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A description of the fortunate Ilands, otherwise called the Ilands of Canaria, with their strange fruits and commodities: composed by Thomas Nicols English man, who remained there the space of seven yeeres together.

MINE intent is particularly to speake of the Canaria Ilands, which are seven in number, wherein I dwelt the space of seven yeres and more, because I finde such variety in sundry writers, and especially great untruths, in a booke called The New found world Antarctike, set out by a French man called Andrew Thevet, the which his booke he dedicated to the Cardinall of Sens, keeper of the great seale of France.

It appeareth by the sayd booke that he had read the works of sundry Phylosophers, Astronomers, and Cosmographers, whose opinions he gathered together. But touching his owne travell, which he affirmeth, I refer to the judgement of the expert in our dayes, and therefore for mine owne part I write of these Canaria Ilands, as time hath taught me in many yeres.

The Iland of Canaria.

THE Iland of Canaria is almost equal in length and bredth, containing 12 leagues in length, touching the which as principall and the residue, the Spanyards holde opinion, that they discovered the same in their navigation toward America , but the Portugals say, that their nation first found the sayd Ilands in their navigation toward Aethiopia and the East Indies. But truth it is that the Spanyards first conquered these Ilands, with divers English gentlemen in their company, whose posterity this present day injoyeth them. Some write that this Iland was named Canaria by meane of the number of dogs which there were found: as for example, Andrew Thevet sayth, that one Juba carried two dogs from thence: but that opinion could I never learne by any of the naturall people of the countrey, although I have talked with many in my time, and with many of their children. For trueth it is, that there were dogs, but such as are in all the Northwest lands, and some part of the West India, which served the people in stead of sheepe for victuall. But of some of the conquerors of those Ilands I have heard say that the reason why they were called the Canaria Islands is, because there grow generally in them all fouresquare canes in great multitude together, which being touched will cast out a liquor as white as milke, which liquor is ranke poison, and at the first entry into these Ilands some of the discoverers were therewith poisoned: for many yeeres after that conquest the inhabitants began to plant both wine and sugar, so that Canaria was not so called by sugar canes.

The people which first inhabited this land were called Canaries by the conquerors, they were clothed in goat skinnes made like unto a loose cassocke, they dwelt in caves in the rocks, in great amity and brotherly love. They spake all one language: their chiefe feeding was gelt dogges, goates, and goates milke, their bread was made of barley meale and goates milke, called Gofia, which they use at this day, and thereof I have eaten divers times, for it is accounted exceeding holesome.

Touching the originall of these people some holde opinion, that the Romans which dwelt in Africa exiled them thither, aswell men as women, their tongues being cut out of their heads, for blasphemy against the Romane gods. But howsoever it were, their language was speciall, and not mixed with Romane speech or Arabian.

This Iland is now the principallest of all the rest, not in fertility, but by reason it is the seat of justice and government of all the residue. This Iland hath a speciall Governour for the Iland onely, yet notwithstanding there are three Judges called Auditours, who are superiour Judges, and all in one joyntly proceed as the Lord Chanceller of any realme.

To this city from all the other Ilands come all such by appeale, as have sustained any wrong, and these good Judges do remedy the same. The city is called Civitas Palmarum, it hath a beautifull Cathedrall church, with all dignities thereunto pertaining. For the publike weale of the Iland there are sundry Aldermen of great authority, who have a councell house by themselves. The city is not onely beautifull, but the citizens curious and gallant in apparell. And after any raine or foule weather a man may goe cleane in Velvet slippers, because the ground is sandy, the aire very temperate, without extreame heat or colde.

They reape wheat in February, and againe in May, which is excellent good, and maketh bread as white as snow. This Iland hath in it other three townes, the one. called Telde , the second Galder, and the third Guia. It hath also twelve sugar houses called Ingenios, in which they make great quantity of good sugar.

The maner of the growth of sugar is in this sort, a good ground giveth foorth fruit nine times in 18 yere: that is to say, the first is called Planta, which is layd along in a furrow, so that the water of a sluce may come over every roote being covered with earth: this root bringeth foorth sundry canes, and so consequently all the rest. It groweth two yeeres before the yeelding of profit, and not sixe moneths, as Andrew Thevet the French man writeth.

Then are they cut even with the ground, and the tops & leaves called Coholia cut off, and the canes bound into bundels like faggots, and so are caried to the sugar house called Ingenio, where they are ground in a mill, and the juyce thereof conveyed by a conduct to a great vessell made for the purpose, where it is boiled till it waxe thicke, and then is it put into a fornace of earthen pots of the molde of a sugar loafe, and then is it carried to another house, called a purging house where it is placed to purge the blacknesse with a certaine clay that is layd thereon. Of the remainder in the cauldron is made a second sort called Escumas, and of the purging liquor that droppeth from the white sugar is made a third sort, and the remainder is called Panela or Netas, the refuse of all the purging is called Remiel or Malasses: and thereof is made another sort called Refinado.

When this first fruit is in this sort gathered, called Planta, then the Cane-field where it grew is burned over with sugar straw to the stumps of the first canes, and being husbanded, watred and trimmed, at the end of other two yeeres it yeeldeth the second fruit called Zoca. The third fruit is called Tertia Zoca, the fourth Quarta Zoca, and so orderly the rest, til age causeth the olde Canes to be planted againe.

This Iland hath singular good wine, especially in the towne of Telde , and sundry sorts of good fruits, as Batatas, Mellons, Peares, Apples, Orenges, Limons, Pomgranats, Figs, Peaches of divers sorts, and many other fruits: but especially the Plantano which groweth neere brooke sides, it is a tree that hath no timber in it, but groweth directly upward with the body, having marvelous thicke leaves, and every leafe at the toppe of two yards long and almost halfe a yard broad. The tree never yeeldeth fruit but once, and then is cut downe; in whose place springeth another, and so still continueth. The fruit groweth on a branch, and every tree yeeldeth two or three of those branches, which beare some more and some lesse, as some forty and some thirty, the fruit is like a Cucumber, and when it is ripe it is blacke, and in eating more delicate then any conserve.

This Iland is sufficiently provided of Oxen, Kine, Camels, Goats, Sheepe, Capons, Hens, Ducks, and Pidgeons, and great Partridges. Wood is the thing that most wanteth : and because I have particularly to intreat of the other sixe Ilands, I leave further inlarging of Canaria, which standeth in 27 degrees distant from the Equator.

The Ile of Tenerif.

THE Iland of Tenerif standeth in 27 degrees and a halfe from the equator, and is distant from Canaria 12 leagues Northward. This Iland containeth 17 leagues in length, and the land lieth high in forme of a ridge of sowen lande in some part of England, and in the midst of the sayd place standeth a round hill called Pico Deteithe, situated in this sort. The top of this pike conteineth of heigth directly upward 15 leagues & more, which is 45 English miles, out of the which often times proceedeth fire and brimstone, and it may be about halfe a mile in compasse: the sayd top is in forme or likenesse of a caldron. But within two miles of the top is nothing but ashes & pumish stones: yet beneath that two miles is the colde region covered all the yere with snow, and somwhat lower are mighty huge trees growing, called Vinatico, which are exceeding heavy, and will not rot in any water, although they lie a thousand yeeres therein. Also there is a wood called Barbusano, of like vertue, with many Savine trees and Pine trees. And beneath these sorts of trees are woods of Bay trees of 10 & 12 miles long, which is a pleasant thing to travell thorow, among the which are great numbers of small birds, which sing exceeding sweet, but especially one sort that are very litle, and of colour in all respects like a Swallow, saving that he hath a little blacke spot on his breast as broad as a peny. He singeth more sweetly then all the rest, but if he be taken and imprisoned in a cage, he liveth but a small while. This Iland bringeth foorth all sorts of fruits, as Canaria doth: and also all the other Ilands in generall bring foorth shrubs or bushes, out of the which issueth a juice as white as milke, which after a while that it hath come out waxeth thicke, and is exceeding good birdlime, the bush is called Taybayba. This Iland also bringeth foorth another tree called Drago, which groweth on high among rocks, and by incision at the foot of the tree issueth out a liquor like blood, which is a common drug among Apothecaries. Of the wood of this tree are made targets greatly esteemed, because if any sword or dagger hit thereon, they sticke so fast that it is hard plucking them out.

This is the most fruitfull Iland of all the rest for corne, and in that respect is a mother or nurse to all the others in time of need. There groweth also a certaine mosse upon the high rocks called Orchel, which is bought for Diars to die withall. There are 12 sugar houses called Ingenios, which make great quantity of sugar. There is also one league of ground which standeth between two townes, the one called Larotava, and the other Rialeio, and it is thought that the like plot of ground is not in all the world. The reason is, that this one league of ground produceth sweet water out of the cliffes or rocky mountaines, corne of all sortes, fruites of all sortes, and excellent good silke, flaxe, waxe, and hony, and very good wines in abundance, with great store of sugar and fire-wood. Out of this Iland is laden great quantity of wines for the West India, and other countreys. The best groweth on a hill side called the Ramble.

There is in that Iland a faire city, standing three leagues from the sea, nere unto a lake called Laguna , wherein are two faire parish churches, there dwelleth the governour who ruleth all that Iland with justice. There are also aldermen for the publike weale, who buy their offices of the king: the most of the whole inhabitants of this city are gentlemen, merchants, and husband men.

There are other foure townes called Santa Cruz, Larotava, Rialeio, and Garachico.

In this Iland before the conquest dwelt seven kings, who with all their people dwelt in caves, and were clothed in goat skinnes, as the Canaria people were, and used such like order of diet as they had. Their order of buriall was, that when any died, he was carried naked to a great cave, where he was propped up against the wall standing on his feet. But if he were of any authority among them, then had he a staffe in his hand, and a vessel of milke standing by him. I have seene caves of 300 of these corpses together, the flesh being dried up, the body remained as light as parchment. These people were called Guanches, naturally they spake another language cleane contrary to the Canarians, and so consequently every Iland spake a severall language.

Note (gentle reader) that the Iland of Canaria, the Ile of Tenerif, and the Ile of Palma appertaine to the king of Spaine, unto whom they pay fifty thousand duckats yeerely for custome and other profits. All these Ilands joyntly are one bishopricke, which pay to the bishop twelve thousand duckats yeerely. And this I conclude of the Ile of Tenerif, which standeth in 27 degrees and a halfe, as I have before declared.


THE Iland of Gomera standeth Westward from Tenerif, in distance sixe leagues: this is but a small Iland conteining eight leagues in length. It is an Earledome, & the Lord thereof is called the earle of Gomera. But in case of any controversie the vassals may appeale to the kings superior Judges which reside in Canaria.

This Iland hath one proper towne called Gomera, which hath an excellent good port or harbour for ships, where often times the Indian fleet take refreshing for their voyage.

There is also sufficient graine and fruit for the maintenance of themselves.

There is one Ingenio or Sugar-house, with great plenty of wine and other sorts of fruits, as Canaria and Tenerif hath.

This Iland yeeldeth no other commodity but onely orchell; it standeth in 27 degrees distant from the Equator toward the pole Arcticke.

The Ile of Palma.

THE Ile of Palma standeth twelve leagues distant from the Ile of Gomera Northwestward. This Iland is fruitfull of wine and sugar: it hath a proper city called the city of Palma, where is great contraction for wines, which are laden for the West India & other places. This city hath one faire church, and a governour, and aldermen to maintaine and execute justice. It hath also another prety towne, called S. Andrewes. It hath also foure Ingenios which make excellent sugar, two of the which are called Zauzes, and the other two, Tassacort.

This Iland yeeldeth but little bread-corne; but rather is thereof provided from Tenerif and other places.

Their best wines grow in a soile called the Brenia, where yerely is gathered twelve thousand buts of wine like unto Malmsies. This Iland standeth round, and containeth in circuit neere five and twenty leagues. It hath plenty of all sorts of fruits, as Canaria and Tenerif have, it standeth in twenty seven degrees and a halfe.

The Iland of Yron , called Hierro .

THIS Iland standeth ten leagues distant from the Iland of Palma Westward: it is but a little Iland, which containeth sixe leagues in circuit, and hath but small extension. It appertaineth to the earle of Gomera. The chiefest commodity of this Iland is goats flesh and orchell. There is no wine in all that Iland, but onely one vineyard that an English man of Taunton in the West countrey planted among rocks, his name was John Hill.

This Iland hath no kind of fresh water, but onely in the middle of the Iland groweth a great tree with leaves like an Olive tree, which hath a great cisterne at the foot of the sayd tree. This tree continually is covered with clouds, and by meanes thereof the leaves of the sayd tree continually drop water, very sweet, into the sayd cisterne, which commeth to the sayd tree from the clouds by attraction. And this water sufficeth the Iland for all necessities, aswell for the cattell, as for the inhabitants. It standeth in 27 degrees.

The Iland of Lanzarota.

THE Iland of Lanzarota standeth eighteene leagues distant from grand Canaria Southeastward. The onely commodity of this Iland is goats flesh and orchell. It is an earledome, and doth appertaine to Don Augustine de Herrera, with title of earle of Fortaventura and Lanzarota. But the vassals of these earledomes may in any cause of wrong appeale to the Kings Judges, which reside in Canaria, as I have sayd before: because although the king hath reserved to himselfe but onely the three fruitful Ilands, called Canaria, Tenerif, and Palma, yet he also reserved the rod of justice to himselfe, because otherwise the vassals might be evill intreated of their Lords.

From this Iland do weekly resort to Canaria, Tenerif, & Palma, boats laden with dried goats flesh, called Tussmetta, which serveth in stead of bacon, and is very good meat. This Iland standeth in 26 degrees, and is in length twelve leagues.

The Ile of Forteventura.

THE Ile of Forteventura standeth fifty leagues from the promontory of Cabo de Guer, in the firme land of Africa , and foure & twenty leagues distant from Canaria Estward. This Iland doth appertaine to the lord of Lanzarota. It is reasonable fruitfull of wheat and barley, and also of kine, goats, and orchel: this Ile is fifteene leagues long and ten leagues broad. On the North side it hath a little Iland about one league distant from the maine Iland, betweene both of the which it is navigable for any ships, and is called Graciosa .

Both Forteventura and Lanzarota have very little wine of the growth of those Ilands. It standeth in 27 degrees.

Thus much have I written of these seven Ilands by experience, because I was a dweller there, as I have sayd before, the space of seven yeeres in the affaires of master Thomas Locke, master Anthonie Hickman, and master Edward Castelin, who in those dayes were worthy merchants, and of great credite in the citie of London.

A description of the Iland of Madera.

THE Iland of Madera standeth in 32 degrees distant from the equinoctinall line, and seventie leagues from the Ile of Tenerif Northeastward and Southwest from Hercules pillars. This Iland was first discovered by one Macham an Englishman, and was after conquered and inhabited by the Portugall nation. It was first called the Iland of Madera, by reason of the great wildernesse of sundry sortes of trees that there did growe, and yet doe, as Cedars, Cypres, Vinatico, Barbuzano, Pine trees, and divers others, and therefore the sayd Iland continueth still with the same name. Howbeit they hold opinion, that betweene the sayd Iland and the Ile of Palma is an Iland not yet discovered, which is the true Iland Madera called saint Brandon . This Iland yeeldeth a great summe of money to the king of Portugall yeerely: it hath one faire citie called Fouchall, which hath one faire port or harbour for shippes, and a strong bulwarke, and a faire Cathedrall church, with a bishop and other dignities thereunto appertaining. There is also justice and government according to the Portugall use. But causes of appellation are remitted to the citie of Lisbone in Portugall to the kings superior judges there. This Iland hath another towne called Machico , which hath likewise a good road for ships, which towne and road were so called after the name of Macham the Englishman, who first discovered the same. There are also sixteene sugar houses called Ingenios, which make excellent good sugar.

There is besides the goodly timber before declared, great store of divers sortes of fruites, as Peares, Apples, Plummes, wild Dates, Peaches of divers sortes, Mellons, Batatas, Orenges, Lemmons, Pomgranates, Citrons, Figges, and all maner of garden herbes. There are many Dragon trees, such as grow in the Canarie Ilands, but chiefly this land produceth great quantitie of singular good wines which are laden for many places. On the North side of this land three leagues distant from the maine Iland standeth another litle Iland called Porto santo: the people thereof liveth by husbandrie, for the Iland of Madera yeeldeth but litle corne, but rather is thereof provided out of France and from the Iland of Tenerif. On the East side of the Ile of Madera sixe leagues distant standeth another litle Iland called the Desert, which produceth onely Orchell, and nourisheth a great number of Goates, for the provision of the maine Iland, which may be thirtie leagues in circuit: and the land is of great heigth where the foresayd trees growe. It is woonder to see the conveyance of the water to the Ingenios by Mines through the mountaines.

In the mid way betweene Tenerif and the Iland of Madera standeth a litle solitarie Iland called the Salvages, which may bee about one league in compasse, which hath neither tree nor fruit, but is onely food for Goates.

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