Penn Library

CULTURAL READINGS: Colonization & Print in the Americas

Jay I. Kislak Foundation
Christopher Columbus,
De insulis nuper in mari Indico repertis.

Bound with Carlo Verardi,
In laudem...Ferdinandi Hispaniarum regis...

Basel: Johann Bergmann de Olpe, 1494.

This edition of Columbus's letter contains the first portrait of the peoples whom the Admiral encountered. A woodcut entitled "Insula hyspana" shows two groups of naked Indians looking at each other as well as at the approaching Europeans in wonderment and apprehension. Two Europeans in a small boat row to the shore, while the caravel (resembling more Noah's ark than a 15th century sailing ship) sits in the water with its oars up. The scene is the moment before an exchange of gifts, while the scenery vaguely resembles a European pastoral. The image places the notion of exchange at the center of the encounter: each side was giving, each was getting.

[See also in this exhibition, two other woodcuts from this edition]

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