« ElőzőTovább »
regions of the east described by the ancients. His firm belief of his own system led him to take that course, and to pursue it without deviation.
· The Spaniards are not the only people who have called in question Columbus's claim to the honour of having discovered America. Some German authors ascribe this honour to Martin Behaim, their countryman. He was of the noble family of the Behaims of Schwartzbach, citizens of the first rank in the Imperial town of Nuremberg. Having studied under the celebrated John Muller, better known by the name of Regiomontanus, he acquired such knowledge of cosmography, as prompted him to explore those regions, the situation and qualities of which he had been accustomed to investigate and describe. Under the patronage of the Duchess of Burgundy he repaired to Lisbon, whither the fame of the Portuguese discoveries invited all the adventurous fpirits of the age. There, as we learn from Herman Schedel, of whose Chronicon Mundi a German translation was printed at Nuremberg A. D. 1493. his merit as a cosmographer raised him, in conjunction with Diego Cano, to the command of a squadron fitted out for discovery in the year 1483. In that voyage, he is said to have difcovered the kingdom of Congo. He settled in the island of Fayal, one of the Azores, and was a particular friend of Columbus. Herrera,
dec. i. lib. I. c. 2. Magellan had a terrestrial globe made by Behaim, on which he demonstrated the course that he purposed to hold in search of the communication with the South Sea, which he afterwards discovered. Gomara Hist. c. 19. Herrera, dec, 11. lib. ii. C. 19. In the year 1492, Behaim visited his relations in Nuremberg, and left with them a map drawn with his own hand, which is still preserved among the archives of the family. Thus far the story of Martin Behaim seems to be well authenticated; but the account of his having discovered any part of the New World appears to be merely conjectural.
In the first edition, as I had at that time hardly any knowledge of Behaim but what I derived from a frivolous Dissertation de vero Novi Orbis Inventore, published at Francfort, A. D. 1714. by Jo. Frid. Stuvenius, I was induced, by the authority of Herrera, to suppose that Behaim was not a native of Germany; but from more full and accurate information, communicated to me by the learned Dr. John Reinold Forster, I am now satisfied that I was mistaken. Dr. Forster has been likewise so good as to favour me with a copy of Behaim's map, as published by Doppelmayer in his Account of the Mathematicians and Artists of Nuremberg. From this map, the imperfection of cosmographical knowledge at that period is manifeft. Hardly one place is laid down in its true fitua
ROBERTSON. Tom. I.
tion. Nor can I discover from it any reason to fuppose that Behaim had the least knowledge of any region in America. He delineates, indeed, an island to which he gives the name of St. Brandon. This, it is imagined, may be some part of Guiana, supposed at first to be an island. He places it in the same latitude with the Cape Verd Isles, and I suspect it to be an imaginary island which has been admitted into some an. cient maps on no better authority than the legend of the Irish St. Brandom or Brendan, whose story is so childishly fabulous as to be unworthy of any notice. Girald. Cambrienfis ap. Misfingham Florilegium Sanctorum, p. 427. · The pretensions of the Welsh to the discovery of America seem not to rest op, a foundation much more solid. In the twelfth century, according to Powell, a dispute having arisen among the sons of Owen Guyneth, king of North-Wales, concerning the succession to his crown, Madoc, one of their number, weary of this contention, betook himself to sea in queft of a more quiet settlement. He steered due west, leaving Ireland to the north, and arrived in an unknown country, which appeared to him so desirable, that he returned to Wales, and carried thither several of his adherents and companions. This is said to have happened about the year 1170, and after that, he and bis colony were heard of no more. But it is to be observed, that Powell, on whose tefti
mony the authenticity of this story refts, published his history above four centuries from the date of the event which he relates. Among a people as rude and as illiterate as the Welsh at that period, the memory of a transaction fo remote must have been very imperfectly preseryed, and would require to be confirmed by some author of greater credit, and nearer to the æra of Madoc's voyage, than Powell. Later antiquaries have indeed appealed to the tefa timony of Meredeth ap Rhees, a Welsh bard, who died A. D. 1477. But he' too lived at such a distance of time from the event, that he cannot be considered as a witness of much more credit than Powell. Besides, his verses pum blished by Hackluyt, vol. iii. p. I. convey no information, but that Madoc, dissatisfied with his domestick situation,' employed himself in searching the ocean for new poffeffions. But even if we admit the authenticity of Powell's story, it does not follow that the unknown country which Madoc discovered by steering
west, in such a course as to leave Ireland to i to north , was any part of America. The skill
of the Welsh in the twelfth century was hardly equal to such a voyage. If he made any dif. covery at all, it is more probable that it was Madeira, or some other of the western isles, The affinity of the Welsh language with some dialects spoken in America, has been mentioned as a circumstance which confirms the truth
of Madoc's voyage. But that has been observed in fo few instances, and in some of these the affinity is so obscure, or so fanciful, that no conclufion can be drawn from the casual resembla ance of a small number of words. There is a bird, which, as far as is yet known, is found only on the coasts of South America, from Port Desire to the Straits of Magellan. It is diftin. guished by the name of Penguin. This word in the Welsh language fignifies White-head. Almost all the authors who favour the pretenfions of the Welsh to the discovery of America, mention this as an irrefragable proof of the affinity of the Welsh language with that spoken in this region of America. But Mr. Pennant, who has given a scientifick description of the Penguin, observes, that all the birds of this genus have black heads, „ so that we must resign every hope ( adds he ) founded on this hypothesis of retrieving the Cambrian race in the New World. “ Philos. Transact. vol. lviii. p. 91. &c. Beside this, if the Welsh, towards the close of the twelfth century, had settled in any part of America, fome remains of the Christian doctrine and rites must have been found among their descendants, when they were discovered about three hundred years pofterior to their migration; a period fo short, that, in the course of it, we cannot well fuppose that all European ideas and arts would be totally forgotten. Lord Lyttleton, in his notes