Columbus Navigation and Landfall Bibliography

[with occasional capsule reviews]

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Periodicals are listed with name in italics, followed by volume number (if any) and page numbers, like this:
Terrae Incognitae 15, 9-13.


Castleman, CMDR Bruce A., USN (1992). Navigators in the 1490's. Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, 118/12 (December), 39-43.

Colon, Fernando (1571) Keen, Benjamin, trans. (1959). The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. [English translation of the 1571 book in Italian, which was itself translated from a lost Spanish manuscript; and whose authorship has been challenged. Nevertheless, a historically important document, well worth the read.]

Constable, C.G., Johnson, C.L. & Lund, S.P. (2000). "Global Geomagnetic Field Models for the Past 3000 Years: Transient or Permanent Flux Lobes?", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, ser. A., 358, 991-1008.

De Vorsey, Louis Jr., and John Parker, ed. (1985). In the Wake of Columbus: Islands and Controversy. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. [Essentially a reprint of the superb 1983 edition of Terrae Incognitae, this shows the state of the landfall controversy at the time.]

Didiez Burgos, Ramon J. (1974). Guanahani y Mayaguain. Santo Domingo: Editoria Cultural Dominicana. [First proposal of the Plana Cays landfall theory.]

Dunn, Oliver, and James E. Kelley, Jr., trans. (1989). The Diario of Christopher Columbus's First Voyage to America, 1492-1493. Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press. [This is the largest fragment of Columbus's first voyage log, as abstracted by Las Casas. Of the many editions in print, Dunn & Kelley stands head and shoulders above the rest. Includes a Spanish transcription and concordance.]

Dyson, John [with nautical research by Luis Miguel Coin Cuenca] (1991). Columbus: for gold, God, and glory. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Fox, Gustavus V. (1882). An Attempt to Solve the Problem of the First Landing Place of Columbus in the New World. Report of the Superintendent of the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (Appendix No. 18, June 1880). Washington: Government Printing Office. [First proposal of the Samana Cay landfall theory.]

Fuson, Robert H. (1987). The Log of Christopher Columbus. Camden, Maine: International Marine Publishing. [Fuson's translation of the log is readable and compelling, but far too loose to be of much help to the serious historian. However, the many useful appendices make the book worthwhile for anyone.]

Gerace, Donald T., ed. (1986). Columbus and His World: Proceedings of the First San Salvador Conference. San Salvador: College Center of the Finger Lakes.

Goldsmith, Roger A. and Philip L. Richardson, (1987). Reconstructing Columbus's First Transatlantic Track and Landfall Using Climatological Winds and Currents. Woods Hole Oceanog. Inst. Tech. Rept., WHOI-87-46, November 1987.

Goldsmith, Roger A. and Philip L. Richardson, (1992). Numerical Simulations of Columbus' Atlantic Crossings. Woods Hole Oceanog. Inst. Tech. Rept., WHOI-92-14, February 1992. [One of the best transatlantic track reconstructions to date.]

Harland, John (1984). Seamanship in the Age of Sail. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. [Everything you ever wanted to know about how to sail a square-rigger.]

Henige, David (1992). In Search of Columbus: Sources for the First Voyage [A valuable review of source documents relating to the first voyage, and the numerous (and often serious) problems that have been raised with each. Henige's intelligence and impeccable scholarship shine throughout this work, but his "we'll never know anything for sure" attitude is a downer.]

Henige, David (1998). Numbers From Nowhere: The American Indian Contact Population debate. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. [Another winner from Henige, who delightfully (and remorselessly) skewers the baseless pre-Columbian population estimates of various parties.]

Henige, David and James E. Kelley, Jr., compilers (1993). The Working Papers of the Columbus Round Robin. Madison: University of Wisconsin Libraries. [Three reels of microfilm with introduction and index, available from UWM at $45. From the early 1980's through 1995, an informal group of Columbus scholars discussed the various landfall problems and theories via a club of correspondence. This set chronicles the early years of that effort.]

Hongre, L., Hulot, G. & Khokhlov, A (1998). “An Analysis of the Geomagnetic Field over the Past 2000 Years”, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, 106, 311-335.

Irving, Washington (1828). A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. New York: G. & C. Carvill. [Source of many unfounded myths about Columbus, a classic example of shoddy scholarship run amok. Reprinted in many editions for nearly a century.]

Jane, Cecil, ed. (1988). The Four Voyages of Columbus. New York: Dover. [Originally published by the Haklyut Society, this is actually a compilation of original source documents translated by Jane. Required reading for any serious student of Columbus.]

Judge, Joseph (1986). Columbus's First Landfall in the New World. National Geographic, 170 (November), 589-590. [Judge's exposition of the Samana Cay landfall theory. This issue can be ordered from the NGS.]

Keegan, William F. (1992). The People Who Discovered Columbus: The Prehistory of the Bahamas. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. [There is no better survey of what we know of Lucayan culture and archaeology in English. Keegan also throws in a bit of landfall theorizing.]

Kelley, James E. Jr. (1983). In the Wake of Columbus on a Portolan Chart. Terrae Incognitae 15, 77-111. [Shows how currents affected CC's coastline measurements. First proposal of the 2.67 nm Italian League, now accepted by many as Columbus's unit of measurement.]

Korte, M., & Constable, C. (2003). “Continuous global geomagnetic field models for the past 3000 years,” Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, 140, 73-89.

Las Casas, Bartolome de (1951). Historia de las Indias. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Economica. (3 vols.) [Las Casas' life work, written between 1527 and 1563, and unpublished for 300 years.]

Lardicci, Francesca (1999). A synoptic edition of the log of Columbus’s first voyage. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols. [Lardicci combines all we know of the first voyage from three primary sources – the Diario (see Dunn & Kelly above), the Biography (see Colon above) and the Historia (see Las Casas above) – into a single chronological document.]

Marden, Luis. (1986). The First Landfall of Columbus. National Geographic, 170 (November) 572-577. [Not one of the better transatlantic track works.]

McElroy, John W. (1941). The Ocean Navigation of Columbus on His First Voyage. The American Neptune, I 209-240. [Earliest published transatlantic track, and still one of the easiest to find.]

Molander, Arne B. (1983). A New Approach to the Columbus Landfall. Terrae Incognitae 15, 113-149. [First proposal of the Egg Island landfall theory.]

Molander, Arne B. (1992). Columbus and the Method of Lunar Distances. Terrae Incognitae 24, 77-103. [Attempts to show that Columbus measured longitude celestially; but see Pickering 1996.]

Morison, Samuel Eliot (1942). Admiral of the Ocean Sea. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. [Pulitzer-winning biography of Columbus by USN's premier historian admiral. If you can get past Morison's uncritical cheering for his favorite sailor (and favorite landfall), there's still a lot of good information here -- particularly on 15th century sailing practices.]

Morison, Samuel Eliot (1963). Journals and Other Documents on the Life of Christopher Columbus. New York: Limited Editions.

Murdock, J. B. (1884). The Cruise of Columbus in the Bahamas, 1492. Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute 10, 449-486. [An early proposal of the Watlings Island landfall, Murdock's inter-island route was the basis of Morison's.]

Nader, Helen, ed. (1996). The book of privileges issued to Christopher Columbus by King Fernando and Queen Isabel, 1492-1502. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Parker, John (1983). The Columbus Landfall Problem: A Historical Perspective. Terrae Incognitae 15, 1-34. [A valuable review of the history of the landfall controversy.]

Parker, John (1992). A Great Sign of Land. Columbus and the Sea-Birds: Ornithology and Navigation in 1492 Minneapolis: Cleora Press. [John probably didn't realize when he wrote this that his research sinks Luis Coin Cuenca's Virgin Islands theory of Columbus's transatlantic track.]

Pastor, Xavier (1992). The Ships of Christopher Columbus. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.

Peck, Douglas T. (1993). Christoforo Colombo, God's Navigator, Columbus, WI: Columbian Publishers.

Peck, Douglas T. (1996). Re-thinking the Columbus Landfall Problem. Terrae Incognitae 28, 12-35.

Phillips, Carla Rahn (1993). The Evolution of Spanish Ship Design from the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Century. The American Neptune 53: 229-238.

Perez, Alejandro R. (1988). Columbus was never in San Salvador, Washington, DC: ABBE Publishers. [Perez's take on the Samana Cay landfall theory.]

Pickering, Keith A. (1994). Columbus's Plana Landfall. Dio 4:1, 14-23. [The only substantial work on the Plana Cays landfall theory in English; it is available in .pdf format here.]

Pickering, Keith A. (1996). Columbus's Method of Determining Longitude: An Analytical View. The Journal of Navigation 49:1, 99-113. [Primarily a critique of Molander 1992.]

Pickering, Keith A. (2004). "The transatlantic tracks of Columbus." Lecture to the Society for the History of Discoveries, Cody, WY, September 11. Available here.

Power, Robert H. (1983). The Discovery of Columbus's Island Passage to Cuba. Terrae Incognitae 15, 165-167. [An accessible exposition of the Grand Turk landfall theory.]

Richardson, Philip L. and Roger A. Goldsmith (1987). The Columbus Landfall: Voyage Track Corrected for Winds and Currents, Oceanus, 30 3-10. [Primarily a critique of Marden 1987.]

Russell, Jeffrey Burton (1991). Inventing the flat earth: Columbus and modern historians. New York: Praeger. [Demolishes the myth that ordinary people in Columbus's day thought the world was flat, and lays blame on the mythmakers.]

Sadler, H. E. (1997). Turks Islands Landfall: A History of the Turks & Caicos Islands Grand Turk: Marjorie E. Sadler. [Sadler's landfall theory is not as complete as Robert Power's Grand Turk theory, but this volume is a useful overview of Turks and Caicos history in any case.]

Schott, Charles A. (1882). An Inquiry into the Variation of the Compass Off the Bahama Islands, at the Time of the Landfall of Columbus in 1492. Report of the Superintendent of the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (Appendix No. 19, June 1880). Washington: Government Printing Office. [First attempt to trace the transatlantic track.]

Smith, Julian A. (1992). Precursors to Peregrinus: The early history of magnetism and the mariner's compass in Europe. Journal of Medieval History 18(1), 21-74.

Thacher, John Boyd (1903). Christopher Columbus: His Life, His Work, His Remains. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons.

Thompson, R. and D.R. Barraclough (1982). Geomagnetic Secular Variation Based on Spherical Harmonic and Cross Validation Analyses of Historical and Archaeomagnetic Data, J. Geomag. Geoelectr., 34, 245-263.

Van der Gucht, J., and Parajon, S.M. (1943). Ruta de Cristobal Colon por la Costa Norte de Cuba. Habana: P. Fernandez. [VdG&P were the first to correctly identify Bahia Bariay as CC's landfall in Cuba. This is where Morison got his now discredited "alongshore league," and his Cuban route for CC's first voyage. The manuscript had circulated privately for years before publication.]

Varela, Consuelo, ed. (1992). Textos y documentos completos, 2nd ed. Madrid: Alianza Editorial. [Everything Columbus ever wrote, and that still exists. Be sure to get the second edition, which contains valuable additions.]

Verhoog, Pieter H.G. (1947). Columbus Landed on Caicos, Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, 80, 1101-1111.

West, Delno C. and August Kling (1991). The Libro de las profecías of Christopher Columbus. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.

Wilford, John Noble (1991). The Mysterious History of Columbus. New York: Vintage.

Zamora, Margarita (1993). Christopher Columbus's Letter: "Announcing the Discovery," in New World Encounters, Stephen Greenblatt, ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.


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