See it Now: Columbus’s Book of Privileges

Columbus's "Book of Privileges." 1502. Manuscript Division.

Columbus’s “Book of Privileges.” 1502. Manuscript Division.

On January 5, 1502, prior to his fourth and final voyage to America, Christopher Columbus gathered several judges and notaries in his home in Seville to authorize the authentic copies of his archival collection of original documents through which Queen Isabella of Castille and her husband, King Ferdinand of Aragon, had granted titles, revenues, powers and privileges to him and his descendants. These 36 documents are popularly called Columbus’s “Book of Privileges.” Four copies of this volume existed in 1502 – three written on vellum and one on paper.

John Herbert, former chief of the Library’s Geography and Maps Division, talks about the book in this video presented in partnership with the History Channel.

The Library’s copy of the “Book of Privileges” – one of the three on vellum – is the only one to contain the Papal Bull Dudum siquidem, the four-page letter that Pope Alexander VI composed on Sept. 26, 1493, which is thought by some scholars to contain the first written reference to a New World.

The papal letter is among the 91 full-size, full-color facsimile pages bound into the Library’s new book, “Christopher Columbus Book of Privileges: The Claiming of a New World,” which also contains the first authorized facsimile of the Library’s copy of the royal charters, writs and grants.

In addition, the pages of the letter have been printed on four loose sheets that are pocketed inside. A translation of the papal bull, which was authenticated in the 1930s, is included.

Levenger Press printed the book in the U.S. to rigorous production standards that include a Smythe-sewn binding and archival-quality paper, both to ensure the book’s longevity. The 184-page hardcover book is available for $89 from the Library of Congress Shop.

The Library debuted “Christopher Columbus Book of Privileges: The Claiming of a New World” at this year’s National Book Festival. A webcast of the presentation is forthcoming.

7 Comments

  1. Janet Davenport
    October 13, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    I’d love to read the book, can’t afford to buy a copy though. Is a copy available to local libraries, like Portland, OR?

  2. Erin Allen
    October 15, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Thank you for your interest! You’ll have to check with your local library to see if they carry or intend to carry the book.

  3. Timoteo Victoriano Sepulveda
    May 11, 2016 at 5:16 am

    My ancestorial family also have a”Book of Privileges”,known as Los Fueros de Sepulveda,and are located in the Church of San Just y Pastor in Sepulveda,Spain…
    Sincerly,
    T.V.Sepulveda

  4. dick lea
    July 2, 2017 at 10:56 am

    a very fine copy of this was made in 1893. How many were made, and are they costly?

  5. Wendi Maloney
    July 11, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Thank you for your inquiry. The facsimile of the Paris copy of the Book of Privileges was compiled by B.F. Stevens and was a limited edition of only 20 copies. This is, however, a facsimile of the manuscript that still resides in the Paris Archives and is not a copy of the one found at the Library of Congress and pictured in the blog post. The Book of Privileges is known in three, more or less complete, manuscript copies, one in Genoa, one in Paris, and one at the Library of Congress, with a fragmentary copy also found at the Huntington Library. A facsimile of the Library of Congress copy of the Columbus cartulary, including the appended papal bulls, was edited by curator John Hessler and Renaissance scholar, Chet Van Duzer, and published by the Library of Congress in 2014. It is still available.

  6. Dave Setteducati
    September 29, 2017 at 7:02 am

    This book substantiates the notion that the Spanish Crown wanted to renege on their promises to Columbus. False charges were brought against him, as false charges are once again circulating about him in the movement to drop Columbus day from the calendar.

  7. Timoteo Victorian Sepulveda
    June 20, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    Los FUEROS de SEPULVEDA
    Y
    Las SOCIEDADES de Frontera

    The PRIVILEGES OF

    “SEPULVEDA’

    NOTE:MY FAMILIES ‘FUERO’HAS BEEN NOTED AND RECORDED IN FLORIDA,LOUISANA,TEXAS,NEW MEXICO,ARIZONA and ALTA CALIFORNIA SINCE 1769 WHEN WE ARRIVED AT THE ROYAL FORT OF SAN DIEGO,ETC….
    SINCERELY,T.V. SEPULVEDA

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