Originally created 06/02/06

Copy of Christopher Columbus letter on sale



LONDON - A contemporary copy of a letter Christopher Columbus wrote while returning from the New World is up for sale this month, its price tag set at $900,000.

The eight-page document, known as the "Epistola Christofori Colum" or the "Columbus Letter," is a Latin translation of a letter the explorer wrote to his royal Spanish sponsors, Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon and Castille, on his return voyage.

Pope Alexander VI ordered the translation, which was printed in Rome on April 29, 1493, six weeks after the new hero returned home to Spain.

An estimated 500 copies of the letter were originally printed, but very few survive.

The book, acquired from a local dealer, will be offered for sale by Peter Harrington Antiquarian Books at the Antiquarian Booksellers Association book fair in London June 8-11.

This printing of the letter is the earliest edition available in the market; most of the few other copies are in libraries, the bookseller said.

Columbus vividly described the landscape of Hispaniola and other parts of the Caribbean where his three ships first landed. He described the islands as rife with natural resources, including gold, spices, arable land - and humans.

"On this island, indeed and on all the others I have seen, the inhabitants of both sexes go always naked, just as they came into the world," he wrote.

"When they perceive that they are safe, putting aside all fear, they are of simple manners and trustworthy and very liberal with everything they have, refusing no one who asks for anything they may possess and even themselves inviting us to ask for things. They show greater love for all others than for themselves."

He also said the natives appeared "very ready and favorably inclined" for Christian conversion.