, " fathoms"; but the former measure only about twenty-three inches.
from hearsay information, and not by any seaman who had himself navigated in those seas for several years." ("2. Dette kaart er sammendraget efter Sagn, men ei af nogen Soemand, der selv i flere Aar havde befaret dette farvand.")
The criticisms of our author on the Chart of the Zeni are acute, and apparently in some respects well-founded. The date of 1380, which it bears, was unquestionably placed there by the editor, and is admitted by Cardinal Zurla to be a probable error. The voyage is to be dated, without doubt, eight or ten years later, as the Chevalier Nicolò was still at Venice in 1388, as appears from the annals of the Republic, when he was appointed to an office of considerable importance. He is supposed by Captain Zahrtmann to have been at that period sixty years of age; but this is only conjecture, founded on the fact that he was the oldest son, and that his father was married in 1326; whence our author infers that Nicolò was born in 1328. This may be a common course of things, but it is by no means invariable.
The principal evidence that the Chart was a compilation of the sixteenth century, is derived from its agreement with the maps of that period in the peculiar location of the Orcades, or Orkneys, on the coast of Norway, far distant from Scotland, and in the correctness with which Norway and Denmark are laid down, the proper position of which was never understood in the south of Europe till the publication of Olaus Magnus's map of the three Scandinavian kingdoms, in 1539. But it is admitted by our author, that the materials for constructing some portions of the Chart, which are found to be surprisingly accurate, did not exist in any publication prior to the appearance of the Discoveries of the Zeni, in 1558. This accords also with the statement of Purchas, already cited, in respect to Greenland and the American coast. So far, therefore, there was no compilation, unless the information was obtained by oral communication, and to this supposition Captain Zahrtmann is compelled to resort. He says,
"With respect to the general outline of Greenland, it is more correct than any known chart published before the sixteenth century. This would be a strong proof of the genuineness of the chart and of the voyage, if Nicolò Zeno the younger, had not, in 1558, any other authorities from which to lay down Greenland, than the common maps of that period.
But it is easy to find reasons which make it highly probable that he had verbal sources of better information, and quite certain that he was able to avail himself of written sources not generally known."
The learned author then proceeds to say, that Nicolò, the younger, (the supposed editor of the Discoveries of his ancestors) was regarded by his countrymen as the greatest geographer of his time, and that he might have obtained correct information respecting the topography of the north from certain Catholic priests then residing in Italy, who had been banished from the northern countries. But this is conjecture, and, although sufficiently ingenious, and, it may be, plausible, can pass for nothing more. It supposes, however, that a man, respected by his fellow-citizens for his distinguished scientific attainments, (and at that period geographical science was in higher repute than almost any other branch of knowledge,) condescended to apply his superior learning to the composition of a fraudulent work, which, instead of taking the credit to himself of the original information it contained, he palmed off upon the world as the production of one of his remote ancestors! Surely the name of Zeno, at Venice, needed no such factitious reputation to render it conspicuous. What motive, then, can be assigned for such folly as is thus attributed to an honored descendant of that proud family? We pause for a reply.
But in respect to the character of Nicolò, the younger, we shall not allow our nautical critic to blow hot and cold in the same breath; in one passage, to give the noble Venetian the benefit of the respectability he enjoyed as a man of science, and in another, when it better suits the drift of his argument, to deny him the favorable estimation of learned men among his contemporaries. We refer to the intimation, that Ramusio did not esteem him as trustworthy on the subject of his ancestral history, that he "doubted his veracity," and for that reason excluded from his great work both the Discoveries, and the Travels of Caterino, the ambassador. It is also insinuated by our author, that a high compliment, bestowed on the younger Nicolò by Patrizi, another learned contemporary, with reference to his historical knowledge, was intended to be ironical. Of course, these imputations are designed to lead to the conclusion, that the standing of the editor of the Discoveries was none of the best ; and that
it is possible he might have been guilty of fraud and impos
But there is no good reason for supposing, that Nicolò the younger was distrusted by Ramusio, or equivocally praised by Patrizi. In order to lay a foundation for the former supposition, Captain Zahrtmann is under the necessity of making a conjectural emendation of the text of Ramusio, which, in our opinion, is not required by the sense of the passage; and, to establish the second, he allows nothing for the apparent exaggeration (to a northern ear) characterizing the complimentary style of Italy. Moreover, Patrizi was not alone among his contemporaries in bestowing the meed of praise upon the younger Zeno; "plusieurs écrivains Venitiens *** en font le plus grand éloge," says Roquette; and even the State, out of respect to his talents and scientific attainments, caused his portrait to be drawn by Paul Veronese, to adorn the hall of the public councils. He also filled a distinguished place in the magistracy of the Republic. Although termed the Younger, for distinction's sake, it is known, that he was born in the year 1515, and was consequently in the fortyfourth year of his age, at the time when the Discoveries of his ancestors were first published. He died at Venice on
the 10th of August, 1565.
It is not improbable that Nicolò, the younger, objected to the publication of the Discoveries in Ramusio's collection, preferring that they should form, together with the Travels of Caterino, a distinct and independent volume. Family pride, or some other cause not now known, might have led to this determination. The supposition is countenanced, to say the least, by the fact, that the second edition of Ramusio's second volume, which appeared in 1564, did not contain those works, although edited by Giunti, who inserted them in the next edition (1574) after Zeno's death. Sixteen years had then elapsed since their first publication in a separate form; a period long enough, one would suppose, for a prudent editor, anxious to insert nothing in the great work of his deceased friend that could be deemed of doubtful credit, to ascertain the reputation the book had acquired in the learned world. So that, on the whole, whether the Discoveries had been originally excluded by Ramusio, or the editor of his posthumous volume, or their insertion objected to by Zeno, the younger, the republication of them in
a subsequent edition of that collection, in an open and responsible manner, several years after the death of Zeno, the supposed fabricator, is decisive of the favorable estimation in which they were then held, not only at Venice, but throughout Europe.*
Having thus examined some of the points attempted to be established by Captain Zahrtmann, under the first and second heads of his discourse, in which we have anticipated the fourth and last (charging upon Zeno, the younger, the compilation of the work from materials that reached Italy in his own day), we shall offer a few remarks, in conclusion, on the subject of the alleged fictitious character of the details of the account, which forms the burden of his third proposition.
It is well known that the early travellers of all countries are proverbially famed for the extraordinary character of their relations. Indeed, it seems to have been expected that the traveller, as well as the poet, should have his license, and draw upon the resources of his imagination. Their tales were listened to, with not the less "greedy ear" by the astonished multitude, even if they sometimes transcended the bounds of probability, and, like Othello, (another Venetian hero, by the way, though not "of Venice born,") talked of men, whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders." Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville doubtless, to some extent, indulged this caprice; and, substantially correct as their accounts are found to be, in the main, they are not free from the defects to which we have alluded. Had they given a strictly accurate account of what they personally observed in the course of their travels, without trusting to hearsay, or painting with the colors of fanciful exaggeration, their admirers would have been fewer in number, and their celebrity less widely extended. This they probably well understood. That the Zeni, or their editor, may have fallen into the same error, is not improbable, and we presume will not be denied by their most strenuous advocates. Take, for example, the descrip
*Marcolini, the original publisher of the Discoveries of the Zeni, and Giunti, who published and afterwards edited Ramusio, we e rivals in business at Venice. En passant, Mr. Irving makes Marcolini not only the editor or author of the Discoveries (it does not appear which), but also a kinsman of the Zeni; and, if the former statement were correct, the latter would necessarily follow, from some expressions in the account. Both suppositions, however, are uncalled for, and highly improbable.