The letters in Dubrovnik

From Juan Sebastián de Elcano to the Emperor from Sanlúcar de Barrameda,
and from Maester Juan Bautista de Punzorol to a "noble lord" from Tidore.

This contribution has been possible thanks to the initiative of Braulio Vázquez Campos, from the General Archive of the Indies, who asked Državni Arhiv u Dubrovniku to digitize this document, and for permission to reproduce it at rutaelcano.com .

On behalf of all of us who love this story, THANK YOU.

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We show a document belonging to the funds of the State Archives of Dubrovnik (Croatia), which contains a copy in Italian of two important letters related to the history of the expedition. Its signature is HR-DADU-7-3-6, sv 1. br.27.

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Dubrovnik was and is an important enclave on the Adriatic coast. For centuries it was the heart of the Republic of Ragusa, with which Spain maintained a close relationship, which reached its peak in the s. XVI. Perhaps the best example of this was the famous site of Castelnuovo - which is only 50 km from Dubrovnik - in which a Spanish third heroically defended their fortress against the Turkish, in the year 1539.

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A diplomat named Jakob Banicevic, or Jacopo Banissio, made an Italian translation of the Castilian originals of these letters, and sent them to Ragusa. They are kept there, written one after the other in the same document.

dubrovnik.jpg

Dubrovnik, ancient Ragusa, with which Spain maintained a close relationship, especially during the 16th century.

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Elcano Punzorol Dubrovnik
Copy in Italian of the letter addressed by Juan Sebastián de Elcano to Emperor Carlos V,
written in Sanlúcar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522.
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Elcano Punzorol Dubrovnik
Elcano Punzorol Dubrovnik

Upon arriving at Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Elcano wrote to Carlos V giving news of his return with one of the five ships that had left to discover the Spice and, proud, let him know that his main achievement was not that, but that we have discovered and rounded all the roundness of the world .

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The original letter was immediately carried to Valladolid and delivered to the Emperor. The courier Luis de Castellanos dealt with it, and it is clear that he did it in just three days minus six hours . Carlos V received the news with great joy, and awarded the bearer with no less than 50 gold ducats as tokens for the arrival of the ship Victoria , which was later paid by the officers of the Casa de Contratación, noting that, in doing so, this he was very happy .

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Unfortunately, the original manuscript of that letter in Elcano's handwriting has not survived, or at least that is known.

To get news of this letter, we had to wait until the first half of the 19th century, when Martín Fernández de Navarrete published a transcription of its content in Volume V of his well-known work, Collection of the Travels and Discoveries that Made by Mar los Spanish since the end of the 15th century . Did Navarrete have access to the original document, or did he rely on a copy? That is something we do not know.

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Because luckily, in its day at least three copies of the original were made. One of these copies, which mimicked Elcano's signature, was bought at auction by the Spanish Ministry of Culture after its authenticity was determined. This happened very recently, in 2014, going to the funds of the General Archive of the Indies of Seville with the symbol Patronato, 48, R.20, folios 1r -1v .

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Transcript of the copy of the letter kept at the AGI

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But there are two other copies, in Italian, and one of them is the one we show. It was transcribed in the Raccolta di documenti e studi de la R. Comissione Colombiana, Vol I, Part III, Rome, in 1892. Based on this publication, José Toribio Medina translated it into Spanish, and it was also published in his magna The Discovery of the Pacific Ocean: Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Fernando de Magallanes and his Companions, Documents . University Press, Santiago de Chile, 1920.

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Copy in Italian of the letter addressed by the master of the Trinidad ship, Juan Bautista de Punzorol,

to a "noble lord", written on the island of Tidore on December 21, 1521.

Elcano Punzorol Dubrovnik
Elcano Punzorol Dubrovnik

As is well known, after reaching the islands of the Spice, and specifically the island of Tidore, the two ships that remained of the expedition at that time separated. Those of the nao Victoria headed back to Spain nonstop, thus trying to make the first trip around the world, while those of the nao Trinidad, after repairing the damage that prevented them from setting sail alongside the Victoria, would no longer take this path so long without seeking refuge halfway, and they chose to go to Panama, to the coast discovered six years earlier by Vasco Núñez de Balboa, where they hoped to find help from other Spaniards.

The Genoese Juan Bautista de Punzorol was the master of the Trinidad ship, and who acted as the maximum expert in navigation on that ship, since its captain, Gonzalo Gómez de Espinosa, had been chosen by others for that position for other virtues, but not that of being a sailor. At 52, Punzorol was a marine veteran who had also embarked on the expedition with his son Bautista, who was a sailor.

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Father and son separated their destinies in Tidore, when marching this with the nao Victoria, which can be interpreted as one more example of the enormous illusion that aroused among all these men trying to be the first to go around the world, although it is It is true that those of the Trinidad remained there under the risk that Diogo Lopes Sequeira's army would arrive at any moment, and of his consequent arrest. Precisely because of not taking that risk with both ships, it was decided among all that the Victoria would march alone while the Trinidad was subjected to the necessary repairs.

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On December 21, 1521, the ship Victoria sailed from Tidore, separating from the Trinidad, but as Antonio de Pigafetta told us, they could not do it until noon because we had to wait for the letters that our companions who stayed in the Maluco would send us. to Spain . One of those letters was written by Juan Bautista de Punzorol, and he addressed it to an unknown person, whom he referred to as a noble lord . Unlike what happens with Elcano's letter, there is no record of any other copy of this Punzorol letter, the copy shown here being the only primary source from which we know its content.

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Routes followed by both the Vitoria nao (in orange) and the Trinidad nao (in white) after the crews decided to follow different routes back to Spain. The separation took place on the island of Tidore, from which Punzorol sent this letter aboard the nao Victoria.

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Island of Tidore, in the Moluccas archipelago. The Spice.

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Nor do we know of the originals of any of the other letters that arrived in Spain aboard the Victoria from the crew of the Trinidad, nor do we have further news of what was said in them. But of the one written by Juan Bautista yes. This copy in Italian that we show here, had been translated into Spanish by José Toribio Medina in 1920, and published in The Discovery of the Pacific Ocean: Vasco Núnez de Balboa, Fernando de Magallanes and his companions . However, Medina himself referred that he had not had access to the original document in Italian, but to a previous publication of 1889 entitled Zwei briefe über die Maghellanische Weltumseglung, Eugen Gelcick, Vienna, 8º, pp. 7-8.

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Translation of Punzorol's letter (after José Toribio Medina)

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The content of the letter is singularly important as Punzorol refers in it the reasons that led them to make the decision to separate the destinations of both crews, clarifies that this was a joint decision taken by agreement between all, and tells the intention to attend to Panama, where they hoped to find the help of Andrés Niño.

In addition to this, it is also one of the most exciting documents that we count, since it asks its addressee for his son aboard the Victoria: praying that you have entrusted my son who goes on this ship. Unfortunately, both father and son ended up dying, albeit in very different circumstances. The son died due to extreme hardship due to the shortage of water and food that came to be lived aboard the nao Victoria in the Atlantic, dying on June 14, 1522 off the coast of Guinea.

Juan Bautista died later. He survived the attempt to return across the Pacific by the nao Trinidad, which was an even more terrible voyage than that of the nao Victoria, but upon returning to Tidore he was seized by the Portuguese who had already arrived there shortly after his departure. He was transferred to the Portuguese squares of Banda, Malaca and Cochín, from where he managed to flee as a stowaway on a ship that left for Lisbon. There he learned of another of his companions, the also Genoese León Pancaldo, who in turn had sneaked in as a stowaway, but both were discovered and left in the Portuguese factory in Mozambique.

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From there, in November 1525 they jointly wrote two letters recounting their desperate situation: we are afraid of dying because the land is very suffering, and more lord because those honest men who fed us are leaving . One of these letters was addressed to the Emperor , and the other to an unknown person referred to as "Most Reverend Lord" (perhaps the president of the Council of the Indies, Juan Rodríguez Fonseca?). Both are preserved today in the Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, so they will probably never reach their recipients but were requisitioned by the Portuguese. León Pancaldo managed to sneak back as a stowaway on another ship that was setting sail for Lisbon, and was imprisoned upon arrival. At the beginning of 1527 he was released, returned to Spain, and said that, as he himself feared, Juan Bautista had ended up dying in Mozambique .

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Macías del Poyo, one of the few survivors of the Loaysa expedition who returned to Spain, declared in 1537 that he heard the Portuguese sayings that, a Genoese who was on the said nao [Trinidad], because he was a pilot, had dead with poison . It is probable that he was referring to our unfortunate Juan Bautista de Punzorol.

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June 2020.

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