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Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492-1504 Paperback – September 25, 2012
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A Look Inside Columbus: The Four Voyages
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Description: Woodcut from 1493 of Native Americans fleeing in fear of Columbus as he sets foot on the Bahama island “Guanahani.”
Description: A 1493 woodcut accompanying Columbus’s “Letter on the First Voyage,” illustrating his arrival in the Indies.
Description: World map, 1500, of Juan de la Cosa, cartographer and navigator on Christopher Columbus's second voyage of 1493-94.
Description: The first page of Columbus’s 1492 manuscript The Book of Privileges.
"Laurence Bergreen's Columbus was brillliant, audacious, volatile, paranoid and ruthless. What emerges in this biography, a worthy addition to the literature on Columbus is a surprising and revealing portrait of a man who might have been the title charcater in a Shakespearan tradegy."
— The New York Times
"Laurence Bergreen's ambitious new biography, Columbus: The Four Voyages [is] a spellbinding epic that's simultaneiously a profoundly private portrait of the most complex, compelling, controversial creature ever to board a boat. This scrupulously researched, unbiased account of four death-defying journeys to The New World reveals the Admiral's paradoxical personality."
— USA Today
"A compelling new book [that] details the explorer's trips to the New World, including three you haven't heard about."
"Once you have read this superb acount of Columbus' four voyages, you will never be content with the cliche about the Italian-born explorer's sailing the ocean blue in 1492. Author of many prize-winning popular history books on topics as diverse as Marco Polo and Al Capone. Laurence Bergreen is a New York-based scholar whose portrayal of the life and times of Christopher Columbus is a tour de force."
— Winnipeg Free Press
"Laurence Bergreen's new book, refreshingly, is fluid in style in its style and comprehensive in its research. Richly illustrated and enhanced with maps that are as legible as they are relevant. Columbus: The Four Voyages is complex in its themes, intriguing in its substance and sparkling with suprises."
— The Washington Times
"In this scrupulously fair and often thrilling account of his four vorages to the "New World," Bergreen reveals Columbus as brilliant, brave, adventurous, and deeply flawed . . . A superb reexamination of the character and career of a still controversial historical agent." — Booklist
Top customer reviews
I did find myself reading through Dr. Morison's book on Columbus easier than Bergreen's new book on Columbus. Mr. Bergreen appears to have done considerable research in his book, but I did find myself being told in minute detail of every atrocity committed by Columbus and his men in their quest for the three goals: Gold, Glory, and God. Columbus and his Spaniards were first greeted as gods from the sky by the Tainos or Arawaks, but it wasn't long before violence raised its ugly head. Whereas Dr. Morison's book on Columbus casts a more favorable opinion on Columbus, author Bergreen exposes all the warts of Columbus and his men.
Most people don't realize that Columbus made four trips to this new world, and not just the one that initially probably landed him on the island of San Salvador. It's interesting to note that Juan Ponce De Leon was one of those on the second trip. De Leon, as we know on a later voyage, landed on Florida. Columbus was cheated out of having this new world named after him by a scoundrel named Amerigo Vespucci. Read the book and find out how. Both Morison and Bergreen agree on this.
Whatever you may think of Columbus he did believe he could reach the east by sailing west, and was willing to take the risk of crossing the ocean to get there. Had he not landed on land unknown to Europeans he and his men would have perished at sea, because their goal was thousands of miles beyond his estimation of the size of the earth.
I am reminded of a poem written by Ogden Nash regarding Columbus that went like this:
So Columbus said, Somebody show me the sunset
And somebody did and he set sail for it.
And he discovered America and they put him in jail for it.
And the fetters gave him welts,
And they named America after somebody else.
As an armchair navigator you will enjoy this book, and it is worth your time. Expect a lot of detail which isn't bad if you are comfortable with this.
Cristopher Columbus, the sailor from Genoa and son of a weaver, delivered half the world into the rapacious hands of a fledgling Christian Spain without ever knowing where he had been or what he had found. He died still thinking Cuba was a peninsula jutting outward from the subcontinent of India. He was intuitive, perceptive and persistent, a master of navigation, yet a failure at his task, a poor leader often victim of scheming and rivalry. He was cruel and magnanimous, monumental and pitiful, a collector of books whose damaged eyesight denied him the full appreciation of their pages, whose greatest reading was in fact the surface of the sea, despite acute arthritis, gout and chronic conjunctivitis.
In “Columbus: the Four Voyages 1492-1504”, by Laurence Bergreen, we follow the world’s greatest seaman into the morass of political connivance, while he, and those who followed, systematically destroyed the world they had found, corrupted or annihilated its populations and flustered after elusive or nonexistent riches to reward two bewildered monarchs who never fully came to terms with the notion of a “New World” in “the other world” of their resourceful but ineffectual and seriously ailing—both mentally and physically—emissary.
Bergreen gives us the product of diligent research and exhaustive culling of available resources, in a prosaic but readable style, peppered by only a few missteps. An "Hidalgo" refers not to a " gentleman" , as the author proclaims, but rather a son succeeding the first- born—to whom his family's wealth and titles are destined—in other words the landless, trying to make their fortune by any means. An " escudero" is equally low in the ranks of privilege and refers to a "squire", who for lack of greater opportunity accompanies a man of title and position, wherever destiny may take them. As for the constuctions effected by Nicolas de Ovando in his capacity as governor of Hispaniola, they are not stone, as the author describes, but rather blocks of coral cut from the surrounding reefs, and so are solid but porous, pocked with residual shells and other marine life, and are uniquely handsome.
The text is generally favorable to " the Admiral of the Ocean Sea", fully aware of his skills and strengths, equally candid and perceptive regarding his idiosyncrasies and limitations. The book nonetheless often borders on harangue. No colonizer was ever bountiful and Spain was no exception, and was further nonplussed by the ambiguity of Columbus' discoveries. He had no idea where he was, less of where he was going, following as he did a hapless chimera he interpreted to be Marco Polo, and the Venetians' journeys to the realm of a "great Khan", by then defunct.
allinall a good and through read of a complex figure.