Letter from Lorenzo Pasqualigo to His Brothers Alvise and Francesco 1497


Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) was a native of Genoa and a citizen of Venice, who obtained letters-patent from Henry VII of England in 1496 for a voyage of discovery. In the summer of 1497, he crossed the Atlantic and discovered the mainland of North America—probably the Labrador coast. On this achievement was based the claim of England to North America. The three documents contain all the evidence from contemporary witnesses whose information may have come from John Cabot himself. The text is from the Hakluyt Society’s edition of Columbus’ Journal.

LONDON, 23rd August, 1497.

OUR Venetian, who went with a small ship from Bristol to find new islands, has come back, and says he has discovered, 700 leagues off, the mainland of the country of the Gran Cam, and that he coasted along it for 300 leagues, and landed, but did not see any person. But he has brought here to the king certain snares spread to take game, and a needle for making nets, and he found some notched trees, from which he judged that there were inhabitants. Being in doubt, he came back to the ship. He has been away three months on the voyage, which is certain, and, in returning, he saw two islands to the right, but he did not wish to land, lest he should lose time for he was in want of provisions. This king has been much pleased. He says that the tides are slack, and do not make currents as they do here. The king has promised for another time, ten armed ships as he desires, and has given him all the prisoners, except such as are confined for high treason, to go with him, as he has requested; and has granted him money to amuse himself till then. Meanwhile, he is with his Venetian wife and his sons at Bristol. His name is Zuam Talbot, note and he is called the Great Admiral, great honour being paid to him, and he goes dressed in silk. The English are ready to go with him, and so are many of our rascals. The discoverer of these things has planted a large cross in the ground with a banner of England, and one of St. Mark, as he is a Venetian; so that our flag has been hoisted very far away.