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Legendary islands of the Atlantic; a study in medieval geography

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Author Topic: Legendary islands of the Atlantic; a study in medieval geography  (Read 2867 times)
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« Reply #90 on: July 19, 2009, 03:36:00 am »


original colony archbishop and bishops and congregations,
military commanders, and mailed soldiery had all been some-
how destroyed or had melted apart and drifted away. All
that remains certain is the continued presence of the name of
the Seven Cities on that spot.

Some ruins are said to have marked it formerly, but very
little is visible now, if we may trust the following description
by an intelligent visitor in the middle of the last century:

Emerging from these sunken lanes, so peculiar to the island of St.
Michael's, we come to the green hills which border the village and the
valley of the Seven Cities. . . . From these dull evergreen moun-
tains, stretching before us without apparent end, we speedily had an
unexpected change. Suddenly the mountain track up which we were
climbing ended on the edge of a vast precipice, hitherto entirely con-
cealed, and at a moment's transition disclosed a wide and deeply sunk
valley with a scattered village and a blue lake. The hills which hemmed
them in were bold and precipitous, tent-shaped, rounded and serrated.
Others swept in soft and gentle lines into a little plain where the small
village was nestled by the water side. The lake was of the deepest blue
and so calm that a sea bird skimming over its surface seemed two, so
perfect was its image in the water. The clouds above were floating in
this very deep lake, and the inverted tops of the hills on every side were
perfectly reflected in its bosom. A few women on the shore seemed
rooted there, so steady were their reflections in the water, and the cattle
standing in the shallows stood like cattle in a picture. . . . The
sides slope gradually from this part of the valley into the level ground
where the village stands. It is a small collection of cottages, without
a church or a wineshop or a store of any kind, and at the time I entered
it was enveloped in clouds of wood smoke which rose from the fires used
in the process of bleaching cloth. This and clothes washing are the chief
occupations of the villagers. . . .

A portion of the lake is separated from the larger one by a narrow
causeway. It is singular to notice the difference made in the two pieces
of water by this small embankment; for, while the large lake is clear
and crystalline, this is thick, green, and muddy, and as gloomy as the
Dead Sea, with no clouds or birds or bright sky reflected in it. 24

Perhaps a little excavating archeology might not be amiss in
the neighborhood of the causeway and the green dead lakelet.
But at least it is satisfactory to have a good external account

2 < Joseph Bullar and Henry Bullar: A Winter in the Azores and a Summer in the
Baths of the Furnas, 2 vols., London, 1841; reference in Vol. 2, pp. 242-247.
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« Reply #91 on: July 19, 2009, 03:36:18 am »


of the only site in the world, so far as I know, which still bears
the legendary name. As elsewhere used, this name has certainly
wandered widely and been affixed to many places. Whether
any of these represent real refuges of the original emigrants or
their descendants or others like them no one can quite certainly
say; but there is no evidence for it, and the probabilities are
against it. Certainly no Spanish nor Portuguese community,
of Moorish or of any pre-Columbian times, established itself
in western lands for any great period to make good the aspira-
tion of the fugitives of Merida.


Of all the legendary islands and island names on the medieval
maps, Mayda has been the most enduring. The shape of the
island has generally approximated a crescent; its site most often
has been far west of lower Brittany and more or less nearly
southwest of Ireland; the spelling of the name sometimes has
varied to Maida, Mayd, Mayde, Asmaida, or Asmayda. The
island had other names also earlier and later and between times,
but the identity is fairly clear. As a geographical item it is
very persistent indeed. Humboldt about 1836 remarked that,
out of eleven such islands which he might mention, only two,
Mayda and Brazil Rock, maintain themselves on modern
charts. 1 In a note he instances the world map of John Purdy
of 1834. However, this was not the end; for a relief map pub-
lished in Chicago and bearing a notice of copyright of 1906
exhibits Mayda. Possibly this is intended to have an educational
and historic bearing; but it seems to be shown in simple credulity,
a crowning instance of cartographic conservation.


If Mayda may, therefore, be said to belong in a sense to the
twentieth century, it is none the less very old, and the name
has sometimes been ascribed to an Arabic origin. Not very
long after their conquest of Spain the Moors certainly sailed
the eastern Atlantic quite freely and may well have extended
their voyages into its middle waters and indefinitely beyond.
They named some islands of the Azores, as would appear from
Edrisi's treatise and other productions; but these names did

1 Alexander von Humboldt: Examen critique de 1'histoire de la g6ographie du
nouveau continent et des progres de Fastronomie nautique aux quinzidme et seizidme
sidcles. 5 vols., Paris, 1836-39; reference in Vol. 2, p. 163.
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« Reply #92 on: July 19, 2009, 03:36:40 am »






pocto feat

ira. |

-, a.txi.'''<ft *^ A v*" C^V^v*

r^;/ftt* Ta/tm > ^ SV


limt ufcm ^^f J<J

FIG. ii Section of the map of the New World in the 1513 edition of Ptolemy
showing the islands of Mayda (asmaidas) and Brazil (obrassil). (After Kretsch-
mer's hand-copied reproduction.)

not adhere unless in free translation. The name Mayda was
not one of those that have come down to us in their writings
or on their maps, and its origin remains unexplained. It is
unlike all the other names in the sea. Perhaps the Arabic im-
pression is strengthened by the form Asmaidas, under which
it appears (this is nearly or quite its first appearance) on the
map of the New World in the 1513 edition of Ptolemy (Fig. n). 2
But any possible significance vanishes from the prefixed syllable
when we find the same map turning Gomera into Agomera,

J Konrad Kretschmer: Die Entdeckung Amerika's in ihrer Bedeutung fur die
Geschichte des Weltbildes, a vols (text and atlas), Berlin, 1892; reference in atlas,
PI. 12, map i.


Madeira into Amadera, and Brazil into Obrassil. Evidently
this map-maker had a fancy for superfluous vowels as a begin-
ning of his island names. He may have been led into it by the
common practice of prefixing "I" or the alternative "Y" (mean-
ing Insula, I sola, Ilha, or Innis) instead of writing out the word
for island in one language or another.

However, there is a recorded Arabic association of this par-
ticular island under another name. It had been generally called
Mam or Man, and occasionally other names, for more than a
century before it was called Mayda. Perhaps the oldest name
of all is Brazir, by which it appears on the map of 1367 of the
Pizigani brothers (Fig. 2), 3 a form evidently modified from
Brazil and shared with the round island of that name then
already more than forty years old on the charts. The Brazil
which we specially have to do with bears roughly and approxi-
mately the crescent form, which later became usually more neat
and conventionalized under the name Man or Mayda. It
appears south (or rather a little west of south) of the circular
Brazil, which is, as usual, west of southern Ireland and a little
south of west of Limerick. The crescent island is also almost
exactly in the latitude of southern Brittany, taking a point a
little below the Isle de Sein, which still bears that name. In
this position there may be indications of relation with both
Brittany and Ireland. The former relation is pictorially at-
tested by three Breton ships. One of them is shown returning
to the mouth of the Loire. A second has barely escaped from
the neighborhood of the fateful island. A third is being drawn
down stern foremost by a very aggressive decapod, which drags
overboard one of the crew; perhaps she has already shattered
herself on the rocks, offering the opportunity of such capture
in her disabled state. A dragon flies by with another seaman,
apparently snatched from the submerging deck. Blurred and
confused inscriptions in strange transitional Latin seem to warn
us of the special dangers of navigation in this quarter ; the stav-

8 [E. F.] Jomard: Les monuments de la geographic, ou recueil d'anciennes cartes
europe'ennes et orientalcs Paris. [1842-62], PI. X, I.
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« Reply #93 on: July 19, 2009, 03:37:02 am »


ing of holes in ships, the tawny monsters, known to the Arabs,
which rise from the depths, the dragons that come flying to
devour. The words "Arabe" and "Arabour" are readily de-
cipherable; so is "dragones." Perhaps there is no statement that
Arabs have been to that island, for their peculiar experience
may belong to some other quarter of the globe; but the verbal
association is surely significant. The name Bentusla (Bentufla?)
applied to this crescent island by Bianco in his map of I448 4
has sometimes been thought to have an Arabic origin; but one
would not feel safe in citing this as absolute corroboration.
The Breton character of the ships, however, may be gathered
(as well as from their direction and behavior) from the barred
ensigns which they carry, recalling the barred standard set up
at Nantes of Brittany, in Dulcert's map of I339, 6 just as the
fleur-de-lis is planted by him at Paris.


We have, then, in this fourteenth-century island a direct
recorded association with the Arabs, followed long after by
what have been thought to be Arabic names. We have also a
pictorial and cartographical connection with Brittany and also
an indication of relations with Ireland. This last is fortified
by its next and, except Mayda, its most lasting name.

The great Catalan map of 1375' (Fig. 5) calls it Mam, which
should doubtless be read as Man, for it was common to treat
"m" and "n" as interchangeable, no less than "u" and "v" or
i" and "y." Thus Pareto's map of I455 7 (Fig. 21) turns the Latin
hanc" into "hamc" and "Aragon" into "Aragom." On some of the


< Theobald Fischer: Sammlung mittelalterlicher Welt-und Seekarten italienischen
Ursprungs, i vol. of text and 17 portfolios containing photographs of maps, Venice,
1877-86; reference in Portfolio n (Facsimile della carta nautica di Andrea Bianco
dell' anno 1448), PI. 3- See also Kretschmcr, text, p. 184.

* A. E. Nordenskiold: Periplus: An Essay on the Early History of Charts and
Sailing-Directions, transl. by F. A. Bather, Stockholm, 1897, PI. 8.

*Ibid.,P\. ii.

7 Kretschmcr, atlas, PI. 5.


early maps, e. g. that of Juan da Napoli (fifteenth century), 8 the
proper spelling "Man" is retained, just as it is retained and has
been ever since early Celtic days, in the name of the home of
"the little Manx nation" in the Irish Sea. That the same name
should be carried farther afield and applied to a remote island
of the Atlantic Ocean is quite in accordance with the natural
course of things and the general experience of mankind. No
doubt the name Man might be derived from other sources,
but the chances are in this instance that the Irish people whose
navigators found Brazil Island (or imagined it, if you please)
did the same favor for the crescent-shaped "Man," quite over-
riding for a hundred years any preceding or competing titles.

Almost immediately there was some competition, for the Pinelli
map of I384 9 calls it Jonzele (possibly to be read I Onzele, a
word which has an Italian look but is of no certain derivation),
reducing the delineation of the island to a mere shred, bringing
Brazil close to it, and giving the pair a more northern and more
inshore location. Another map of about the same period follows
this lead, but there the divergence ended. Soleri of 1385 10
reverted to the former representation; and about the opening
of the fifteenth century the regular showing of the pair was
established Brazil and Man, circle and crescent, by those
names and in approximately the locations and relative position
first stated.

It is true that the crescent island is sometimes represented
without any name, as though it were well enough known to
make a name unnecessary. But during the fifteenth century,
when it is called anything, with a bare exception or two, it is
called Man. Its shape and general location are substantially
those of the Catalan map of 1375 on the maps of Juan da Napoli ;

8 Listed as No. 17 in Justin Winsor: The Kohl Collection (now in the Library of
Congress) of Maps Relating to America, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.,
1004, p. 27.

A. E. Nordenskiold, Periplus. PI. 15.

10 Ibid., PI. 18.


Giraldi, 1426 ; 11 Beccario, 1426" and I435 13 (Fig. 20); Bianco,
1436 and 1448 ; 14 Benincasa, 1467" and I482 16 (Fig. 22); Roselli,
1468;" the Weimar map, (probably) about 1481 ; 18 Freducci,
1497 ; 19 and others arguing surely a robust and confident tradi-
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« Reply #94 on: July 19, 2009, 03:37:16 am »


On sixteenth-century maps this island is still generally pre-
sented, though lacking on those of Ruysch, 1508 ; 20 Coppo,
I528 21 (Fig. 13); and Ribero, I529; 22 but suddenly and almost
completely the name May da in its various forms takes the place
of Man, a substitution quite unaccounted for. There are hardly
enough instances of survival of the older name to be worth men-
tioning. Was there some resuscitation of old records or charts,
now lost again, which thus overcame the Celtic claim and sup-
plied an Arabic or at least a quite alien and unusual designation?
The little mystery is not likely ever to be cleared up. The pre-
viously mentioned map from the Ptolemy edition of 1513 (Fig.
ll), which perhaps first introduces it, also presents several other

11 Theobald Fischer, Portfolio 8 (Facsimile del Portolano di Giacomo Giraldi di
Venezia dell* anno 1426).

12 The section of which the author has a photograph (first published in the Geogr.
Rev., Vol. 8, 1919, opposite p. 40, and here reproduced, Fig. 3, somewhat curtailed)
does not extend far enough to show the island.

13 Gustavo Uzielli: Mappamondi, carte nautiche e portolani del medioevo e dei
secoli delle grandi scoperte marittime construiti da italiani o trovati nelle biblio-
teche d'ltalia, Part II (pp. 280-390) of "Studi Bibliografici e Biografici sulla Storia
della Geografia in Italia," published on the occasion of the Second International
Geographical Congress, Paris, 1875. by theSocietaGeograficaltaliana, Rome, 1875;
reference on PI. 8 (the second edition, Rome, 1882, does not contain the plates).

"A. E. Nordenskiold, Periplus, PL 20.; Theobald Fischer, Portfolio n, PI. 3.

u A. E. Nordenskiold, Periplus, PI. 33.

16 Kretschmer, atlas, PL 4, map i.

E. L. Stevenson: Facsimiles of Portolan Charts Belonging to the Hispanic
Society of America, Publs. Hispanic Soc. of Amer. No. 104, New York, 1916, PL 2.

" W. H. Babcock: Indications of Visits of White Men to America before Colum-
bus, Proc. loth Internatl. Congr. of Americanists, Held at Washington, Dec. 27-31,
1915, [Smithsonian Institution,] Washington, D. C., 1917, PP- 469-478; map on p.

A. E. Nordenskiold, Periplus, PL 22.

20 Kretschmer, atlas, PL 9, map 3; also in A. E. Nordenskiold: Facsimile-Atlas
to the Early History of Cartography, transl. by J. A. Ekelof and C. R. Markham,
Stockholm, 1889, PL 32.

21 Kretschmer, atlas, PL 14, map 5.
Ibid., PL 15.


innovations in departing from the crescent form and shifting the
island a degree or two southward ; and these changes surely seem
to hint at some fresh information. That there was no supposed
change of identity is shown by the fact that succeeding car-
tographers down to and beyond the middle of that century revert
generally to the established crescent form and to nearly the
same place in the ocean previously occupied by Man, while
applying the new name Mayda. Thus an anonymous Portuguese
map of 1519 or I52O, 23 reproduced by Kretschmer, and the
graduated and numbered map of Prunes, I553 24 (Fig. 12), concur
in placing Mayda or Mayd at about latitude 48 N., the latitude
of Quimper, Brittany, and almost exactly the same as that
given by the Pizigani to the crescent island on its first appear-
ance on the maps as a clearly recognizable entity.


The maps made after the world had become more or less
familiarized with the details of modern discoveries, in this case
as in most others of its kind, indicate little except the dying
out of old traditions, whatever they may have been, and hap-
hazard or conventional substitution of locations and forms or
the influence of the new geographic facts and theories. Thus
Desceliers' map of 1546" (Fig. 9), a museum of strangely-named
sea islands, makes the latitude of "Maidas" 47 and the longitude
that of St. Michaels, but not long afterward Nicolay (i56o; 26
Fig. 6) and Zaltieri (i566) 27 transferred the island to New-
foundland waters. Nicolay calls it "I man orbolunda," and
places it just south of the Strait of Belle Isle. It is accompanied
by Green Island and by Brazil, a little farther out on the Grand
Banks where the Virgin Rocks may still be found at low tide.
Taken together these three islands look like parts of a disin-
tegrated Newfoundland. Zaltieri of 1566 gives Maida by that

Ibid., PI. 12, map 2.

* Ibid., PL 4, map 5.

* Ibid., PI. 17; also A. E. Nordenskiold, Periplus, PI. 51.
A. E. Nordenskiold, Periplus, PI. 27.

27 Kretschmer, atlas, PI. 19, map 3.



FIG. 12 Section of the Prunes map of 1553 showing Mayda (in latitude 48),
Brazil, and Estotiland ("Esthlanda"). (After Kretschmer's hand-copied reproduc-
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« Reply #95 on: July 19, 2009, 03:37:30 am »


name more nearly the same outward location, though it is still
distinctly American. Nicolay's name "orbolunda" is one of the
many puzzling things connected with this island. His "Man"
may be either a reversion to the fifteenth-century name, or,
more likely, a modification of, or error in copying from Gas-
taldi's map-illustration 28 of Ramusio about ten years previously,
which allots the same inclement site to an "isola de demoni"
and depicts the little capering devils in wait there for their
prey. It is likely, though, that Gastaldi had no thought of
dentifying it with May da. But the neighborhood of the island
of Brazil and Green Island seem nearly conclusive evidence that
Nicolay intended I Man for Mayda and had ascribed to it,
by reason of evil association, the supposed attributes of Gas-
taldi's island. However, Ramusio himself in I566, 29 the same
year as Zaltieri, set his "Man" south of Brazil off the coast of
Ireland. The only really important contributions of these maps
are their testimony to the continued diabolical reports of Mayda,
or Man, and the apparent conviction of Nicolay and Zaltieri
that the island was after all American; a suggestion that could
have had no meaning and no support in the times when America
was unrecognized. Evidently these map-makers did not regard
the inadequate western longitude of Mayda, or Man, in the
older maps as a formidable objection. Presumably they were
well aware how many of the insular oceanic distances as shown
by these forerunners needed stretching in the light of later
discovery. But their views with regard to an American Mayda
seem to have ended with them, so far as map representation is


There is another curious and rather mystifying episodical
divergence in the cartography of that period, this time on the

28 Justin Winsor: Cartier to Frontenac: Geographical Discovery in the Interior
of North America in Its Historical Relations, 1534-1700, with Full Cartographical
Illustrations from Contemporary Sources, Boston and New York, 1894, P- 60.

2 A. E. Nordenskiold, Periplus, Fig. 76, p. 163.


part of the great geographers Ortelius and Mercator in their
respective series of maps during the latter part of the sixteenth
century, for example Ortelius of I57O 30 and Mercator of I587. 31
Ortelius presents as Vlaendereri an oceanic island which certainly
seems intended for Mayda (Fig. 10), while Mercator shows
Vlaenderen as lying about half-way between Brazil and the
usual site of Maida. The word has a Dutch or Flemish look.
Of course there must be some explanation of it, but this is
unknown to the writer. The natural inference would be that
some skipper of the Low Countries thought he had happened
upon it and reported accordingly. This was what occurred in
the case of Negra's Rock, now held to be wholly fictitious
though shown in many maps; and also in the case of the sunken
land of Buss, now generally recognized as real and as a part of
Greenland but recorded and delineated in the wrong place by
an error of observation. It may be that Ortelius believed in a
rediscovery of Mayda and that for some reason it should have
the name latest given. But, in spite of the prestige of these
great names, Vlaenderen did not continue on the maps, while
Mayda did, though in a rather capricious way.


There would be little profit in listing the maps of the seven-
teenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries which persisted
by inertia and convention in the nearly stereotyped delineation
of Mayda but, of course, with slight variations in location and
name. Thus Nicolaas Vischer in a map of Europe of 1670 (P) 32
shows "L'as Maidas" in the longitude of Madeira and the latitude
of Brittany; a world map in Robert's "Atlas Universel" (I757) 33
gives "I. Maida" about the longitude of Madeira and the latitude
of Gascony; and on a chart of the Atlantic Ocean published in

*> A. E. Nordenskiold: Facsimile-Atlas, PL 46.
Ibid., PL 47.

K Copy in map collection of American Geographical Society
Atlas universel, par M. Robert, Geographe ordinaire du Roy, et par M. Ro-
bert de Vaugondy, son fils, . . . Paris, 1757, PL 13-


New York in I8I4 34 "Mayda" appears in longitude 20 W. and
latitude 46 N. But these representations have no significance
except as to human continuity.

The evil reputation which was early established and seems to
have hung about the island in later stages, assimilating the icy
clashings and noises and terrors of the north as it had previously
incorporated the monstrous fears of a warmer part of the ocean,
is surely a curious phenomenon. I have fancied it may be
responsible for the probably quite imaginary Devil Rock,
which appears in some relatively recent maps, perhaps as a
kind of substitute for Mayda, much in the fashion that Brazil
Rock took the place of Brazil Island when belief in the latter
became difficult. The present view of the U. S. Hydrographic
Office, as expressed on its charts, is that Negra's Rock, Devil
Rock, Green Island, or Rock, and all that tribe are unreal
"dangers," probably reported as the result of peculiar appear-
ances of the water surface. Whether the possibility has been
wholly eliminated of a lance of rock jutting up to the surface
from great depths and not yet officially recognized, I will not
presume to say; but it seems highly improbable that there is
anything of the sort in the North Atlantic Ocean except the
lonely and nearly submerged peak of Rockall, some 400 miles
west of Britain, and the well-known oceanic groups and archi-
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What was this island, then, which held its place in the maps
during half a millennium and more, under two chief names
and occasional substitutes, designations apparently received
from so many different peoples? One cannot easily set it aside
as a "peculiar appearance of the surface" or as a mere figment
of fancy. But there is nothing westward or southwestward of the
Azores except the Bermudas and the capes and coast islands

[E. M.) Blunt 's New Chart of the Atlantic or Western Ocean, New York,


of America. The identification with some outlying island of
the Azores, as Corvo, for example, is an old hypothesis; and the
grotesquery of that rocky islet seems to have deeply impressed
the minds of early navigators, lending some countenance to
the idea. But the Laurenziano map of 135 1 35 and the Book of
the Spanish Friar 36 show that all the islands of the Azores
group were known before the middle of the fourteenth century,
and Corvo in particular had been given the name which it still
holds. Man, afterward Mayda, appears on many maps of the
fifteenth century, which show also the Azores in full. Perhaps
this is not conclusive, for there are strange blunders and duplica-
tions on old maps; but it is at least highly significant. If Man,
or Mayda, were really Corvo or another island of the Azores
group, surely someone would have found it out in the course
of the fifteenth or sixteenth century, just as it came to be per-
ceived after a time that the Azores had been located too near
to Europe and just as Bianco's duplication of the Azores in
1448 had finally to be rejected. Mayda, if real, must have been
something more remote and difficult to determine than Corvo.
Perhaps Nicolay and Zaltieri were right in thinking that
Mayda was America, or at least was on the side of the Atlantic
toward America. The latitude generally chosen by the maps
would then call for Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland, often
supposed to be insular in early days; or perhaps for Cape Breton
Island, the next salient land feature. But that is an uncertain
reliance, for the observations of pre-Columbian navigators
would surely be rather haphazard, and they might naturally
judge by similarity of climate. This would justify them in
supposing that a region really more southerly lay in the latitude
of northern France for example Cape Cod, which juts out

85 Theobald Fischer, Portfolio 5 (Facsimile del Portolano Laurenziano-Gaddiano
dell' anno 1351). PL 4-

34 Book of the Knowledge of All the Kingdoms, Lands, and Lordships That Are in
the World, and the Arms and Devices of Each Land and Lordship, or of the Kings
and Lords Who Possess Them, written by a Spanish Franciscan in the middle of the
I4th century, published for the first time with notes by Marcos Jimenez de la Es-
pada in 1877, translated and edited by Sir Clements Markham, Hakluyt Soc.
Publs., and Ser., Vol. 29, London, 1912, p. 29.


conspicuously and is curved and almost insular. Or by going
farther south, although nearer Europe, they might thus indicate
the Bermudas, the main island of which is given a crescent form
on several relatively late maps. But we must not lay too much
stress on this last item, for divers other map islands were modeled
on this plan. We may be justified, then, in saying that Mayda
was probably west of the middle of the Atlantic and that Ber-
muda, Cape Cod, or Cape Breton is as likely a candidate for
identification as we can name.


The first account of Greenland given to the world, indeed the
first mention of that region in literature, is by Adam of Bremen,
an ecclesiastical official and geographical author.


He interviewed in 1069 the enterprising king Sweyn of Den-
mark, and acquired from him divers Scandinavian and other
northern items which Adam embodied about 1076 in his work
"Descriptio Insularum Aquilonis," the Description of the North-
ern Islands. Nansen quotes, with other matter, the following
passages: 1

. . . On the north this ocean flows past the Orchades, thence end-
lessly around the circle of the earth, having on the left Hybernia, the
home of the Scots, which is now called Ireland, and on the right the
skerries of Nordmannia, and farther off the islands of Iceland and Green-
land. . .

Furthermore, there are many other islands in the great ocean, of which
Greenland is not the least; it lies farther out in the ocean, opposite the
mountains of Suedea, or the Riphean range. To this island, it is said, one
can sail from the shore of Nortmannia [sic] in five or seven days, as like-
wise to Iceland. The people there are blue ("cerulei", bluish-green) from
the salt water; and from this the region takes its name. They live in a
similar fashion to the Icelanders, except that they are more cruel and
trouble seafarers by predatory attacks. To them also, as is reported,
Christianity has lately been wafted.

It was in fact about seventy-five years since Leif, son of Eric
the Red, according to the sagas, had effected that wafting from
the Christian court of Norway to the still pagan Norsemen of his

1 Fridtjof Nansen: In Northern Mists: Arctic Exploration in Early Times,
transl. by A. G. Chater, 2 vols., New York, 1911; reference in Vol. i, pp. 192 and
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« Reply #97 on: July 19, 2009, 03:38:34 am »


father's far-western domain. For Adam clearly means these white
people and not the Eskimos, with whom they had not yet come
in contact and of whom no whisper had yet reached the European
world unless it related to relics of former occupancy discerned
on first landing. It is surely matter for astonishment to find the
ruddy followers of hot-blooded Eric described as bluish-green
and so conspicuous in this complexion that it gave their region
its name. Perhaps there is no more curious instance to be found
of the inveterate human tendency to read into any unfamiliar
name some meaning that seems plausible.

It is not clear where Adam supposed Greenland to be located ;
perhaps he, too, was not clear about the matter. The earlier of
his two passages on the subject seems to call for something like
the true location in the far west; but the later mention of the
mountains of Sweden has been understood by the most learned
commentators to indicate a site directly north of Norway. King
Sweyn perhaps had a fairly good idea of the sailing courses for
Iceland and Greenland, but his guest may have assimilated the
information rather confusedly. Adam seems convinced that
Greenland was a distinctly oceanic island, with no suggestion
of any near relation to any continent. In this respect he differs
from certain maps of the fifteenth century with which we shall
presently have to deal. . We know now that the truth lies between
these views; that the highly glaciated mass which we name in its
entirety Greenland is, indeed, an island and probably the largest
of islands but an island with the aspect and attributes of a
peninsula, being barely severed from that polar archipelago which
crowns our American mainland and being not very remote at
one point from the mainland itself.


Adam's idea of oceanic insulation was accepted in many
quarters, as the maps disclose. Of course, they may not have
derived it from him in all instances, directly or indirectly, but at
least they shared it. Usually the name, slightly changed, becomes
the equivalent "Green Island" in one or another of several


languages. Thus, to take a very late instance, the map of
Coppo, 1528* (Fig. 13), discloses near the true site of Greenland
a mass of land elongated from east to west, but clearly all at sea
with no greater land near it, and labeled Isola Verde. There
seems no room for doubt of the meaning or origin of this name.
That any land found there should be an island of the sea was the
natural assumption of geographers at that time. Maps of the
early sixteenth century generally show a scattering of islands
south of North America sometimes approaching an archipelago,
sometimes more widely distributed, and in either case being
substitutes for what we now know as North America and its


In another well-known map 3 (Fig. 7), an unnamed cartographer,
said to be Catalan, probably about 1480, delineates an elongated
Ilia Verde (using the Portuguese name for island), locating it
southwest of Iceland, which bears the name Fixlanda, but is
easily identifiable by its outline and geographical features. His
Ilia Verde runs nearly north and south, approximating more
closely than Coppo's island the true trend of Greenland. It
also by its greater bulk seems founded on more adequate informa-
tion. It is equally at sea and remote from other land, except that
off its concave southern end, with a narrow interval, lies a large
circular island named Brazil, our old mythical acquaintance of
medieval maps not often located so far westward but, as we have
seen in Chapter IV, apparently intended to represent the Gulf of
St. Lawrence region. These two islands strikingly resemble in
general situation and arrangement the Greenland and Estotiland
(Labrador) in a map (Fig. 14) illustrating Torfaeus' early eight-

* Konrad Kretschmer: Die Entdeckung Araerika's in ihrer Bedeutung fur die
Geschichte des Weltbildes, 2 vols. (text and atlas), Berlin, 1892; reference in atlas,
PI. 14, map 5.

3 A. E. Nordenskiold: Bidrag till nordens aldsta kartografi, Stockholm, 1892,
PI. 5. Also (reduced) in Nansen (Vol. 2, p. 285), and in T. J. Westropp: Brasil and
the Legendary Islands of the North Atlantic: Their History and Fable, Proc. Royal
Irish Acad., Vol. 30, Section C, 1912-13, pp. 223-260; see PI. 20, opp. p. 260.



eenth century "Gronlandia/' 4 except that the rounded outline
of Estotiland is not completed, its proportional area is greater
than "Brazil," the strait between the two bodies of land is a
little wider, and the lower end of Torfaeus' Greenland is not
made concave like that of Ilia Verde. But again there can be

FIG. 13 Coppo's world map of 1528 showing Green Island ("isola v'erde").
(After Kretschmer's hand-copied reproduction.)

no doubt that the Ilia Verde of the Catalan (if he were a Catalan)
represents the Greenland of Adam of Bremen and the sagas.


To the same origin, in a remoter sense, we may ascribe the
rather large Insula Viridis of Schoner, I52O, 5 which is brought
down to a latitude between that of southern Ireland and that of
northern Spain and something east of mid-ocean. It must seem
that the map-maker had quite lost sight of any relation between
this Latinized Green Island and the true Greenland of the

4 Thormodus Torfaeus: Gronlandia Antiqua seu veteris Gronlandiae descriptio,
Copenhagen, 1706; Tabula I, facing p. 20.
6 Kretschmer, atlas, PI. 13.

9 8


FIG. 14 Bishop Thorlaksson's map of Greenland 1606, showing Estotiland as a
part of America. Cf. with Fig. 18. (From Torfaeus* "Gronlandia antiqua," Copen-
hagen, 1706, in the library of the American Geographical Society.)
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« Reply #98 on: July 19, 2009, 03:38:52 am »

This is even more obviously true of Nicolay's map of I56o 6
(Fig. 6), which carries Verde into the Newfoundland Banks, even
nearer than his Brazil to a broken-up Newfoundland; and of
Zaltieri's map of I566, 7 which plants Verde rather close to
"C. Ras" (Cape Race), with only a narrow strip of water between.
These cartographers undoubtedly indicated American habitats
for their little island ; but they can have had no thought of con-

A. E. Nordenskiold: Periplus: An Essay on the Early History of Charts and
Sailing-Directions, transl. by F. A. Bather, Stockholm, 1897, PI- 27.
7 Kretschmer. atlas, PI. 19, map 3.


fusing it with Greenland, which they well knew and which Zaltieri
distinctly shows as Grutlandia. They would be far from admit-
ting a common origin. Perhaps in most of such northern cases a
conception like Coppo's of Greenland as an oceanic island is at
the root of the derivation ; but successive copyings, modifications,
and shiftings may have altered the area, form, and location, while
the clue was gradually lost and only the name remained hardly
as a reminder, for it is of too general descriptive application.


There is, indeed, one instance of a Green Island with which
Greenland can have had nothing whatever to do. Peter Martyr
d'Anghiera's sketch map of 151 1 8 shows a small tropical Isla
Verde near Trinidad; it is apparently Tobago. Doubtless its
luxuriance of vegetation prompted the name.

This may have happened in other instances of warm climates
or even in temperate zones where grass and foliage grow freely;
so that we in many cases cannot distinguish on the maps the
Green Islands, real or fanciful, which acquired their name as a
remote legacy of Eric's land from those which were called "green"
simply because they were green. Both derivations may some-
times apply; but the islands of the far northwest bearing that
name, like Coppo's island and the Catalan's Ilia Verde, must
naturally go into the former category.

As we have seen, Green Islands were scattered rather widely;
but the name occurs most often in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries in the middle or eastern part of the ocean to indicate
a small island, having Mayda (Vlaenderen) for its rather distant
consort. Desceliers indeed, in I546 9 (Fig. 9), shows it in the same
longitude as the tip of Labrador, but this is done by carrying
Labrador too far eastward. St. Brandan's Island is a neighbor
on his map. Ortelius, in isyo 10 (Fig. 10) and Mercator, in 1587,"

8 A. E. Nordenskiold: Facsimile-Atlas to the Early History of Cartography,
transl. by J. A. Ekelof and C. R. Markham, Stockholm, 1889, p. 67.

9 Kretschmer, atlas, PI. 17.

10 A. E. Nordenskiold, Facsimile-Atlas, PI. 46.
Ibid.. PI. 47.


represent Y Verde west of Vlaenderen in the region north of the
Azores. In the eighteenth century it still held its ground west of
France in the eastern Atlantic as Isla Verde, Isla Verte, lie
Verte, Ilha Verde, and Green Island. By the early part of the
nineteenth century it had, after its kind, dwindled to Green Rock
Brazil Island similarly becoming Brazil Rock as dubious
rocks became easier to believe in than dubious islands. Perhaps
the well-known actual instances of Rockall and the Virgin
Rocks may have prompted credence in other spears and knolls
of the earth crust here and there reaching the surface.

The Hydrographic Office does not believe in any such Green
Rock or Green Island but supplies, in a letter to the writer, a
mariner's yarn which is not without interest and may be evidence
for the rock as far as it goes.

"Captain Tulloch, of New Hampshire, states that an acquaint-
ance of his, Captain Coombs, of the ship Pallas, of Bath, Maine,
in keeping a lookout for Green Island actually saw it on a
remarkably fine day when the sea was smooth. According to the
story, he went out in his boat and examined it and found it to be
a large rock covered with green moss. The rock did not seem
much larger than a vessel floating bottom upward, and it was
smooth all around. The summit was higher than a vessel's
bottom would appear out of the water, being about twenty feet
above the surface of the sea. Captain Coombs added that if the
object had not been so high he would have thought it to be a
capsized vessel. A sounding taken near this spot shows that a
depth of 1,500 fathoms exists there."

So Greenland, misunderstood and carried southward, dwindles
to what may be taken for a capsized vessel's hull, the existence
of which is denied by those who best should know. Or, to take
it the other way about, the traditions of Green Island, dwindling,
prompted the mariner's fancy to develop a Green Rock; and
Green Island is in numerous instances derived mainly, even if
remotely, from Greenland, reinforced sometimes by implications
of attractiveness.



There can be no doubt that the Down East sea captain, who
was so quick to perceive green vegetation on his fancied Green
Island, came nearer the true explanation of Greenland's name
than the good prebendary of Bremen with his bluish-green
Norsemen colored by the sea. It is pretty well understood that
about 985 or 986 Eric Rauda (Eric the Red, or Ruddy), the first
explorer and colonizer of this new region, applied the name at
least partly as an advertisement of fertility and promising con-
ditions for the encouragement of Icelandic colonists. This is
the way Ari Frode (the Wise), the best informed man of Iceland,
puts it in his surviving Libellus of the "Islendingabok" about a
century later: 13

This country which is called Greenland was discovered and colonized
from Iceland. Eric the Red was the name of the man, an inhabitant of
Breidafirth, who went thither from here and settled at that place, which
has since been called Ericsfirth. He gave a name to the country and called
it Greenland and said that it must persuade men to go thither if it had a
good name. They found there both east and west in the country the
dwellings of men and fragments of boats and stone implements such that
it might be perceived from these that that manner of people had been
there who have inhabited Wineland and whom Greenlanders call Skrae-
lings. And this when he set about the colonization of the country was
fourteen or fifteen winters before the introduction of Christianity here in
Iceland, according to what a certain man who himself accompanied Eric
the Red thither informed Thorkell Gellison.

This last was an uncle of Ari, a man of liberal and inquiring
mind and one of Ari's most valued sources of knowledge as
to the affairs of earlier generations.

The passage has been often quoted, but that Eric was largely
justified in his nomenclature is less generally known. Greenland
to the intending colonists would naturally mean not the ice-
enshrouded waste of the almost continental interior nor yet the
forbidding cliffs of the eastern coast guarded by a nearly impas-
sable floe-laden Arctic current, but the really habitable thousand-
mile fringe of uncovered land along the southwestern shore, on

12 Quoted by Nansen in his "In Northern Mists," Vol. i, p. 260.

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the average fifty miles wide and occasionally much wider. It
was partly shut in by forbidding headlands and perverse currents,
but feasible of access when the true course was disclosed. Some
parts of this region were, and still are, green with grass and bright
with summer flowers. Nansen, who certainly ought to know,
declares that the Greenland sites chosen would have seemed
more attractive than Iceland to an Icelander. Rink, who was
connected with the Greenland government for a full generation,
mentions certain places with special approval and regards life
in most parts of the inhabited region quite contentedly. 13 Pro-
fessor Hovgaard tells us: 14


It was on this strip of land that the Icelanders settled at the end of the
tenth century. Though barren on the outer shores and islands and on the
hills, it is covered at the inner part of the fiords on the low level by a rich
growth of grass together with stunted birch trees and various bushes, par-
ticularly willows. On the north side of the valleys crowberries (Empetrum
nigrurri) may be found. . .

Eric settled in Ericsfiord, the present Tunugdliarfik, at a place which
he called Brattahlid, now Kagsiarsuk, in 985 or 986. Two distinct colonies
were founded, the Eastern Settlement, extending from about Cape Fare-
well to a point well beyond Cape Desolation, comprising the whole of
Julianehaab Bay and the coast past Ivigtut, and the Western Settlement,
beginning about one hundred and seventy miles farther north at Lysu-
fiord, [i.e. Agnafiord], the present Ameralikfiord, comprising the district
of Godthaab.

The fiord next Ericsfiord in the Eastern Settlement was Einarsfiord,
now Igalikofiord. These fiords were separated at their head by a low and
narrow strip of land, the present Igaliko Isthmus. It was here, at Gardar,
that the Althing of Greenland met, and here was also found the bishop's
seat, established at the beginning of the twelfth century. There were as
many as sixteen churches in Greenland, for almost every fiord had its own
church on account of the long distances and difficult traveling between
the fiords.

The unfamiliar localities above named may be followed by
the aid of the accompanying map (Fig. 15) copied from Finnur

1S Henry Rink: Danish Greenland, Its People and Its Products, London, 1877,
pp. 306-312 and passim.

14 William Hovgaard: The Voyages of the Norsemen to America (Scandinavian
Monographs, Vol. i), American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York, 1914, pp.
25 and 26.



J6nsson's maps, 16 which embody the results of the research
of the best experts and scholars with the aid of relics on the
ground and surviving records. It is apparent that from the
first to last the heart of Greenland was about the low, fairly

FIG. 15 Map of the early Norse Western and Eastern Settlements of Greenland.
Scale 1:6,400,000. (The inset below, 1:70,000,000, shows the relation of Norway,
Iceland, and Greenland.)

fertile, favorable tract near the heads of the two fiords named
for Eric and his friend, Einar, and not far from Eric's Green-
land home. The Western Settlement was a comparatively
small offshoot, with four churches only, yet it contrived to main-
tain existence for between three and four centuries, being at last

15 Finnur J6nsson: Gronlands gamle Topografi efter Kilderne: Osterbygden og
Vesterbygden, Meddelelser om Grdnland,Vo\. 20 (text, pp. 267-329), Pis. 2 and 3,



obliterated, as is supposed, by the Eskimos. The main settlement
was still more enduring, having a continuous record of nearly
half a millennium, a history not surpassed in duration by some
far more populous and powerful nations.

This seems marvelous, if it be true that the entire population
never exceeded 2,000 souls, as Nansen and Hovgaard have

FIG. 16 Section of the Clavus map of 1427 showing Greenland continuous with
Europe. (After Joseph Fischer's hand-copied reproduction.)

supposed. Rink, on the other hand, estimated the maximum
at io,ooo. 16 Some intermediate number would seem more likely
than either extreme, if we may hazard a conjecture where
doctors disagree. The prosperity of the colony, such as it was,
seems to have been at its best in the eleventh and twelfth cen-
turies but was never conspicuous enough to get an outline of
Greenland into the maps until about the time of final extinction.

" Op. cil., p. 27.




We must remember, though, that during the earlier part of
this period there were not many maps extant which included the
Atlantic, and of these the greater number were more concerned
with theological conceptions and figures of wonder than with the
sober facts of geography, especially in remote places. About 1300
a remarkable series of navigators' portolan maps, revolutionizing
this attitude, began to add to the delineation of the Mediter-
ranean, which they had already developed with considerable
minuteness, something definite of the outer European coasts,
islands, and waters. Step by step they advanced into the
unknown or little known, but perhaps none of them, before the
fifteenth century, can be confidently relied on as indicating

This remained for the Nancy map of Claudius Clavus
(Schwartz), 1427" (Fig. 16). Greenland is, however, made dis-
tinctly continuous with Europe, being connected thereto by a
long land bridge, far north of Iceland, in accordance with an
hypothesis then prevailing. The second half of the same century
saw this conception of Claudius Clavus greatly popularized.
Divers maps 18 appeared, some showing Greenland as a prodig-
iously elongated peninsula of Europe, having its tip in the correct
location (Fig. 17), while others ran up a perverse trapezoidal
Greenland from the north coast of Norway.

Probably one or more of the former kind suggested in part the
memorable Zeno map of I558 19 (Fig. 19), professing to be a
reproduction of a map prepared by the Zeni of a past generation
and carelessly damaged by the final editor in boyhood. If not a
total forgery, it is at least untrustworthy, as we shall see in

" A. E. Nordenskiold, Facsimile- Atlas, p. 49. Also copied by Joseph Fischer:
The Discoveries of the Norsemen in America, With Special Relation to Their Early
Cartographical Representation, transl. by B. H. Soulsby, London, 1903, p. 70.

18 Joseph Fischer, Pis. 1-8. See also the map of Henricus Martillus Germanus
(1489) in E. G. Ravenstein: Martin Behaim, His Life and His Globe, London, 1908,
p. 67. The name Greenland does not appear on the latter map, but the peninsula
is there.

19 Kretschmer, atlas, PI. 4, map 4; better facsimile reproductions in the works by
Major and Lucas cited in footnotes i and 2, Ch. IX.


Chapter IX, and the same is true of an accompanying narrative
of experiences in Greenland about 1400.

Another map of somewhat later date, by Sigurdr Stefansson,
probably I59O 30 (Fig. 18), is a quite honest presentation of the
traditional views of Icelanders at that time and is distinctly more
modern than the Zeno map in the complete severance of Green-
land from Europe and its union with the great western land mass
which included Helluland, Markland, and Vinland, supposed to
be divided by a fiord from "America of the Spaniards." Of course,
that union with the Western continent is not precisely accurate
and the eastward trend which he gives his great peninsula is still
less so; but his map, often copied, remains a peculiarly interesting


To hark back to Adam of Bremen, the charges of special cruelty
and predatory attacks on seafarers in the middle of the eleventh
century awaken some surprise. The life of the people seems
simple and innocent enough, as disclosed by their relics and
remnants, which have been unearthed with great care. As seal
bones predominate in their refuse piles, this offshore supply
must have been their greatest reliance for animal food; but they
had also sheep, goats, and a small breed of cattle. They spun
wool and wove it; they carved vessels of soapstone, sometimes
with decoration; they milked cows and made butter; they
exported sealskins, ropes of walrus hide, and walrus tusks; they
paid tithes to the Pope in such commodities; they boiled seal fat
and made seal tar; they gathered tree trunks as driftwood far

^Thormodus Torfaeus: Gronlandia Antiqua, seu veteris Gronlandiae descriptio,
Copenhagen, 1706, Tabula II, after p. 20. Also reproduced by Gustav Storm:
Studies on the Vineland Voyages, MBmoires Soc. Royale des Antiquaires du Nord
(Copenhagen), N. S., 1884-89, pp. 307-370 (map on p. 333); by Fridtjof Nansen:
In Northern Mists, Vol. 2, p. 7; and by W. H. Babcock: Early Norse Visits to North
America, Smithsonian Misc. Colls., Vol. 59, No. 19, Washington, D. C. t 1913, map
facing p. 62; by Hovgaard, op. cit., opp. p. 118. These are two versions, the one
appearing in Torfaeus (1706), reproduced herewith (Fig. 18) and by Nansen, the
other a copy of about 1670 belonging to Bishop Thordr Thorlaksson, now preserved
in the Royal Library of Copenhagen (Old Collection, No. 2881, 4to), of Stefans-
son's original map, which was lost. The earlier version is reproduced by Storm,
Babcock, and Hovgaard.
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« Reply #100 on: July 19, 2009, 03:39:33 am »



up the coast and probably brought back cargoes of timber from
Markland; they built substantial houses and churches, using
huge stones in some cases. But they had to import grain, iron,

FIG. 18 Sigurdr Stefansson's map of Greenland, 1590, showing the severance of
Greenland from Europe and its union with the western land mass which includes
Helluland, Markland, and Vinland. Cf. with Fig. 14. (From Torfaeus' "Gron-
landia antiqua," Copenhagen, 1706, in the library of the American Geographical

and many other articles from Europe; and the infrequent visits
of ships from Iceland, Norway, and elsewhere must have made
a break in the monotony of their lives which they could ill
afford to forego. One would expect them to be especially kind
to such visitors.


On the other hand, the belligerent spirit which kept up the
bloody feuds of Iceland would not quickly have lapsed from these
transplanted Icelanders in their new home. Moreover, there
were thralls among them and the irritations growing out of
thralldom. Also, while much of their daily routine was quiet
enough, they were subject to savage weather and perils of
navigation, of the fisheries, of hunting far up the coast, where
many of them maintained stations for that purpose at Krog-
fiordsheath and other points. Even in getting to Greenland Eric
was able to carry through only about half of the ships that sailed
with him, and Gudrid and Thorbiorn, coming later, incurred
ample experiences of storm and danger. These wild elements of
life would tend to enhance a certain recklessness; and the law
must have been impotent to maintain order in remote fiords
and headlands, even if it had sought to do so.

In the Floamanna Saga, dealing with events not long after the
very first settlement, the thralls of Thorgils murder his young
wife on the eastern coast, where they had all been cast ashore
together. In another of the Greenland tales there is a bloody
contention, freely involving homicide, over the claims of the
church upon the contents of two ships which had come to grief.
No doubt such instances might be multiplied; but in the main
we may believe that the lives of the Greenlanders went orderly
enough in common grooves of very primitive husbandry and
fishing. Adam may have judged by reports of visitors with a
grievance, narrated at second or third hand.

If Greenland had a long history, it was that of a few people in
a remote region and could not present many salient features.
The colony possessed at least one monastery and the beginning
of a literature, including, it is said, the Lay of Atli, revealing a
curious interest in the career of the great Hun Attila, on the part
of a distant colonist hidden in Arctic mists and writing beside
the glaciers. In art, as distinguished from literature, they seem
to have made few advances, if any, beyond mere ornamental
carving or designing on a plane hardly surpassing that of the


But in seamanship and exploration their achievements,
considering their numbers and resources, were really wonderful.
All experts agree that Eric's first exploration was daring, skillful,
persistent, and exhaustive, according to the best modern stand-
ards, and that his selection of settlement sites was exceedingly
judicious; in fact, could not have been improved upon. Then
followed in less than twenty years the discovery of the American,
mainland by Eric's son Leif (or, as some say, by one Biarni,
followed by Leif) and a series of other voyages, including Thor-
finn Karlsefni's prolonged effort to colonize, involving the tracing
of the American coast line from at least upper Labrador to some
point south of Newfoundland. The precise lower limit is matter
of dispute, but, according to the better opinion, may be found
somewhere on the front of southern New England. These were
followed in 1121 by the missionary journey, as it seems to have
been, of Bishop Eric Gnupsson, who then sailed out of Greenland
for Vinland, we do not know with what result. Subsequent
communication with parts of the American continent was
probably not uncommon, as has been inferred from the accidental
arrival in 1347 of a ship which had sailed from Greenland to
Markland and been storm-driven from the latter westward.
It pursued its course to Norway.

In the opposite (northern) direction we know of at least two
venturesome voyages up Baffin Bay, and, as the records have
reached us almost by accident, we may naturally conjecture
many more.

A British exploring expedition in 1824 acquired a small stone
inscribed with runic characters near some beacons on an island
north of Upernivik on the upper northwestern coast of Greenland.
The original is lost, but a duplicate of it is preserved in the
Copenhagen National Museum. Divers copies 21 have been
published. The inscription is thought to date from about 1300,
but, of course, may relate to a much earlier event. It has been

M Hovgaard, p. 39-


translated by various runologists, with differences in detail.
As given by Professor Hovgaard, it reads:

Erling Sigvatsson and Bjarne Thordarson and Endride Oddson built
this (or these) beacon(s) Saturday after "Gagnday" (April 25th) and
cleared (the place) (or made the inscription) 1135 (?)

The year is reported with some uncertainty; and it must be owned
that the body of the text offers several alternatives. Such a
memorial would more naturally be put up by the men who built
the beacons or those of about their time than by a later genera-
tion to commemorate the not vitally important doings of those
who were dead and gone. The year 1300 seems a little late for
venturing so far, as it was about the beginning of a period of
decadence and less than forty years before the Western Settle-
ment vanished altogether. The date 1135 would better accord
with the climax of Norse strenuousness and Greenland adven-
ture. Perhaps the runes were carved in the stone earlier than the
runologists suppose. But, whether the original visit took place
in the twelfth century or the fourteenth, and whether the stone
denotes two Norse visits to this place or only one, it is still con-
clusive that some Greenlanders had explored well to the north-
ward along the shore of Baffin Bay in the time of the old colony.
A more extensive exploration was undertaken in 1266 by the
clergy, apparently of the Bishop's seat, since they traveled home
to Gardar. It appears that certain men had been farther north
than usual but reported no sign of previous occupancy by the
Eskimos (who seem by this time to have awakened some concern
among the Norsemen) except at the unusually broad reindeer-
pasture land and hunting ground of Krogfiordsheath, a little
below Disko Bay. This made a good starting point for the ship,
which was thereupon sent "northward in order to explore the
regions north of the farthest point which they had hitherto
visited," apparently with a special view of getting more light
on the whereabouts of the heathen and their line of approach.
In these regards the adventure was barren; but the narrative of
one of the priests is interesting so far as it goes: 32

* Often quoted, e. g. by Hovgaard, p. 37.


. . . they sailed out from Krogfiordsheath, until they lost sight of
the land. Then they had a south wind against them and darkness, and
they had to let the ship go before the wind; but when the storm ceased
and it cleared up again, they saw many islands and all kinds of game,
both seals and whales and a great number of bears. They came right into
the sea-bay and lost sight of all the land, both the southern coast and the
glaciers; but south of them were also glaciers as far as they could see.

That was their farthest point. They then sailed southward,
reaching Krogfiordsheath again and eventually Gardar. On the
way they had noticed some abandoned Eskimo houses but no
living Eskimos.
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« Reply #101 on: July 19, 2009, 03:39:52 am »

There is some attempt to indicate latitude by the way shadows
fell in a boat. Also we are told, apparently meaning midsummer
or a little later: "at midnight the sun was as high as at home in
the settlement when it is in northwest." But speculations as to
their course and distance have given varying results. Some think
they may even have passed into Smith Sound; others that they
may have crossed the Middle Water to the western shore of
Baffin Bay, seeing south of them the glaciers of northeastern
Baffin Land; others still that they did not get very far above
Upernivik; but, whatever the exact limit, it seems to have been
a notable bit of Arctic exploration, prosecuted rather at random
and with scant resources.


The Eskimos (Skraelings) are referred to in this account as if
already known to the settlers, though uncertain as to their
home quarters and mysterious in their coming and going. Prob-
ably there had been some contact, not wholly friendly, between
outranging members of the two races. The Historia Norvegiae, 23
a manuscript of the same century discovered in Scotland, says:

Beyond the Greenlanders toward the north their hunters came across
a kind of small people called Skraelings. When they are wounded alive
their wound becomes white without issue of blood; but the blood scarcely
ceases to stream out of them when they are dead.

23 Pp. 69-124 in Gustav Storm: Monumenta historica Norvegiae, Christiania,
1880; reference on p. 76. In English, e. g. in Hovgaard, p. 167.


Whatever may be thought of this magical oddity of surgery, it
at least seems to imply authentically some experiments in piercing
or slashing the living. Whether such collision was a matter of
the thirteenth century only or had first occurred in the twelfth or
still earlier we cannot say. The Eskimo race was the ominous
shadow of the Norse colonist from the beginning, though long
unrecognized as a menace. Apparently there had been a tempo-
rary movement of these people down the western coast about the
tenth century, withdrawing before the first white men appeared.
After that for generations, perhaps centuries, the weaker heathen
wisely kept out of sight, either beyond the water or at hunting
grounds far up the Greenland coast. At last they moved nearer,
and there was occasional contact while still the Norsemen were
formidable. But by the fourteenth century Norse Greenland
had begun to dwindle in power and population, with diminishing
aid and reinforcement from Europe, and the danger drew
nearer. Perhaps there was some special impulsion of the un-
civilized people which resulted in the obliteration of the Western
Norse Settlement, always relatively feeble. Some rumor of its
need having reached the Eastern Settlement, an expedition of
relief was dispatched about 1337, or perhaps a little later, accom-
panied by Ivar Bardsen, then or afterward steward of the
Bishop, who tells the tale. Only a few stray cattle were found ;
presumably the colonists had been killed or carried away.

The ground thus lost could not be regained. On the contrary,
we may suppose the Eskimos to be getting stronger and drawing
nearer. In 1355 an expedition under Paul Knutson came out to
reinforce the Norsemen; but it returned home in or before 1364
and can have made only a temporary lightening of the load.
In 1379 there seems to have been an Eskimo attack, costing the
Norsemen 18 of their few men. But peace may have reigned as a
rule. At any rate, the ordinary functions of life went on, for it
is of record that a young Icelander, visiting Greenland, was
married by the Bishop at Gardar in 1409; and the last visit of
the Norwegian knorr, or supply ship, occurred by way of Ice-
land in 1410.


After that nothing is certainly known. There are two papal
letters at different periods of the century, based on very ques-
tionable hearsay information and indicating confusion and gen-
eral falling away. There was even a futile effort to reopen
communication in 1492. Probably by that time the Norsemen
and Norse women were all dead or married to the Eskimos.
That particular form of primitive heathendom seems to have
absorbed them.

Greenland was to be rediscovered and repeopled in due season ;
but for the time being it had become in European knowledge only
a half-forgotten figure on certain maps, sometimes given with
fair accuracy of outline but sometimes also as an oceanic Green
Island of only indirect relation to reality and passing its name
on to little islands and even fancied rocks far at sea, which
owned nothing in common with the far northern region except
a part of its name.


The name Markland, meaning Forest Land, must be, in
one language or another, among the oldest geographical designa-
tions known among men. Nothing could be more natural to
even the most primitive people than to distinguish in this way
any heavily overgrown region which especially challenged
attention, perhaps as a refuge or as a barrier. Its appearance
in any form of record was, of course, very much later. As to
Atlantic regions, the earliest instance other than Norse may be
the "Insula de Legname" of certain fourteenth- and fifteenth-
century portolan charts, 1 evidently given by some Genoese or
other Italian navigator to Madeira, the latter name being a
translation of the former, substituted by the Portuguese 2 after
their rediscovery. Thus we might say that this island was the
original western Markland, but for the fact that certain Green-
land Norsemen had affixed the name long before to a region
much farther west.
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« Reply #102 on: July 19, 2009, 03:40:08 am »


The earliest manuscript of the first distinct account of the
Norse Markland is included in the compilation known as Hauk's

1 Portolano Laurenziano-Gaddiano, 1351; see PI. 5 of facsimile in Portfolio 5 of
Theobald Fischer: Sammlung mittelalterlicher Welt- und Seekarten italienischen
Ursprungs, i vol. of text and 17 portfolios containing photographs of maps, Venice,

Catalan atlas, 1375. Pis. 11-14 in A. E. Nordenskiold: Periplus: An Essay on
the Early History of Charts and Sailing-Directions, transl. by F. A. Bather. Stock-
holm, 1897.

Pareto map, 1455, PI. 5 in atlas accompanying Konrad Kretschmer: Die Ent-
deckung Amerika's in ihrer Bedeutung fur die Geschichte des Weltbildes, 2 vols.
(text and atlas), Berlin, 1892 (our Fig. 21).

1 M. A. P. d'Avezac: Notice des decouvertes faites au Moyen Age dans 1'Ocean
Atlantique anterieurement aux grandes explorations portugaises du quinzieme
siecle, Paris, 1845, pp. 8-9. See "I de Madera" on Benincasa map, 1482, in Kretsch-
mer. atlas, PI. 4 (our Fig. 22).


Book, 3 from Hauk Erlendsson, for whom and partly by whom it
was prepared, necessarily before his death in 1334, but probably
after he was given a certain title in 1305. Perhaps 1330 may
mark the time of its completion. Along with divers other
documents, it copies from some unknown original the saga of
Eric the Red, sometimes called the saga of Thorfinn Karlsefni,
an ancestor of the compiler, whose adventures as an early
explorer of northeastern North America constitute a conspicuous
feature of the narrative. Some parts of the saga of Eric the Red
as thus transcribed, especially toward its ending, cannot be
much older than the time of transcription, but verses embedded
in other parts have been identified as necessarily of the eleventh
century; and the body of the tale is, for the greater part,
manifestly archaic.


Beside Hauk's Book, there is a corroborative, independent,
but almost identical manuscript copy of the saga No. 557 of the
Arna-Magnaean collection at Copenhagen.

This saga 4 tells us:

Thence they sailed away beyond the Bear Islands with northerly winds.
They were out two daegr (days); then they discovered land and rowed
thither in boats and explored the country and found there many flat stones
(hellur) so large that two men could well spurn soles upon them [lie at full
length upon them, sole to sole]. There were many Arctic foxes there.
They gave a name to the land and called it Helluland.

Thence they sailed two daegr and bore away from the south toward
the southeast and they found a wooded country and on it many animals;
an island lay off the land toward the southeast; they killed a bear on this

8 Fully set forth in A. M. Reeves: The Finding of Wineland the Good, London,
1890; summarized in W. H. Babcock: Early Norse Visits to North America, Smith-
sonian Misc. Colls., Vol. 59, No. 19, Washington, D. C., 1913, pp. 64 et seq.

4 Reeves, pp. 42 et seq. This work gives facsimiles of the pages in Hauk's Book
dealing with the saga of Eric the Red, as well as the printed text in Icelandic, also a
translation and notes distinguishing slight divergencies of Arna Magnaean MS. 557.
I have followed the latter as slightly preferable and equally authentic and archaic
in substance. William Hovgaard (The Voyages of the Norsemen to America, New
York, 1914. P- 103) translates a little differently from Reeves in details but gives
much the same purport.


and called it Blarney (Bear Island) ; but the country they called Markland
(Forest Land).

When two daegr had elapsed they descried land, and they sailed off
this land. There was a cape (ness) to which they came. They beat into
the wind along this coast, having the land on the starboard (right) side.
This was a bleak coast with long and sandy shores. They went ashore
in boats and found the keel of a ship, so they called itKjalarness(Keelness)
there; they likewise gave a name to the strands and called them Furdu-
strandir (Wonder Strands) because they were so long to sail by. Then
the country became indented with bays [or "fiord-cut," as Dr. Olson trans-
lates] and they steered their ships into a bay. . . The country round
about was fair to look upon. . . There was tall grass there.

A very severe winter, however, drove them far southward to a
warmer bay, or hop, where they dwelt for nearly a year among
the characteristic products of Wineland; but at last withdrew
after an onslaught of the Indians.

Probably it was from this narrative that Arna-Magnaean
Manuscript 194, an ancient geographic miscellany, partly in
Icelandic, partly in Latin, derived the following statement,
generally ascribed 5 to Abbot Nicholas of Thingeyri who died
in 1159.

Southward from Greenland is Helluland, then comes Markland; thence
it is not far to Wineland the Good, which some men believe extends from
Africa, and if this be so there is an open sea flowing between Wineland and
Markland. It is said that Thorfinn Karlsefni hewed a "house-neat-tim-
ber" and then went to seek Wineland the Good, and came to where they
believed this land to be, but they did not succeed in exploring it or in
obtaining any of its products. 6

The foregoing view of the relative positions of these regions
along the coast is also illustrated in the well-known map 7 (Fig.
1 Cool of Sigurdr Stefansson (1570, or 1590, according to Storm)
which was evidently based on surviving Icelandic traditions.

5 For example by Joseph Fischer: The Discoveries of the Norsemen in America,
With Special Relation to Their Early Cartographical Representation, transl. by
B. H. Soulsby, London, 1003, pp. 7-8.

6 Thus quoted in Reeves, p. 15. See also Hovgaard, p. 79, where the obscure
phrase in quotation marks above is rendered "Karlsefni cut wood for a house

7 Thormodus Torfaeus: Gronlandia Antiqua, seu veteris Gronlandiae descriptio,
Copenhagen, 1706, Tabula II, after p. 20. See also footnote 20, Chapter VII.


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« Reply #103 on: July 19, 2009, 03:40:21 am »

There is great verisimilitude in the Karlsefni narrative and
these later derivative records. Their geography agrees con-
vincingly with the facts of the actual coast line from north to
south namely, first a desolate region, cold, bare, and stony,
the appropriate home of Arctic foxes; secondly, a game-haunted
and very wild forest land, untempting to settlement, unhopeful
for agriculture, but a hunter's paradise; thirdly, the warmer
country to the south, well suited to cultivation and even produc-
ing spontaneously various kinds of edibles, notably the large
fox grapes from which wine might be made. Helluland, the first,
remains, as Labrador and perhaps Baffin Land, nearly un-
changed excepting some uplift of the shore line; Markland has
suffered great inroads of the lumberman's axe, but still as
Newfoundland contains much heavy timber in its western part;
Wineland, the third, has become the chief seat of American
civilization east of the Appalachian Mountains. But in the time
of the Norsemen and long afterward Newfoundland was a
veritable Markland, a land of woods, down to its eastern front. 8
Its rediscoverers and earliest settlers found it so; and the maps
of Cantino 9 and Canerio, 10 both attributed to 1502 and certainly
not much later, exhibit the great island pictorially, under
different names, as a mass of woodland with tall trees standing
everywhere, apparently thus commemorating the most distinctive
and conspicuous natural feature of the land.


Some have urged that the southern part of Labrador may have
been Markland; but its trees of any considerable size are to
be found only by following up inlets far into the interior where

8 Fridtjof Nansen: In Northern Mists: Arctic Exploration in Early Times,
transl. by A. G. Chater, New York, 1911, 2 vols.: reference in Vol. j, p. 323. Cf. R.
Whitbourne: A Discourse and Discovery of Newfoundland, London, 1622.

9 E. L. Stevenson: Maps Illustrating Early Discovery and Exploration in Amer-
ica, 1502-1530, Reproduced by Photography from the Original Manuscripts, text
and 12 portfolios, New Brunswick, N. J., 1906; reference in Portfolio i.

10 E. L. Stevenson: Marine World Chart of Nicolo de Canerio Januensis, 1502
(circa), 2 vols. (text, 1008, and facsimile in portfolio, 1907), Amer. Geogr. Soc. and
Hispanic Soc. of Amer., New York, 1907-08.


the Arctic current has less power to chill; there is nothing to
indicate that conditions were very different then in this regard;
and to judge by the narrative itself we must not conceive of the
Norse visitors as pausing to explore deeply without allurement,
but rather as hastening down the shore in quest of warmer regions
and ampler pasturage for their stock which they carried with
them, also of a good warm site for settlement, such as Leif
had already reported. They were primarily colonists, not
explorers of the disinterested or glory-seeking type. It was
most natural to sail on; noting only what they could discern
from the sea, or by a brief boat-landing. This would hardly give
them the idea of a forest land in any part of hard-featured,
ice-battered Labrador.

It is probable that, like some later navigators, they would not
think of the Strait of Belle Isle as other than a fiord or inlet,
after the pattern of the great Hamilton Inlet farther north; and
if they guessed Markland to be an island it would be on quite
different grounds chiefly the natural tendency (which persisted
until long after their time) to consider every western discovery
insular; but they would at least be alive to the distinction between
treelessness and an ample forest cover, and we see that in point
of fact they did distinguish the regions on just this score.


Certainly this might involve the inclusion of Nova Scotia in
the second of the three regions; and there have been many to
champion this peninsula as distinctively Markland. But other
features of Nova Scotia attracted the attention of Karlsefni's
party and gave parts of that land an individuality distinguished
from that of the forest country. The great cape Kjalarness,
which seems to have been the northern horn of Cape Breton
Island, and the exceedingly long strands, which may now be
represented in part by the low front of Richmond County, are
duly recorded, with no suggestion of their belonging to Markland,
the region farther north. Also on the Stefansson map above re-
ferred to (Fig. 1 Cool, the name Promontorium Vinlandiae is applied


to a long protuberance apparently meant for this part of Cape
Breton Island, containing the counties of Victoria and Inverness,
and the much earlier statement in Arna-Magnaean Manuscript
194 concerning the sea running in between Markland and Wine-
land seems to mark all south of Cabot Strait as belonging in some
sense to the latter region. No doubt the name Markland may
sometimes have been used with vagueness of limitation; but on
the whole it seems most likely that Newfoundland was Markland
almost exclusively. It seems practically certain, at the least,
that the characteristics first noted in Newfoundland supplied
the earlier regional name.

In many of the discussions of this exploring saga there has
been too great a tendency to localize the territorial names,
as though Wineland for example must denote a small area or
short stretch of coast. Professor Hovgaard has even suggested
that there may have been two Winelands Leif's Wineland
being much farther south than Karlsefni's, the name in each
case standing for some one site or place and the territory
immediately about it. This does not accord well with one of the
notes on the Stefansson map, which gives Wineland an extension
as far as a fiord dividing it from "the America of the Spaniard."
That may be read as meaning Chesapeake Bay and must at any
rate be taken to suggest great extension for this region, since
the Promontorium Vinlandiae, as already stated, obviously
marks its upper end. Markland need not be conceived as of
equal size, for in truth it represents at most only the wild and
wooded interval between the hopelessly void and barren north
and the great habitable, comfortable, and fruitful region stretch-
ing far below ; but so much of parallelism holds as will forbid us
to anchor the name to any one locality on the Newfoundland
shore. Doubtless the long sea front of the great island as a whole
is entitled to the name.


No doubt it is surprising, in view of the deep impression which
Markland obviously made on the Norsemen from near-by treeless


Greenland and Iceland, to find so few subsequent references to
the name or indications of a knowledge of the region. There is
a well-known and often cited instance recorded in Icelandic
annals in one instance nearly contemporary of a small
Greenland vessel storm-driven to Iceland in 1347, after having
visited Markland, the latter name being presented in a matter-
of-course way, much as though it were Ireland or the Orkneys.
This has sometimes been taken as evidence of a regular timber
traffic between Greenland and Markland during the preceding
three centuries and more. It shows at least that acquaintance
with the more southwestern country had been kept really alive
thus long, and that it was not a half-mythical figure on the
frontier of knowledge, to be doubtfully sought for, but territory
that one might visit without claiming the reward of new and
daring exploration or causing any extreme surprise. What
Markland had to offer was so decidedly what Greenland needed,
and the repetition of Karlsefni's voyage thus far was at all times
so feasible, that one must suppose the trips to and fro were not
wholly intermitted between 1003 and 1347. Only they have left
no clear and unquestionable trace.

Perhaps the nearest approach thereto is a fifteenth-century
Catalan map 11 (Fig. 7) preserved in the Ambrosian library in
Milan, which as we have seen in Chapter IV, presents Green-
land (Ilia Verde) as a great elongated rectangle of land in
northern waters, having a concave southern end. Below this,
beyond a narrow interval of water, appears a large round
island, the direction certainly calling for Labrador or Newfound-
land, probably the latter. The minimizing of the distance
between these land masses may indicate some report of the .ease
with which the crossing was effected. At any rate, unless we
are prepared to set aside the testimony of the map altogether as
mere fancy work, we must acknowledge that some one had a

"A. E. Nordenskiold: Bidrag till nordens aldsta kartografi, Stockholm, 1892,
PI. 5. Also (reduced) in Nansen: In Northern Mists, Vol. 2, p. 280, and in T. J.
Westropp: Brasil and the Legendary Islands of the North Atlantic: Their History
and Fable (Proc. Royal Irish Acad., Vol. 30, Section C, 1912-13, pp. 223-260),
PL 20, facing p. 260.

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« Reply #104 on: July 19, 2009, 03:40:42 am »


general impression of land in mass south or southwest of Green-
land and reasonably accessible therefrom.


The name Brazil given to this island on the map and its disk-
like form link it to the long series, already discussed, of "Brazil
islands," approximately in the latitude of Newfoundland, on the
medieval maps, beginning with that of Dalorto of I325 12 (Fig. 4).
Usually, as in this last instance, they have the circular form
sometimes, however, being annular, with an island-studded lake
or gulf inside, and sometimes being divided into two parts by a
curved channel. Usually, too, the station of this Brazil is pretty
near southern Ireland, off the Blaskets, but sometimes it is
carried out into mid-Atlantic, and in the sixteenth-century maps
of Nicolay 13 (1560; Fig. 6) and Zaltieri 14 (1566) it is taken clear
across to the Banks of Newfoundland or a little nearer inshore.
From various mutually corroborative indications, I have been im-
pressed with the belief that it is probably a record of some early
crossing of the Atlantic from Ireland ; but whatever the explana-
tion, Brazil Island remains one of the most interesting of map
phenomena. Its name was somehow passed along to Terceira
of the Azores, where there is still a Mt. Brazil, and long
thereafter to the largest of South American countries.

Its appearance near Greenland and as a substitute for Mark-
land is not easily accounted for. The matter is indeed complicated
on this fifteenth-century map by the appearance of a second
Brazil (of the channeled type) in the middle of the Atlantic.
It may be that the cartographer was familiar with this form and

12 Alberto Maghaghi: La carta nautica costruita nel 1325 da Angelino Dalorto,
with facsimile, Florence, 1898 (published on the occasion of the Third Italian Geo-
graphical Congress). Cf. also: idem: II mappamondo del genovese Angellinus de
Dalorto (1325): Contributo alia storia della cartografia mediovale, Atti del Terzo
Congr. Geogr. Italiano, tenuto in Firenze dal 12 al 17 Aprile, 1898, Florence, 1899,
Vol. 2, pp. 506-543; and idem: Angellinus de Dalorco (sic), cartografo italiano
della prima meta del secolo XIV, Riv. Geogr. Italiana, Vol. 4, 1897, pp. 282-294 and

"A. E. Nordenskiold: Periplus, PI. 27.

14 Kretschmer, atlas, PI. 19, map 3.


kind of presentation in older maps and did not feel warranted
in giving up that "Brazil;" but had received convincing infor-
mation of lands southwest or south of Greenland, with some
suggestion of Brazil as a name traditionally associated with such
discoveries, and so drew and named it. Undoubtedly the map
is the work of a man well acquainted with the first disk form of
Brazil and the later channeled or divided form, beside having
some knowledge of later discoveries in Greenland and beyond.

There is a parallel to the two Brazils of his map in the two
series of Azores on that of Bianco (i448). 15 The latter cartog-
rapher retained the original Italian-discovered series, inaccurately
aligned north and south, but showed also farther afield the
islands of Portuguese rediscovery, properly slanted north-
westward, omitting only Flores and Corvo, which the redis-
coverers had not yet found or at least had not yet brought to
his notice. Another map of about the same period makes the
same double showing certainly a curious compromise between
conservatism and progressiveness.


There is perhaps no other news of Markland before it became
Newfoundland, unless we may put some glimmer of faith in the
much-discussed Zeno narrative 16 (Ch. IX), which embodies the
tale of an Orkney islander wrecked on the shore of Estotiland (per-
haps the name was first written Escociland Scotland) a little
before the opening of the fifteenth century. He professed to
have found there a people having some of the rudiments of
civilization and carrying on trade with Greenland, but ignorant
of the mariner's compass. The picture given is not incredible
and perhaps receives some support from the really notable works

tt Theobald Fischer, Portfolio n, PI. 3.

16 R. H. Major, transl. and edit.: The Voyages of the Venetian Brothers, Nicold
and Antonio Zeno, to the Northern Seas, in the XlVth Century, etc., Hakluyt Soc.
Publs., ist Sen, Vol. 50, London, 1873; and F. W. Lucas: The Annals of the Voy-
ages of the Brothers Nicolo and Antonio Zeno in the North Atlantic, etc., London,
1898 representing opposite sides of the discussion.


known to have been executed by the Beothuks 17 of Newfoundland
in their later and feebler, though not quite their latest days such
as extensive deer fences, to give their hunters the utmost benefit
from the annual migrations. Granted a certain infusion of
Norse blood, or even without it, there is perhaps nothing stated
of the Escocilanders which may not have been true. As to the
name, it is no more strange than Nova Scotia, which still occu-
pies the coast just to the south, and it may have been applied
in the same spirit.

Very early in the history of European colonization this Mark-
land which by its outjutting position was accused of being a
New-found-land, again and again with varying designations
during the ill-recorded centuries took under the latter name
the position, which it still holds, of the very earliest of the
English colonies of the New World.

17 George Cartwright: Journal of Transactions and Events During a Residence
of Nearly Sixteen Years on the Coast of Labrador, 3 vols., Newark (Engl.), 1792.
Republished as "Captain Cartwright and His Labrador Journal," with an introduc-
tion by W. T. Grenfell, Boston. 1911; reference on pp. 16-25.


Some of the well-known mythical or dubious map islands of
the North Atlantic make their entry into cartography very
early indeed, apparently as the contribution or record of otherwise
forgotten voyages, though we cannot say with certainty precisely
when or how; others, long afterward, were the products of mirage,
ocean-surface phenomena, or mariners' fancies working under
the suggestion of saintly or demoniacal legends amid the hazes
and perils of little-known seas, the precise time of their origin
remaining uncertain. As a rule the latter class were less persistent
on the maps and are geographically rather unimportant.

In two cases, however, Estotiland and Drogio, we know the
first appearance of their names before the public, which is very
probably the first use of them among men. They derive a special
interest from being located in America and from an asserted jour-
ney by Europeans to them more than a hundred years before
the first voyage of Columbus. The map which first shows them also
displays divers other Atlantic islands, either of unusual name or un-
usual location and area, not conforming at all to the insular tracts
of the North Atlantic basin as we know them now. The fantastic
exhibition as a whole had an immediate, long-continuing, and
considerable almost revolutionary effect on the map-making of
the world.


In the year 1558 a volume was printed by Marcolino at Venice,
purporting to give an account of "The Discovery of the Islands
of Frislanda, Eslanda, Engroneland, Estotiland, and Icaria made
by two brothers of the Zeno family, Messire Nicol6 the Chevalier
and Messire Antonio." 1 Some of the islands named in the book

1 R. H. Major, transl. and edit.: The Voyages of the Venetian Brothers, Nicold
and Antonio Zeno, to the Northern Seas, in the XlVth Century, etc., Hakluyt Soc.
Publs., ist Ser., Vol. 50, London, 1873.


are omitted from this title; and the word "Discovery" must have
been used with willful inexactness, for Greenland (Engroneland)
had been in Norse occupancy for centuries, and Shetland
(Eslanda, Estland, or Estiland) was as positively, though not as
familiarly, known as Great Britain. But the indication of aim
and scope was sufficient.

The name of the author, or, as he calls himself, "the compiler,"
was not given; but he is generally recognized to have been the
Nicold Zeno of a younger generation, a man of local prominence
and a member of the dominant Council of Ten of the Venetian
republic. In 1561 he edited for Ruscelli's edition of Ptolemy, a
subsequent edition of the map (Fig. 19) which is the volume's
most conspicuous feature. His account of the Zeno book's origin
seems to have been accepted generally and promptly among his
own people, as also the general accuracy of its geography. But, as
Lucas remarks, "An adverse critic of a member of the Council
of Ten, in Venice, in the sixteenth century, would have been a
remarkably bold, not to say foolhardy, man." 2 However, there
are shelters and places of seclusion from even the most arbitrary
power; and it would seem that the eminent younger Nicol6
would hardly have the effrontery to challenge the world in
matters then easily susceptible of disproof concerning his still
more eminent ancestor and kinsman. Surely they must have had
some notable experiences in northern islands on the reports of
which he could rely in a general way, however erroneous or fraud-
ulent in some important features, though then first advancing
the transatlantic claim to discovery.

Moreover, the dread of the Council could not overshadow
distant geographers like Mercator and Ortelius, whose maps of
1569 and I57O 3 (cf. Fig. 10) almost eagerly embody the most dis-

2 F. W. Lucas: The Annals of the Voyages of the Brothers Nicolo and Antonio
Zeno in the North Atlantic, etc., London, 1898, p. 152.

3 Ibid., Pis. 13 (Mercator's large-scale world map, 1569) and 14 (Ortelius' large-
scale world map, 1570). Ortelius' small-scale world map, 1570, of a section of which
our Fig. 10 is a reproduction, is facsimiled in A. E. Nordenskiold: Facsimile-Atlas
to the Early History of Cartography, transl. by J. A. Ekelof and C. R. Markham,
Stockholm, 1889, PL 46.



tinctive Zeno additions, giving them the greatest currency and
implying some sense of the general probability of discoveries by
members of that family. Estotiland and Drogio are very dis-
tinctly shown, the former apparently as Newfoundland united to


Labrador, the latter as a smaller and more southern island which
may well be Cape Breton Island, pushed a bit offshore, but still
not very far from the mainland.

There has been much discussion as to whether the book should
be regarded as wholly a forgery or not, as to the location of these
regions, and as to the derivation and meaning of the names; but
all agree that Estotiland and Drogio were not known before 1558.

Nicold the compiler reports: "The sailing chart which I find, I
still have among our family antiquities and, though it is rotten
with age, I have succeeded with it tolerably well." Just what
this success involved is an interesting question. It has been
understood by his most reasonable advocates to include con-
jectural restoration, such as the deficiencies of rottenness seemed
to call for, and somewhat more.

Nicol6 the younger avers, further, that his ancestor Antonio
wrote a book recording his northern observations and many
facts about Greenland, but that the compiler as a boy had
thoughtlessly destroyed the book with other papers and that the
Zeno narrative as he gives it is made up from fragmentary letters
of the elder Nicol6 to Antonio and of the latter to their brother,
Carlo, remaining in Venice; which letters by good fortune
happened to survive.

Nobody except the younger Nicold is asserted to have seen
the map, the letters, or any of the original documents; though his
parents, it would seem, must have been custodian of them before
him, and he would surely have been likely to display such
precious evidences to some one after awakening to their impor-
tance. But those were less critical and exacting times than the
present, and conceivably it may have been felt that any corrob-
oration would be superfluous. Yet the fact remains that we are
not informed of any means of testing the accuracy of restoration
or even of demonstrating that there was anything to restore.


The two names "Estotiland" and "Drogio" are supplied by a
story within a story, an alleged yarn of a fisherman, reporting


to his island ruler, whom the elder Zeno served. Obviously, the
chances of lapse from truth are multiplied. Either the later
Nicol6 or his ancestor of more than a century and a half before
may have wholly invented or more or less transformed it; or
the first narrator may have created his tale out of no real hap-
penings or have so distorted it by mistake or willful imposture
as to render it wholly unreliable. In its general outlines it is by
no means impossible; but neither would it have been very
difficult to compose such a yarn out of nothing but fancy and
the American information at the command of the younger
Nicold. It comes to us through the medium of an alleged letter
of his ancestor Antonio, written home to the latter's brother
Carlo near the end of the fifteenth century. With some slight
compression, the narrative runs as follows:

Six and twenty years ago four fishing boats put out to sea, and, en-
countering a heavy storm, were driven over the sea in utter helplessness
for many days; when at length, the tempest abating, they discovered an
island called Estotiland, lying to the westwards above one thousand
miles from Frislanda. One of the boats was wrecked, and six men that
were in it were taken by the inhabitants, and brought into a fair and
populous city, where the king of the place sent for many interpreters, but
there were none could be found that understood the language of the
fishermen, except one that spoke Latin, and who had also been cast by
chance upon the same island. . . They . . . remained five years
on the island, and learned the language. One of them in particular
visited different parts of the island, and reports that it is a very rich
country, abounding in all good things. It is a little smaller than Iceland,
but more fertile; in the middle of it is a very high mountain, in which rise
four rivers which water the whole country.

The inhabitants are a very intelligent people, and possess all the arts
like ourselves; and it is to be believed that in time past they have had
intercourse with our people, for he said that he saw Latin books in the
king's library, which they at this present time do not understand. They
have their own language and letters. They have all kinds of metals, but
especially they abound with gold. Their foreign intercourse is with
Greenland, whence they import furs, brimstone and pitch. . . They
have woods of immense extent. They make their buildings with walls,
and there are many towns and villages. They make small boats and sail
them, but they have not the loadstone, nor do they know the north by the
compass. For this reason these fishermen were held in great estimation.


insomuch that the king sent them with twelve boats to the southwards to
a country which they call Drogio; but in their voyage they had such con-
trary weather that they were in fear for their lives.

. . . They were taken into the country and the greater number of
them were eaten by the savages. . . But as that fisherman and his
remaining companions were able to show them the way of taking fish with
nets, their lives were saved ... As this man's fame spread . . .
there was a neighboring chief who was very anxious to have him with
him ... he made war on the chief with whom the fisherman then was,
and ... at length overcame him, and so the fisherman was sent over
to him with the rest of his company. During the space of thirteen years
that he dwelt in those parts, he says that he was sent in this manner to
more than five-and-twenty chiefs . . . wandering up and down . . .
he became acquainted with almost all those parts. He says that it is a
very great country, and, as it were, a new world; the people are very
rude and uncultivated, for they all go naked and suffer cruelly from the
cold, nor have they the sense to clothe themselves with the skins of the
animals which they take in hunting. They have no kind of metal. They
live by hunting, and carry lances of wood, sharpened ajt the point.
They have bows, the strings of which are made of beasts' skins. They are
very fierce, and have deadly fights amongst each other, and eatone
another's flesh . . . The farther you go southwestwards, however, the
more refinement you meet with, because the climate is more temperate,
and accordingly there they have cities and temples dedicated to their
idols, in which they sacrifice men and afterwards eat them.

His fellow captives having decided to remain where they were, he bade
them farewell, and made his escape through the woods in the direction of
Drogio, . . . where he spent three years. [One day] some boats had
arrived. He went down to the seaside, and . . . found they had come
from Estotiland. [They took him aboard as interpreter.] He afterwards
traded in their company to such good purpose that he became very rich,
and, fitting out a vessel of his own, returned to Frislanda. 4


In spite of plain geographical indications in the above recital,
Estotiland has been located by some random or oversubtle
conjectures in the strangest and most widely scattered places,
including even parts of the British Isles. But a region a thousand
miles west of the Faroes or any other Atlantic islands can be
nothing but American, and the restriction of its commerce to

* Major, pp. 1^-24.
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