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THE CAPE BRETON LANDFALL: 1494 or 1497 No• ONa LWTTFa• FROM JOHN DaY* L. A. VIGNEHAS E know very little about John Cabot, the discover of Canada.In 1476he received Venetiancitizenship by voteoftheSenate; butwehavenoinformation regarding hisbirthplace orhiswhereabouts before hesettled in Venice. Some thirtyyears ago, aCatalan historian, Sefior Carrera y Valls, found the names"Colom"and ".Cabot"in the local archivesand concluded that both admirals were native sons ofCatalonia? Forgood measure, SrCarrera added thatthename "Brasil" given toone ofthemythical islands oftheAtlantic was also Catalan in origin. Hisconclusions, however, have found little credit anywhere, even inSpain. It isgenerally admitted thatCabot wasItalian-born, andBellemo hassuggested Gaeta ashisbirthplace? Others thinkthatthediscoverer was from Liguria, since Pedro deAyala, Spanish ambassadorto Englandin 1498,referredtohimasa Genoese. "Cabuto" and"Gavoto" families arerecorded in thearchives of Genoa, and PortoMaurizioandSavona. In 1464we findBartolomeo andBatista Gavoto living in Savona. aIn 1489, King Ferdinand ofSpain appointed one Francisco Gavoto "consul delos de.Castilia Arag6n y Viscaya" in Savona, tosucceed hisdeceased brotherFrancoGavoto. 4 Of particularinterestare somedocuments from the Valencia archives which Professor Manuel Ballesteros oftheUniversity of Madrid brought tolight in1948, because such documents purport toshow that aVenetian known as"[ohan Cabot Montecalunya" or as "JohanCabot"residedin Valer[ciafrom 1490 to 1495. 5 This Venetian submitted toKingFerdinand in 1492 a project forimproving harbour facilities at theGrao, Valencia's outport, and showed hima sketch thathehadmade. TheKingreferred the proiectto Diegodela Torre,ChiefBailiffof Valencia, in a letter *Theauthor wishes toexpress hisgratitude toDr. J.A. Williamson of Chichester, England, forhismost valuable comments andsuggestions. XR.Carreray Valls,La Descoberta de America(Reus,1928). 2V.Bellemo Giovanni Caboto, Raccolta Colombiana (14 vols., Roma,1894)V, ii, 209. aj. Dumont, Corps universel diplomatique du droitdesgens(Amsterdam, 1726), III, i, 802. 4Archivo deSimancas, Begistro General delSello,7 œebr. 1489. 5Manuel Ballesteros-Gaibrois, "JuanCabotoen Espana," Revistade lndias,XIV ( 1948), 607-27. 219 Vol.XXXVIII, no.3, Sept.,1957 220 THE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW whichbegins thus:"Chamberlain andChiefBailiff:We havebeen informed byJohan Caboto Montecalunya, Venetian, thathe came tothatcity(Valencia) alittleover twoyears ago .... ,,6 OnOctober 26,1492, Diegodela Torrereported favourably on the projectand expressed the beliefthat the wholethingwas feasible. He suggested that the stone needed fortheconstruction of theiettymightbebrought by sea fromtheharbour of Cullera. He also advised theKingthat"Johan Cabot" wasgoing toBarcelona , where the Court resided, to discusssome of the financial aspects of theproiect. 7 TheKingwasfavourably impressed; on February 26and27,1495, hesent instructions toDiego delaTorre, to Jaimede Santangel (bailiffof Orihuela), andto the]urats (aldermen) ofValencia, forthecarrying outoftheproiect; buton March28, 1495, the]urats refused to appropriate thefundsand thewhole scheme fellthrough? Theoriginof thesurname "Montecalunya" is stillmuchof a mystery,but to Professor Ballesteros, the identification of the Valencia Caboto with the discovererof North America leaves no roomfor doubt. TheSpanish scholar points outthatbothCabots wereinterested innavigation, bothdrewmaps orsketches, andboth wereVenetian citizens. OnlyFerdinand's firstletterandDiegode la Torre'sanswer mention Cabotby name;but Ballesteros is of theopinion thattheVenetian remained in Valencia wellinto1495thatisfor some timeafterhisproiect hadbeenreiected-before going orreturning to England. Ballesteros alsobelieves thatCabot hadgoneto Valencia in 1490asagentfor some commercial firm, probably Italian.He wasstill in SpainwhenColumbus returned fromhisfirstvoyage, andthetwomenmayhavemetinBarcelona. Ballesteros naturally reiects whathecalls "elpretendido viajede 1494. "9Thetheory thatthe CapeBreton landfall tookplacein 1494wasfirstdefended by D'Avezac andlaterbyTarducci? This theory isbased onLegend 8 oftheSebastian Cabot 1544 map,in whichthedateofthediscovery isgivenas1494;butHarrisse seems tohave shown thatsuch adateistheresult ofa"lapsus dugraveur, MCCCCXCIIII pourMCCCCXCVII, d'autant plusfacile• commettre quelesdeux premiers I rapproch•s forment unV."• Legend 8hasbeenreproduced by othercartographers whocopied it from Sebastian Cabot's map. 6Ibid.,624. 7Ibid.,625. 8Ibid.,610. 9Ibid.,619. •OArmand d'Avezac, Les Navigations terreneuviennes de Yeanet S•bastien Cabot (Paris,1869),10-12,19;F. Tardueei, Di Giovanni e Sebastiano Caboto(Venezia, 1892),56. •Henry Harrissee, yean etS•ba•tie•Cabot(Paris,1882),56. THE CAPE BRETON LANDFALL: 1494 OR 1497 221 A passage fromAyala's Letterof 1498totherulers of Spain has also beeninterpreted to meanthatCabothadbeensearching for land across the Atlanticsince1491.Here is what Ayalawrites: "Those ofBristol have been arming two,three orfourcaravels each yeartolookfortheIsland ofBrasil andtheSeven Cities withthe fancyof that Genoese." Ballesteros thinksthat "conla fantasia deste.Ginov•s" means"with the samefancy as that of that Genoese. "•' Those of Bristol andJohnCabotshared thesame illusions asto thepossibility of finding land;but thisdoes notimply thattheVenetian tookpart in the search before1496or wasits originator. Thesearch fortheIsland ofBrasil hadbegun longbefore. Weknowthatattempts to reachit weremadein 1480and14817 According to Ballesteros, Cabotbeganto thinkof...

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ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 219-228
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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