The Original Log Of Christopher Columbus

Chart of history of Original Log Of Christopher Columbus

Columbus's log of the first voyage has not survived, although we do have an abstract of it, written in the 1530's by Bartolome de las Casas. However that actually used the "Barcelona Copy" of Columbus original log. The chart above shows the sources that exist today in green, and sources that have disappeared in red. The chart also shows where secondary souses got their original information.

When he returned to Spain in 1493, Columbus gave his original log to the Sovereigns at royal court at Barcelona. Queen Isabela ordered the log to be copied, resulting in the so-called Barcelona Copy. The original has not been seen since, however the Barcelona Copy was returned to Columbus just before his second voyage later that year, and remained in his possession until his death in 1506. It then passed into the hands of son Fernando, who used it when he wrote a biography of Columbus in 1538. The Barcelona Copy too was lost sometime after 1554.

Sometime around 1530 the Barcelona Copy was abstracted by Las Casas into the Diario. This abstract was part of his research that led to his massive work, the Historia de las Indias. So The Diario remains our best historical record of the first voyage of Columbus.

On the westward passage, Columbus kept two sets of distance figures in the log. According to Las Casas, this was done to allay the fears of the crew that they had sailed too far from Spain. The abstract is mostly written in third person, but there are a number of large direct quotes from the log written in Columbus's own first person.

Read the Columbus log

More extracts from Columbus Log


Christopher Columbus