The decades of the newe worlde or west India

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Introductory notes

Pietro Martire (Peter Martyr )of Anghiera, was an Italian-born historian of Spanish travels and discoveries, Born in 1457, he became chaplain to the court of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, and was appointed cronista or chronicler to the Council of the Indies, commissioned by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor to record the explorations of the New World. He collected information from many of the travellers and discoverers themselves, and gathered documents and letters from them. His De Orbe Novo, translated into English by Richard Eden and published by William Powell in 1555 under the title Decades of the newe worlde… is seen as a justification of colonial expansionism as well as being a source of colonial ethnography. The extracts document both marvels and horrors, as would befit a work such as this.

of the newe worlde or
west India,

Conteynyng the navigations and conquestes of the Spanyardes, with the particular de scription of the moste ryche and large landes and Ilandes lately founde in the west Ocean perteynyng to the inheritaunce of the kinges of Spayne. In the which the diligent reader may not only consyder what commoditie may hereby chaunce to the hole christian world in tyme to come, but also learne many secreates touchynge the lande, the sea, and the starres, very necessarie to be knowe to al such as shal attempte any navigations, or otherwise have delite to beholde the strange and woonderfull woorkes of God and nature. Wrytten in the Latine tounge by Peter Martyr of Angleria, and trans lated into Englysshe by
Rycharde Eden.

In aedibus Guilhelmi Powell.
ANNO. 1555.

PUBLISHED BY Guilhelmi Powell
PUBLISHED FOR Edwarde Sutton

1. Of Cinamome.

CInamome of the best sort, groweth in the Ilande of Zeilam: and in the countrey of Malabar, growethe the woorst. That of the beste kynde, is of smaule price in Zeilam. But in Calicut (if it bee choise and freshe, it is worth CCC. fanans the bahar, whiche are abowte fiue marchetti the pounde.

2. Of Ginger cauled Beledi.

GInger Beledi, groweth on euery syde abowte Calicut from syxe to nine myles: And is woorth the bahar .5l. fanans, and sumtymes fiftie, whiche is lesse then one marchetto the pounde.

They brynge it from the mountaynes and owt of the contrey to the citie, where they sell it by retayle to the Indian marchauntes, who gather it togither in great quantitie and kepe it to such tyme as the Moores shyppes arryue there, to whom they sell it, by the price of .xc. fanans, to .Cx. whiche is lesse then two marchetti the pound, bycause the weight is greater.

3. Of Ginger Mechino.

GInger Mechino groweth, begynnynge from the mountaine of Deli, vnto Canonor. It is smaule, and not so whyte nor so good as the other. It is woorthe the bahar in Cananor, abowt .lx. fanans whiche is abowte one marchetto the pounde. They pay for the bahar syxe fanans in money for the custome. It is sould vnclensed or vnpurged.

4. Of greene Ginger in conserues.

IN Bengala is founde greate plentie of Ginger Beledi, of the whiche they make muche Ginger in conserues with suger, and carie it in stone pots from Martabani to bee sould in the cauntrey of Malabar. And is woorth the farazuola [Page 238] (which is .xxii. poundes and syxe vnces) after the rate of .xiiii xv. or .xvi. fanans.

That that is freshe and made in conserues, is woorth in Calicut .xxv. fanans the farazuola, bycause suger is dere there. Greene ginger to put in conserues, is woorth in Calicut three quarters of one fanan the farazuola, which is abowte twoo poundes for one marchetto.

5. Of the Apothecaries drugges: And of what price they are in Calicut and Malabar.

LAcca of Martabani, if it bee of the beste, is woorth the farazuola, which is .xxii. pounde weyght and syxe vnces of Portugale after .xvi. vnces the pounde (whiche is abowte .xl. pounde weyght of the subtyle pounde of Uenece) And is in value .xviii. fanans: whiche are .xviii. marcels of syluer. For one fanan, is in value abowte one marcell of syluer.

Lacca of the contrey, is woorth the farazuola Fanan xii.
Borace that is good and in great pieces is woorthe the farazuola. Fanan .xxx. to .xl. & .l.
Camphire that is grosse in cakes, is woorth the farazuola Fanan .lxx. to .lxxx.
Camphire to annoynt Idoles, ***
Camphire for theyr chyldren to eate, is woorth the mytigal. Fanan iii.
Aguila is woorth the farazuola Fanan .ccc. to .cccc.
Lignum aloe, blacke, heauy, and fine, is woorth Fanan .M.
Muske of the best is woorth the vnce Fanan xxxvi.
Beniamin of the beste, is woorth the farazuola Fanan lxv.
Tamarindi being newe, are woorth the farazuola Fanan .iiii
Calamus aromaticus, the farazuola Fanan xii.
Endego to dye silke, trewe & good, the farazuola Fanan .xxx
Mirre, the farazuola. Fanan .xviii. to .xx.
Frankensence good and in graynes, is woorth the farazuola Fanan xv.
Frankensence in paste of the basest sorte, the faraz. Fanan .iii
Ambracan or amber greese that is good, is woorthe the metical Fanan ii. to .iii.
Mirabolanes in cōserue of suger, the faraz. Fanan .xvi. to .xxv
Cassia, freshe and good, and farazuola. Fanan one & a halfe
Redde Sanders, the farazuola Fanan .v. to .vi.
Whyte Sanders and citrine, whiche growe in the Ilande of Timor, the farazuola Fanan .xl. to .lx
Spikenarde, freshe and good, the faraz. Fanan .xxx. to .xl.
Nutte megges, whiche coome frome the Ilande of Bandan where the bahar is woorth from .viii. to .x. fanans, (which importe .vi. poundes weight to the marchetto) are woorthe in Calicut, the faraz. Fanan x. to xii.
Mace which is brought from the Ilande of Bandan where the Bahar is woorth fiftie fanans (which import abowt one marchetto the pounde are woorth in Calicut the farazuola. Fanan xxv. to .xxx.
Turbithes, are woorth the farazuola Fanan xiii.
Woorme seede of the best kynde, cauled Semenzina, is woorthe the farazuola. Fanan xv.
Zerumba, the farazuola Fanan ii.
Zedoarta, the farazuola Fanan i.
Gumme Serapine, the farazuola Fanan xx.
Aloe cicotrine, the farazuola Fanan xviii
Cardamome in graynes, the farazuola Fanan xx.
Reubarbe groweth abundantly in the countrey of Malabar: And that which commeth from China by Malacha, is worth the farazuola Fanan xl. to .l.
Mirabolani emblici, the farazuola Fanan ii.
Mirabolani belirici, the farazuola Fanan one & a halfe.
Mirabolani citrini & chebuli, which are al of one sort. Fa .ii.
Mirabolani Indi, which are of the same citrine trees Fa .iii.
Tutia, the farazuola Fanan xxx.
Cububes which growe in the Ilande of Iaua or Giaua, are there of smaule price, and sould by measure withowt weight. Opium which is browght from the citie of Aden where it is made, is woorth in Calicut the faraz. Fanan .cclxxx. to .cccxx.
Opium of an other sort which is made in Cambaia is woorth the farazuola, Fanan cc. to .ccl.

6. Of the Weyghtes of Portugale and India: And howe they agree.

THe pound of the owld weight, conteyneth .xiiii. vnces.

The pound of the newe weight conteyneth .xvi. vnces.

[Page 239]

viii. cantares of the owlde weyght, make .vii. of the newe.

And euery newe cantare, is of .C.xxviii, poundes after .xvi. vnces to the pounde

Euery owlde cantare, conteyneth three quarters and a halfe of the newe cantar: And is of .C.xxviii. poundes, after .xiiii vnces the pounde.

One farazuola, is: xxii. poundes of .xiiii. vnces, and .vi. vnces more, with two fifte partes.

Twentie farazuoles, are one Bahar.

One bahar is .iiii. cantares of the owld weight of Portugale. All the Spices and drugges, and all suche other thynges as coome frō India, are sould in Portugale by the owld weight and all the reste by the newe weyght.

Hereby may we well consider that as we owght to reioyse and gyue god thankes for the abundaunce of al these thinges which he causeth the earth so plentifully to brynge foorth to owre vse, so may we lament thabuse of men whose couetousnesse causeth great dearth and searsenesse in the myddest of abundance: herein no lesse offendyng the lawe of nature then doo such as by wychcrafte intermingle poyson with thinges created for the health of man, or by inchauntment corrupt the seedes in the ground: ye rather as the vnnatural mother who destroyeth the chylde whom she hath longe nuryshed.


[Page 292]

The prouince of Moscouia is neyther very large nor frutfull, forasmuche as the fertylytye is hyndered with sandye grounde which eyther with to muche drynesse or moyster kylleth the corne. Furthermore the immoderate and sharpe vntemperatenesse of the ayre while the coulde of the wynter ouercommethe the heate of the soonne, sumtymes dothe not suffer the corne to rype. For the coulde is there sumtyme so extreame, that lyke as with vs in sommer by reason of heate, euen so there by extreame coulde the yearth hath many great chynkes or breaches. Water also cast into the ayre, and spettle faulyng from ons mouthe, are frosen before they touche the grounde. I my selfe, when I came thether in the yeare 1526. sawe the braunches of frutefull trees wythyred by the coulde of the wynter before, which was so extreame that many of theyr wagoners or caries (whom they caule Gonecz) were founde frosen to deathe in theyr sleades. There were sum that at the same tyme leadyng and dryuyng theyr cattayle from the nexte villagies to Moscouia, dyed by the way with theyr beastes through thextremytie of the coulde. Furthermore, the same yeare many players that were accustomed to wander aboute the contrey with daunsyng beares, were founde dead in the high wayes. Wylde beares also inforced therto by famyn, lefte the wooddes and ranne here and there into dyuers villagies and houses: At whose commyng while the men of the countrey forsooke theyr houses and fledd into the fieldes, manye of them perysshed throughe the vehemencie of the coulde. Agayne, it sumtymes so chaunceth that in sommer the heate is as extreame: as in the yeare .1525. in the which almost al kynds of pulse and grayne were scorched and burnte: and such a derth of corne folowed that drought, that that which before was bowght for three dengas, was afterwarde soulde for .xx, or .xxx. Furthermore also, manye [Page] villagies, wooddes, and stackes of corne, were sette on fyre by thextreame heate: The smoke wherof so fylled the regyon, that the eyes of many were sore hurte therby. There arose also as it were a darke and thycke myst without smoke which so molested the eys, that many loste theyr sight therby.

They sowe and narysshe the seades of melons with great diligence in certeyne raysed beddes myxte with doonge: wherby they fynde a remedy both ageynst extreame could and heat. For if the heate exceade, they make certeyne ryftes in the beddes as it were breathyng places least the seades shulde be suffocate with to muche heate. And if the coulde bee extreme it is tempered with the heate of the mucke or dunge.

Theyr beastes are muche lesse then owres: yet not all withowt hornes as one hath written. For I haue there sene oxen, kyne, goates, and rammes all with hornes.

Not farre from the citie of Moscha, are certeyne monasteries which a farre of, seeme lyke vnto a citie. They saye that in thys citie is an incredible number of houses: And that the syxte yeare before my commynge thyther, the prince caused them to bee numbered, and founde them to bee more then one and fortye thousande and fyue hundreth houses. The citie is very large and wyde: and also very slabby and myrie. By reason wherof it hath many brydges and causeys.

The ayre of the regyon is so holsome, that beyond the sprynges of Tanais, especially towarde the north and a great parte also towarde the Easte, the pestylence hath not byne harde of sence the memorye of man. Yet haue they sumtimes a disease in theyr bowells and headdes not much vnlyke the pestylence. Thys disease they caule a heate: wherwith suche as are taken, dye within fewe dayes.

Sum wryte that Iohn the duke of Moscouia and sonne of Basilius, vnder the pretence of religion sacked & spoyled, the citie of Nouogardia: and caried with hym from thense to Moscouia three hundreth sleades laden with golde, syluer, and precious stones of the gooddes of the Archebysshoppe, the marchauntes, citisins, and straungiers.

Solowki is an Ilande situate in the north sea .viii. leaques from the continent betwen: Dwina and the province of Corela. Howe farre it is dystant from Moscouia, can not bee well knowne by reason of manye sennes, marysshes, [Page] Wooddes, and desolate places lyinge in the way. Albeit, sū say that it is not three hundreth leaques from Moscouia, & two hundreth frome Bieloiesero. In thys Ilande is made greate plenty of salte: and it hath in it a monasterie into the which it is not lawfull for any woman or virgyn to enter.

There is also great fysshyng for hearyng. They say that here the soonne at the sommer Equinoctiall, shyneth continually excepte two houres.

Demetriowe, is a citie with a castel, distante from Moscouia xii. leaques declining from the west sumwhat toward the north. By this runneth the ryuer Lachroma that runneth in to the ryuer of Sest. Sest also receaueth the ryuer Dubna which vnladeth it selfe in Uolga. And by the commoditie of thus many ryuers, many riche marchaundies are browght without great laboure or difficultie from the caspian sea by the ryuer Uolga to Moscouia and dyuers other prouynces & cities abowte the same.



If any complayne to the Iudge of the vyolence and wronge doonne vnto hym, the offender denyeth not the cryme, but sayth that he coulde not lacke that thyng. Then the Iudge is wonte to gyue thys sentence: If thowe also shalte haue neede of any thynge doo the lyke to other. Sum say they do not steale: But whether they steale or not, lette other iudge. They are surely a theeuysshe kynd of men and very poore, lyuynge only by robbyng of other, and stealyng away other mens cattayle, and vyolently also caryynge awaye the men them selues whom eyther they selle to the Turkes or proffer them to bee redemed by ransome, reseruynge only the younge wenches. They seldome assaulte cities or castells, but burne and waste townes and vyllagyes: In so muche that they so please them selues herin, that they thynke they haue so muche the more inlarged their empire, in howe muche they haue wasted and made desolate manye prouynces. And althowgh they bee moste impacyent of reste and quyetnesse, yet doo they not kyll or destroye one an other, excepte theyr kynges hee at dessention betweene them selues.

If any man bee slaine in any fraye or quarel, and the autours of the myschefe bee taken, only theyr horsse, harnesse, weapons, and apparell, are taken from them, and they dismissed. So that the murtherer by the losse of a vyle horse or a bowe, is dyscharged of the Iudge with these woordes: gette the hense and goo abowte thy busynesse. They haue no vse of golde and syluer, excepte only a fewe marchauntes: But exersyse exchaunge of ware for ware. And if it so chaunce that by sellyng of such thynges as they haue stolne, they gette any monye of theyr bortherers, they bye therwith certeyne apparel and other necessaryes of the Moscouites. The regyons of theyr habytations (the feelde Tartars I meane) are not lymytted with any boūdes or borthers. There was on a tyme a certeyne fatte Tartar taken prysoner of the Moscouites: to whom when the prynce sayd, How arte thow so fatte thowe dogge, sythe thowe haste not to eate, the Tartar answered, Why shulde not I haue to eate sythe I possesse so large a land from the East to the west, wherby I may bee abundauntely nuryushed? But thowe mayste rather seeme to lacke, syth thowe inhabytest so smaule a portion of the worlde, and duste [Page] dayly stryue for the same.

Casan, is a kyngedome, also a citie, and a castell of the same name, situate by the ryuer Uolga on the further banke, almost threscore and tenne leaques beneath Nouogaraia the lower. Alonge by the course of Uolga towarde the East and South, it is termined with deserte fyeldes. Towarde the sommer East, it confineth with the Tartars cauled Schibauski, and Kosatzki. The kynge of this prouince, is able to make an army of .xxx. thousande men, especially foote men, of the which the Czeremisse & Czubaschi are most expert archers. The Czubaschi are also cunnynge maryners, The citie of Casan, is threscore leaques distant frō the principal castel Uuiathka. Furthermore, Casan in the Tartars language, signifieth a brasen potte boylynge. These Tartars are more ciuile then the other. For they dwell in houses, tyll the grownde, and exercise the trade of marchaundies. They were of late subdued by Basilius the greate duke of Moscouia, and had theyr kynge assigned them at his arbitriment. But shortely after, they rebelled ageine: and associate with other Tartars, inuaded the region of Moscouia, spoyled and wasted many cities and townes, and ledde away innumerable captiues, euen from the citie Moscouia which they possessed for a tyme, and had vtterly destroyed the same if it had not byn for the valyantnesse of the Almayne gunners which kept the castell with great ordinaunce. They also putte duke Basilius to flyght, and caused him to make a letter of his owne hande to Machmetgirei theyr kynge to acknowleage hym selfe for a perpetuall tributarie to them, wheruppon they dissolued the siege, and gaue the Moscouites free libertie to redeeme theyr captiues and gooddes, and so departed. But Basilius not longe able to abyde this contumelie and dishonour, after that he had putte to death suche as flyinge at the fyast encounterynge were the cause of this ouerthrowe, assembled an armye of a hundreth and fourescore thousande men shortely after in the yeare .1523.

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corn, exchange, silver, waste

Source text

Title: THE DECADES of the newe worlde or west India, Conteynyng the navigations and conquestes of the Spanyardes, with the particular de scription of the moste ryche and large landes and Ilandes lately founde in the west Ocean perteynyng to the inheritaunce of the kinges of Spayne. In the which the diligent reader may not only consyder what commoditie may hereby chaunce to the hole christian world in tyme to come, but also learne many secreates touchynge the lande, the sea, and the starres, very necessarie to be knowe to al such as shal attempte any navigations, or otherwise have delite to beholde the strange and woonderfull woorkes of God and nature. Wrytten in the Latine tounge by Peter Martyr of Angleria, and trans lated into Englysshe by Rycharde Eden. LONDINI. In aedibus Guilhelmi Powell. ANNO. 1555.

Author: Pietro Martire d' Anghiera

Publisher: Guilhelmi Powell

Publication date: 1555

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bib Name / Number: STC (2nd ed.) / 647 Copy from: Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery Durable URL: xri:pqil:res_ver=0.2&rft_id=xri:eebo:citation:99840143

Digital edition

Original author(s): Pietro Martire d' Anghiera

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp, pp.238-9, 292-3, 301


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