The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - October 25

The world's best copy of Christopher Columbus' first letter about the lands he discovered is the highlight of a new show in Marche. There are only seven copies of the letter in museums around the world and perhaps only Columbus scholars know that the best one is kept in the civic museum in this small Adriatic port of Fermo, once a thriving maritime power.

Like most official documents of the time, it was written in Latin and transcribed onto parchment in that era before the printing press. Visitors to the the Fermo show can buy copies of it, translated into several languages. The letter, dated 1493, is addressed to the treasurer of the Spanish court which sponsored his historic voyage. Entitled 'Epistola de su gran descubrimiento', it waxes lyrical on the natural wonders and promised treasure Columbus felt sure he had found in the Indies.

The great explorer, who landed in the Dominican Republic in 1492, was convinced he had found a way west to India. It was only much later that he admitted he had discovered a new continent, starting with the West Indies. Aside from the letter, the show aims to help visitors feel what it must have been like to discover a new world. It includes nautical maps, sketches of flora and fauna, books, engravings and food containers which communicate the historical and cultural impact of America on the Old World.