Christopher Columbus: Journal and Selected Writings Background

Christopher Columbus: Journal and Selected Writings Background

Journals are commenced for a number of reasons. Sometimes they are begun as diaries which offer a psychological trail into self-reflection and a more intuitive level of self-awareness. Other journals offer the opportunity to write down immediate artistic inspiration for use later when the creative moment has arrived. Understanding the purpose of a journal should be considered essential for the purpose of interpretation: authorial intent fuels proper interpretation. A proper interpretation of the journal of Christopher Columbus is therefore dependent upon recognizing that primary, overriding purpose of the journal was to convince King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to continue funding subsequent exploratory voyages to the New World.

The historical context within which these journals were written included a two-year period of waiting merely to gain an audience with Ferdinand and Isabella to pitch his idea for the first voyage. That first voyage would not set sail for another six years after he finally got his audience with the monarchs. In consideration of the time and effort required to get that first voyage underway, the content of journals created and maintained specifically for the purpose of keeping the enterprise going can take on a completely different perspective than when looked at merely as objective observation of an exploratory nature.

The nature of the content of writings of Columbus take on a sharper clarity when read with the understanding of its purpose. The precision of scientific observance is routinely absent. The journals are not accounts of discovery of foreign landscapes and even a mapmaker would be at a loss to create anything particularly detailed. The journal kept by the arguably the most famous and influential explorer in history actually reads far less like any other account by famous explorers and far more like something quite modern.

The journals and many of the other writings which act as commentary upon the journal often read more like an investment prospectus. The overarching concern is the documentation of what is to be found in the New World that offer something exciting, new, fresh and worthy of the kind of curiosity that provokes continued interest in further exploration in order to discover even newer things worthy of even greater curiosity. The journals are thus an account what exists in unconquered lands that would be value for further study.

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