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The Biblical Sources of Columbus's Libro de las Profecías

  • Héctor Ignacio Avalos (a1)

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In his Libro de las Profecías, Christopher Columbus collected numerous scriptural passages that he believed supported and prophesied his explorations. According to Delno C. West and August Kling, editors of a recent edition, translation, and commentary on the book, Columbus, his son Ferdinand, and Gaspar Gorricio, a Carthusian monk, completed their transcriptions of most of these sources in 1501/1502, although a few additions may have been made as late as 1505.

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1 West, Delno C. and Kling, August. eds., The Libro de las profecías of Christopher Columbus (Gainesville, Fla., 1991), 81–83, 86. (Hereafter cited as Libro.) All phrases and passages discussed here are cited from their edition; so, too, unless otherwise noted are English translations. West and Kling's edition of the Libro's original text, preserved in the Biblioteca Colombina in the Cathedral of Seville, relies primarily on the first printed edition in Raccolta di Documente e Studi: Pubblicaziona a cura della Regia Commisione Colombiana nel quarto centenario dalla scoperta dell'America, 11 vols., ed. C. de Lollis (Rome, 1892–94); and on Cristóbal Colón, Libro de las profecías, ed. Morales, F. Padrón (Madrid, 1984), which is a facsimile edition of the original text. Other abbreviations used in the article are: ABD = Freedman, D. N. et al., eds., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6 vols. (New York, 1992); Lyra 1492 = Nicolaus de Lyra, Postilla super totam Bibliam (Strasbourg, 1492; repr. Frankfurt, 1971); Lyra 1498 = Biblia latinacum postillas ac moralitatibus Nicolai de Lyra (Basel, 1498); Vulgate = Biblia sacra iuxta Vulgatam versionem, ed. Weber, R. et al. (1969; 3rd ed., Stuttgart, 1983). I am grateful to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for making its collection of Latin Bibles available to me.

2 Libro, 96.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid. For a full translation of this letter, see Libro, 84.

5 Ibid., 96.

6 On the history of the official editions of the Vulgate, see Parker, D. C., “Vulgate,” ABD 6: 860–63.

7 Miguel Egan, “El Salmo 19 y el descubrimiento de America,” Revista Biblica 48 (1992): 233.

8 Gosselin, Edward A. gives a list of printed editions of Lyra's commentary in “A Listing of Printed Editions of Nicolaus de Lyra,” Traditio 26 (1970): 399–426. For Lyra 1492: 409, no. 38; for Lyra 1498: 410, no. 48.

9 See, e.g., Libro, 243, for portions of Psalms 47, 71, and Jonah 1, interspersed with Lyra's commentary. West and King note (ibid., 260 n. 7) that Lyra's commentaries “were frequently copied and printed with the Latin text of the Bible” and they cite an edition of 1489 published in Venice; they do not, however, compare the Libro's biblical quotations with those found in this or any other edition of the Latin Bible that accompanied Lyra's Postilla.

10 This portion of the Libro is transcribed in a hand that West and Kling have not identified.

11 West and Kling (ibid., 81–82) attributed the transcription of the portions of the Libro containing Isaiah 11:11, 25:6, and 55:1a to Gorricio, and 24:16 to Ferdinand.

12 Kittim is usually spelled Cethyn in the Libro, and Cetthim in the Vulgate.

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