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The English Voyages, Navigations, and Discoveries (intended for the finding of a North-west passage) to the North parts of America, to Meta incognita, and the backeside of Gronland , as farre as 72 degrees and 12 minuts: performed first by Sebastian Cabota, and since by Sir Martin Frobisher, and M. John Davis, with the Patents, Discourses, and Advertisements thereto belonging.


The Letters patents of King Henry the seventh granted unto John Cabot and his three sonnes, Lewis, Sebastian, and Sancius for the discoverie of new and unknowen lands.

HENRY by the grace of God, king of England and France, and lord of Ireland, to all to whom these presents shall come, Greeting.
Be it knowen that we have given and granted, and by these presents do give and grant for us and our heires, to our welbeloved John Cabot citizen of Venice , to Lewis, Sebastian, and Santius, sonnes of the sayd John, and to the heires of them, and every of them, and their deputies, full and free authority, leave, and power to saile to all parts, countreys, and seas of the East, of the West, and of the North, under our banners and ensignes, with five ships of what burthen or quantity soever they be, and as many mariners or men as they will have with them in the sayd ships, upon their owne proper costs and charges, to seeke out, discover, and finde whatsoever isles, countreys, regions or provinces of the heathen and infidels whatsoever they be, and in what part of the world soever they be, which before this time have bene unknowen to all Christians: we have granted to them, and also to every of them, the heires of them, and every of them, and their deputies, and have given them licence to set up our banners and ensignes in every village, towne, castle, isle, or maine land of them newly found. And that the aforesayd John and his sonnes, or their heires and assignes may subdue, occupy and possesse all such townes, cities, castles and isles of them found, which they can subdue, occupy and possesse, as our vassals, and lieutenants, getting unto us the rule, title, and jurisdiction of the same villages, townes, castles, & firme land so found. Yet so that the aforesayd John, and his sonnes and heires, and their deputies, be holden and bounden of all the fruits, profits, gaines, and commodities growing of such navigation, for every their voyage, as often as they shall arrive at our port of Bristoll (at the which port they shall be bound and holden onely to arrive) all maner of necessary costs and charges by them made, being deducted, to pay unto us in wares or money the fift part of the capitall gaine so gotten. We giving and granting unto them and to their heires and deputies, that they shall be free from all paying of customes of all and singular such merchandize as they shall bring with them from those places so newly found. And moreover, we have given and granted to them, their heires and deputies, that all the firme lands, isles, villages, townes, castles and places whatsoever they be that they shall chance to finde, may not of any other of our subjects be frequented or visited without the licence of the foresayd John and his sonnes, and their deputies, under paine of forfeiture aswell of their shippes as of all and singuler goods of all them that shall presume to saile to those places so found. Willing, and most straightly commanding all and singuler our subjects aswell on land as on sea, to give good assistance to the aforesayd John and his sonnes and deputies, and that as well in arming and furnishing their ships or vessels, as in provision of food, and in buying of victuals for their money, and all other things by them to be provided necessary for the sayd navigation, they do give them all their helpe and favour. In witnesse whereof we have caused to be made these our Letters patents. Witnesse our selfe at Westminster the fift day of March, in the eleventh yeere of our reigne.


Billa signata anno 13 Henrici septimi.

THE king upon the third day of February, in the 13 yeere of his reigne, gave licence to John Cabot to take sixe English ships in any haven or havens of the realme of England, being of the burden of 200 tunnes, or under, with all necessary furniture, and to take also into the said ships all such masters, mariners, and subjects of the king as willingly will go with him, &c.


An extract taken out of the map of Sebastian Cabot, cut by Clement Adams, concerning his discovery of the West Indies, which is to be seene in her Majesties privie gallerie at Westminster , and in many other ancient merchants houses.

IN the yere of our Lord 1497 John Cabot a Venetian, and his sonne Sebastian (with an English fleet set out from Bristoll) discovered that land which no man before that time had attempted, on the 24 of June, about five of the clocke early in the morning. This land he called Prima vista, that is to say, First seene, because as I suppose it was that part whereof they had the first sight from sea. That Island which lieth out before the land, he called the Island of S. John upon this occasion, as I thinke, because it was discovered upon the day of John the Baptist. The inhabitants of this Island use to weare beasts skinnes, and have them in as great estimation as we have our finest garments. In their warres they use bowes, arrowes, pikes, darts, woodden clubs, and slings. The soile is barren in some places, & yeeldeth litle fruit, but it is full of white beares, and stagges farre greater then ours. It yeeldeth plenty of fish, and those very great, as seales, and those which commonly we call salmons: there are soles also above a yard in length: but especially there is great abundance of that kinde of fish which the Savages call baccalaos. In the same Island also there breed hauks, but they are so blacke that they are very like to ravens, as also their partridges, and egles, which are in like sort blacke.


A discourse of Sebastian Cabot touching his discovery of part of the West India out of England in the time of king Henry the seventh, used to Galeacius Butrigarius the Popes Legate in Spaine, and reported by the sayd Legate in this sort.

DOE you not understand sayd he (speaking to certaine Gentlemen of Venice) how to passe to India toward the Northwest, as did of late a citizen of Venice , so valiant a man, and so well practised in all things pertaining to navigations, and the science of Cosmographie, that at this present he hath not his like in Spaine, insomuch that for his vertues he is preferred above all other pilots that saile to the West Indies, who may not passe thither without his licence, and is therefore called Piloto mayor, that is, the grand Pilot. And when we sayd that we knew him not, he proceeded, saying, that being certaine yeres in the city of Sivil, and desirous to have some knowledge of the navigations of the Spanyards, it was tolde him that there was in the city a valiant man, a Venetian borne named Sebastian Cabot, who had the charge of those things, being an expert man in that science, and one that coulde make Cardes for the Sea with his owne hand, and that by this report, seeking his acquaintance, hee found him a very gentle person, who intertained him friendly, and shewed him many things, and among other a large Mappe of the world, with certaine particuler Navigations, as well of the Portugals, as of the Spaniards, and that he spake further unto him to this effect.

When my father departed from Venice many yeeres since to dwell in England, to follow the trade of marchandises, hee tooke mee with him to the citie of London, while I was very yong, yet having neverthelesse some knowledge of letters of humanitie, and of the Sphere. And when my father died in that time when newes were brought that Don Christopher Colonus Genuese had discovered the coasts of India, whereof was great talke in all the Court of king Henry the 7. who then raigned, insomuch that all men with great admiration affirmed it to be a thing more divine then humane, to saile by the West into the East where spices growe, by a way that was never knowen before, by this fame and report there increased in my heart a great flame of desire to attempt some notable thing. And understanding by reason of the Sphere, that if I should saile by way of the North-west, I should by a shorter tract come into India, I thereupon caused the King to be advertised of my devise, who immediatly commanded two Carvels to bee furnished with all things appertayning to the voyage, which was as farre as I remember in the yeere 1496. in the beginning of Sommer. I began therefore to saile toward the Northwest, not thinking to finde any other land then that of Cathay, & from thence to turne toward India, but after certain dayes I found that the land ranne towards the North, which was to mee a great displeasure. Neverthelesse, sayling along by the coast to see if I could finde any gulfe that turned, I found the lande still continent to the 56. degree under our Pole. And seeing that there the coast turned toward the East, despairing to finde the passage, I turned backe againe, and sailed downe by the coast of that land toward the Equinoctiall (ever with intent to finde the saide passage to India) and came to that part of this firme lande which is nowe called Florida , where my victuals failing, I departed from thence and returned into England, where I found great tumults among the people, and preparation for warres in Scotland : by reason whereof there was no more consideration had to this voyage.

Whereupon I went into Spaine to the Catholique king, and Queene Elizabeth, which being advertised what I had done, intertained me, and at their charges furnished certaine ships, wherewith they caused me to saile to discover the coastes of Brasile , where I found an exceeding great and large river named at this present Rio de la plata, that is, the river of silver, into the which I sailed and followed it into the firme land, more then sixe score leagues, finding it every where very faire, and inhabited with infinite people, which with admiration came running dayly to our ships. Into this River runne so many other rivers, that it is in maner incredible.

After this I made many other voyages, which I nowe pretermit, and waxing olde, I give my selfe to rest from such travels, because there are nowe many yong and lustie Pilots and Mariners of good experience, by whose forwardnesse I doe rejoyce in the fruit of my labours, and rest with the charge of this office, as you see.


The foresaide Baptista Ramusius in his preface to the thirde volume of the Navigations, writeth thus of Sebastian Cabot.

IN the latter part of this volume are put certaine relations of John de Vararzana, Florentine, and of a great captaine a Frenchman, and the two voyages of Jaques Cartier a Briton, who sailed unto the land situate in 50. degrees of Latitude to the North, which is called New France, which landes hitherto are not throughly knowen, whether they doe joyne with the firme land of Florida and Nova Hispania, or whether they bee separated and devided all by the Sea as Ilands: and whether that by that way one may goe by Sea unto the countrey of Cathaia. As many yeeres past it was written unto mee by Sebastian Cabota our Countrey man a Venetian, a man of great experience, and very rare in the art of Navigation, and the knowledge of Cosmographie, who sailed along and beyond this lande of New France, at the charges of King Henry the seventh king of England: and he advertised mee, that having sailed a long time West and by North, beyond those Ilands unto the Latitude of 67. degrees and an halfe, under the North pole, and at the 11. day of June finding still the open Sea without any maner of impediment, he thought verily by that way to have passed on still the way to Cathaia, which is in the East, and would have done it, if the mutinie of the shipmaster and Mariners had not hindered him and made him to returne homewards from that place. But it seemeth that God doeth yet still reserve this great enterprise for some great prince to discover this voyage of Cathaia by this way, which for the bringing of the Spiceries from India into Europe, were the most easie and shortest of all other wayes hitherto found out. And surely this enterprise would be the most glorious, and of most importance of all other that can be imagined to make his name great, and fame immortall, to all ages to come, farre more then can be done by any of all these great troubles and warres which dayly are used in Europe among the miserable Christian people.


Another testimonie of the voyage of Sebastian Cabot to the West and Northwest, taken out of the sixt Chapter of the third Decade of Peter Martyr of Angleria.

THESE North Seas have bene searched by one Sebastian Cabot, a Venetian borne, whom being yet but in maner an infant, his parents caried with them into England, having occasion to resort thither for trade of marchandise, as is the maner of the Venetians to leave no part of the world unsearched to obtaine riches. Hee therefore furnished two ships in England at his owne charges, and first with 300 men directed his course so farre towards the North pole, that even in the moneth of July he found monstrous heapes of ice swimming on the sea, and in maner continuall day light, yet saw he the land in that tract free from ice, which had bene molten by the heat of the Sunne. Thus seeing such heapes of yce before him, hee was enforced to turne his sailes and follow the West, so coasting still by the shore, that he was thereby brought so farre into the South, by reason of the land bending so much Southwards, that it was there almost equall in latitude, with the sea Fretum Herculeum, having the Northpole elevate in maner in the same degree. He sailed likewise in this tract so farre towards the West, that hee had the Island of Cuba on his left hand, in maner in the same degree of longitude. As hee traveiled by the coastes of this great land, (which he named Baccalaos) he saith that hee found the like course of the waters toward the West, but the same to runne more softly and gently then the swift waters which the Spaniards found in their Navigations Southward. Wherfore it is not onely more like to be true, but ought also of necessitie to be concluded that betweene both the lands hitherto unknowen, there should be certaine great open places whereby the waters should thus continually passe from the East unto the West: which waters I suppose to be driven about the globe of the earth by the uncessant moving and impulsion of the heavens, and not to bee swallowed up and cast up againe by the breathing of Demogorgon, as some have imagined, because they see the seas by increase and decrease to ebbe and flowe. Sebastian Cabot himselfe named those lands Baccalaos, because that in the Seas thereabout hee found so great multitudes of certaine bigge fishes much like unto Tunies, (which the inhabitants call Baccalaos) that they sometime stayed his shippes. He found also the people of those regions covered with beastes skinnes, yet not without the use of reason. He also saith there is great plentie of Beares in those regions which use to eate fish: for plunging themselves into ye water, where they perceive a multitude of these fishes to lie, they fasten their clawes in their scales, and so draw them to land and eate them, so (as he saith) the Beares being thus satisfied with fish, are not noisome to men. Hee declareth further, that in many places of these Regions he saw great plentie of Copper among the inhabitants. Cabot is my very friend, whom I use familiarly, and delight to have him sometimes keepe mee company in mine owne house. For being called out of England by the commandement of the Catholique King of Castile, after the death of King Henry the seventh of that name King of England, he was made one of our councill and Assistants, as touching the affaires of the new Indies, looking for ships dayly to be furnished for him to discover this hid secret of Nature.


The testimonie of Francis Lopez de Gomara a Spaniard, in the fourth Chapter of the second Booke of his generall history of the West Indies concerning the first discoverie of a great part of the West Indies, to wit, from 58. to 38. degrees of latitude, by Sebastian Cabota out of England.

HE which brought most certaine newes of the countrey & people of Baccalaos, saith Gomara, was Sebastian Cabote a Venetian, which rigged up two ships at the cost of K. Henry the 7. of England, having great desire to traffique for the spices as the Portingals did. He caried with him 300. men, and tooke the way towards Island from beyond the Cape of Labrador, untill he found himselfe in 58. degrees and better. He made relation that in the moneth of July it was so cold, and the ice so great, that hee durst not passe any further: that the dayes were very long, in a maner without any night, and for that short night that they had, it was very cleare. Cabot feeling the cold, turned towards the West, refreshing himselfe at Baccalaos: and afterwards he sayled along the coast unto 38. degrees, and from thence he shaped his course to returne into England.


A note of Sebastian Cabots first discoverie of part of the Indies taken out of the latter part of Robert Fabians Chronicle not hitherto printed, which is in the custodie of M. John Stow a diligent preserver of Antiquities.

IN the 13. yeere of K. Henry the 7. (by meanes of one John Cabot a Venetian which made himselfe very expert and cunning in knowledge of the circuit of the world and Ilands of the same, as by a Sea card and other demonstrations reasonable he shewed) the king caused to man and victuall a ship at Bristow, to search for an Island, which he said hee knew well was rich, and replenished with great commodities: Which shippe thus manned and victualled at the kings cost, divers Marchants of London ventured in her small stocks, being in her as chiefe patron the said Venetian. And in the company of the said ship, sailed also out of Bristow three or foure small ships fraught with sleight and grosse marchandizes, as course cloth, caps, laces, points & other trifles. And so departed from Bristow in the beginning of May, of whom in this Maiors time returned no tidings.


Of three Savages which Cabot brought home and presented unto the King in the foureteenth yere of his raigne, mentioned by the foresaid Robert Fabian.

THIS yeere also were brought unto the king three men taken in the Newfound Island that before I spake of, in William Purchas time being Maior: These were clothed in beasts skins, & did eate raw flesh, and spake such speach that no man could understand them, and in their demeanour like to bruite beastes, whom the King kept a time after. Of the which upon two yeeres after, I saw two apparelled after the maner of Englishmen in Westminster pallace, which that time I could not discerne from Englishmen, til I was learned what they were, but as for speach, I heard none of them utter one word.


A briefe extract concerning the discoverie of Newfoundland , taken out of the booke of M. Robert Thorne, to doctor Leigh , &c.

I REASON, that as some sickenesses are hereditarie, so this inclination or desire of this discovery I inherited from my father, which with another marchant of Bristol named Hugh Eliot, were the discoverers of the Newfound-lands; of the which there is no doubt (as nowe plainely appeareth) if the Mariners would then have bene ruled, and followed their Pilots minde, but the lands of the West Indies, from whence all the golde commeth, had bene ours; for all is one coast as by the Card appeareth, and is aforesaid.


The large pension granted by K. Edward the 6. to Sebastian Cabota, constituting him grand Pilot of England.

EDWARD the sixt by the grace of God, King of England, France and Ireland , defender of the faith, to all Christian people to whom these presents shall come, sendeth greeting. Know yee that we, in consideration of the good and acceptable service done, and to be done, unto us by our beloved servant Sebastian Cabota, of our speciall grace, certaine knowledge, meere motion, and by the advice and counsel of our most honourable uncle Edward duke of Somerset governour of our person, and Protector of our kingdomes, dominions, and subjects, and of the rest of our Counsaile, have given & granted, and by these presents do give and graunt to the said Sebastian Cabota, a certaine annuitie, or yerely revenue of one hundreth, threescore & sixe pounds, thirteene shillings foure pence sterling, to have, enjoy, and yerely receive the foresaid annuitie, or yerely revenue, to the foresaid Sebastian Cabota during his natural life, out of our Treasurie at the receit of our Exchequer at Westminster , at the hands of our Treasurers & paymasters, there remayning for the time being, at the feasts of the Annuntiation of the blessed Virgin Mary, the Nativitie of S. John Baptist, S. Michael ye Archangel, & the Nativitie of our Lord, to be paid by equal portions.

And further, of our more speciall grace, and by the advise and consent aforesaide wee doe give, and by these presents doe graunt unto the aforesaide Sebastian Cabota, so many, and so great summes of money as the saide annuitie or yeerely revenue of an hundreth, threescore and sixe pounds, thirteene shillings 4. pence, doeth amount and rise unto from the feast of S. Michael the Archangel last past unto this present time, to be had and received by the aforesaid Sebastian Cabota, and his assignes out of our aforesaid Treasurie, at the handes of our aforesaide Treasurers, and officers of our Exchequer of our free gift without accompt, or any thing else therefore to be yeelded, payed, or made, to us, our heires or successours, forasmuch as herein expresse mention is made to the contrary.

In witnesse whereof we have caused these our Letters to be made patents: Witnesse the King at Westminster the sixt day of Januarie, in the second yeere of his raigne. The yeere of our Lord 1548.


A discourse written by Sir Humphrey Gilbert Knight, to prove a passage by the Northwest to Cathaia, and the East Indies.

The Table of the matters in every Chapter of this discourse.

Capitulo 1.
  • To prove by authoritie a passage to be on the North side of America , to goe to Cataia, China , and to the East India.
  • Capitulo 2.
  • To prove by reason a passage to be on the North side of America , to goe to Cataia, Moluccae, &c.
  • Capitulo 3.
  • To prove by experience of sundry mens travailes the opening of this Northwest passage, whereby good hope remaineth of the rest.
  • Capitulo 4.
  • To prove by circumstance, that the Northwest passage hath bene sailed throughout.
  • Capitulo 5.
  • To proove that such Indians as have bene driven upon the coastes of Germanie came not thither by the Southeast, and Southwest, nor from any part of Afrike or America .
  • Capitulo 6.
  • To proove that the Indians aforenamed came not by the Northeast, and that there is no thorow passage navigable that way.
  • Capitulo 7.

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