- The Book of Privileges Issued to Christopher Columbus by King Fernando and Queen Isabel, 1492-1502 (review)
- Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Inc.)
- Volume 15, Number 2, January 1998
- pp. 241-243
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Reviews 241 from a reputable pubUsher, in a second edition, and with extraordinary claims for its collaborators, that it stiU has mistakes in spelling and lay-out is unfortunate. If you are on a budget, it m a y serve some purpose. If you require proper documentation, and an explanation of where information derives from, I suggest you look out for the original. M a x Staples Centre for Rural Social Research Charles Sturt University Nader, Helen and Luciano Formisano, ed. and trans, The Book of Privileges Issued to Christopher Columbus by King Fernando and Quee Isabel, 1492-1502 (Repertorium Columbianum 2), Berkeley, University of CaUfornia Press, 1996; board; pp. xxix, 441; 9 Ulustrations, 2 tables, 1 map; R.R.P. US$50.00, £40.00. This handsome cloth-bound edition of The Book of Privileges consists of a translation and commentary on the various documents by Helen Nader, foUowed by Luciano Formisano's edition of and philological commentary on the Spanish originals of the Genoa Codex. Nader's stated objective in the production of this book was to create an edition of the Book of Privileges which would allow those studying the documents to trace 'the evolution of motives and perceptions' (Intro, xvu) among the European poUcy formers of the time. The chronological disarray of the documents, she found, thwarted this process. As Nader points out, the 'text makes two different kinds of sense, either in the order in which it survives, or in the order in which the documents were written'. This edition admirably addresses the problem by presenting the text in both orders, with Nader's translation and commentary in the first half arranging the documents chronologically, and Formisano presenting them in the order in which they were left. A table of correspondences at the beginning of the book provides the necessary links between the two editions of the Book of PrivUeges, and aUows the reader to see at a glance h o w widely the arrangements of the documents differ. 242 Reviews Nader does not, however, arrange the Book of Privileges according to strict chronological order, as she also chooses to group the various documents thematicaUy according to voyage and subject matter. In this manner, the relationships between the various charters, writs and letters become evident. Her introduction to the documents relating to each voyage further explains this arrangement by providing the basic historical background for them, and situating them within the politico-legal context of the time. Her discussion indicates some areas for further research that she feels are raised by the documents under consideration, in particular the evidence of 'close co-operation between Columbus and the monarchs, as w e U as the consultative nature of the Castilian royal government' (p. 8, repeated almost verbatim p. 41). Both Nader's commentary and the letters themselves provide a fascinating and highly readable narrative. This is not, however, a book which can be read in a straightforward manner, and I felt that Nader's objectives m a y have been better served had her introductory discussion been divided so that the commentary on each voyage immediately preceded the corresponding documents of the translation. Although this would have interrupted her edition of the Book of Privileges, it would have demanded less flicking back and forth on behalf of the reader, w h o must already be jumping around in the book in order to compare Nader's reordered translation to Formisano's edition of the original Spanish volume. In the second half of the book, Luciano Formisano provides a brief phUological commentary on the extant versions of the Book of Privileges, and studies the internal agreements, errors and convergences of the various redactions to come up with a schematic arrangement of the relationships between the four main codices. H e elects to reproduce a critical edition of the Genoa codex, the second redaction of the Book of Privileges, as the version that most closely represents the ultimate wish of Columbus. This critical edition of the Book of Privileges, in conjunction with Nader's translation, aUows a thorough study of the documents from various critical perspectives. This book is a valuable addition to Columbus scholarship, supplying as it...