Book of Privileges

ms. 295 - Archivo General de Indias (Seville, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

Libro de los Privilegios, Buch der Privilegien

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Libro de los Privilegios
Buch der Privilegien

Type
Extent / Format

84 pages / 30.0 x 21.0 cm

Origin
Date
End of the 15th century
Style
Genre
Language
Former owners

Christopher Columbus

Short description

The so-called Book of Privileges contains valuable documents concerning one of the most significant figures in world history: Christopher Columbus. This discoverer of America in the service of the Spanish crown earned special privileges and benefits, a great title and power for his accomplishments. Thus the 1498 Book of Principals contains inter alia the famous Capitulations of Santa Fe, the contract dating April 17, 1492 between Columbus and the Spanish royal couple, Ferdinand and Isabella, concerning the payables and receivables for the explorer’s planned expedition to India. This is considered to be “one of the most politically significant contracts that was entered into by a private person and a sovereign” and offers a direct glimpse into this exciting chapter of world history!

Facsimile editions available

Description

Book of Privileges

The so-called Book of Privileges contains valuable documents concerning one of the most significant figures in world history: Christopher Columbus. This discoverer of America in the service of the Spanish crown earned special privileges and benefits, a great title and power for his accomplishments. Thus the 1498 Book of Principals contains inter alia the famous Capitulations of Santa Fe, the contract dating April 17, 1492 between Columbus and the Spanish royal couple, Ferdinand and Isabella, concerning the payables and receivables for the explorer’s planned expedition to India. This is considered to be “one of the most politically significant contracts that was entered into by a private person and a sovereign” and offers a direct glimpse into this exciting chapter of world history!

A Kingly Capitulation

Christopher Columbus (ca. 1451-1506), made famous as the discoverer of America in the year 1492, had to solicit support for his voyage of discovery for a long time. Only after years of hesitation did he receive the consent of the Catholic Monarchs. Admittedly, the word capitulation is intended in a contractual sense, nevertheless it can still be interpreted literally – the Catholic Monarchs finally relented to the pompous demands of Christopher Columbus after years of hesitation – and thus quasi-capitulated.

The Admiral of the Ocean, Don Cristóbal Colón

Columbus, who was completely confident in his performance, contractually obtained an important title and wide-reaching privileges. Thus was he named Admiral of the Ocean and was allowed to call himself Don. Additionally, he would become viceroy and governor of the lands and regions that he discovered. What is more significant is the heritability of the privileges, which was likewise enshrined in the contract. These Capitulations of Santa Fe from the 17th of April, 1492, the historic contract between Christopher Columbus and the Spanish royal couple Ferdinand and Isabella with the confirmation of the demands of Columbus’ Indian expedition, is lost today. Nonetheless, a certified copy of this document was made in the year 1498, which is contained in the Book of Privileges and thus represents the sole and most important attestation thereto.

Original Documents and Unique Transcriptions

The book of privileges resides today in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville. The holdings of this archive with its precious and comprehensive documents concerning the Spanish Colonial Empire was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987. The Libro de los privilegios del almirante don Cristóbal Colón, dated the 15th of March, 1498, contains historical copies of older documents and privileges in some parts, and originals in others. All of them deal with and confirm the privileges and benefits that were conferred on Christopher Columbus. Themes include the admiralty, incorporations and endowments, and the so-called primogeniture, the heritability of the privileges. Thus the Book of Privileges, consisting of 36 sheets of paper and 4 sheets of vellum, contains e.g. a royal document from the 23rd of April, 1497 in Burgos, confirmations of titles and other stipulations, contracted in Medina del Campo, Burgos, or Madrid, and the May 28, 1501 document granting primogeniture. Its outstanding historical significance lies in the compilation of this **wealth of documents concerning Christopher Columbus. Nevertheless, the Capitulations of Santa Fe are especially unique!

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