Details of the recent Vinland Map discoveries

Details of the recent Vinland Map discoveries

Postby John Paul Floyd » Tue 21 May 2013, 13:44

Hello all,

I've drawn up a press release providing further details of my discoveries in relation to the Vinland Map. It's been sent to a few news outlets, where I fully expect it to vanish without trace! However, the information will hopefully be of interest to some here.

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND, May 21 2013 - New light has been shed upon the controversial Vinland Map, a document once hailed as the earliest known representation of America.

The map emerged onto the international book market in 1957, with no clear information as to its provenance. In 1965, a group of three experts from Yale University and the British Museum concluded that the map dated from around 1440, some fifty years before the voyages of Christopher Columbus. Its depiction of North America was said to derive from Norse accounts of explorations in the region. Publication of the Yale study enraged vocal supporters of Columbus, and the authenticity of the map was soon challenged on scientific and other grounds.

Now an independent researcher has investigated the background of two authentic medieval manuscripts known as the Tartar Relation and the Speculum Historiale, with which the map was bound. In a remarkable twist, it turns out that these manuscripts were displayed in public in the late nineteenth century - at an exhibition commemorating the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.

“The historical irony is breathtaking,” says John Paul Floyd, 43, from Glasgow, who is currently completing a book on the subject. “The documents feature in the catalogue of the Exposición Histórico-Europea, held in Madrid in 1892-93 [1]. The aim of the exhibition was to illustrate the richness of European civilisation around the time of the Columbus expedition. It is evident that there was still no map associated with the documents at that time.”

Floyd has uncovered another reference to the documents in a 1926 book, which contains historical source material collected by a Spanish priest and scholar, Cristóbal Pérez Pastor [2]. He believes that Pérez Pastor examined the manuscripts at the Madrid exhibition, and that the priest's description can be used to show that the very piece of parchment on which the map was later drawn was present in the volume at the time.

Crucially, the manuscripts were supplied to the Madrid exhibition by the Cathedral Church of Zaragoza. Hundreds of rare books and manuscripts are known to have been stolen from Zaragoza Cathedral Library in the 1950's. Enzo Ferrajoli, the Spanish-based Italian dealer who sold the Vinland Map in 1957, was later convicted in connection with the thefts.

“The fate of the Zaragozan items raises disturbing ethical questions” says John Paul Floyd, who has studied the case closely. “Many were acquired by respectable institutions which refused point-blank to return them. British Museum archival records from the 1960s reveal that the authorities chose not to inform the Spanish Embassy of the fact that some of its recent acquisitions could be traced back to Ferrajoli.”

Not content with resolving the issue of provenance, Floyd also claims to have identified the cartographical source used by the forger. “Experts have long been aware of similarities between the Vinland Map and a 1436 world map attributed to the Venetian cartographer Andrea Bianco. What nobody has realised until now is that the forger actually relied upon a 1782 engraving of the Bianco map, which differs slightly from the original [3]. To take an example, the engraving shows a small branched projection on the southern border of the Black Sea. This projection doesn't appear in Bianco - but it does feature in the Vinland Map.”


[1] Exposición Histórico-Europea, 1892 á 1893: Catálogo General (Madrid: Establecimiento Tipográfico de Fortanet, 1893). Sala X: Excmo. Cabildo Metropolitano de Zaragoza, no. 53.

[2] Cristóbal Pérez Pastor, [Emilio Cotarelo, ed.], Noticias y documentos relativos á la historia y literatura españolas, recogidos por D. Cristóbal Pérez Pastor, Individuo electo de la Real Academia Española, Tomo III [= Memorias de la Real Academia Española, Tomo XII] (Madrid:Tipografía de la Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos, 1926), 89.

[3] Vincenzio Formaleoni, Illustrazione di due Carte Antiche della Biblioteca di S. Marco , published together with his Saggio sulla nautica antica de' Veneziani
Con una illustrazione d'alcune carte idrografiche antiché della biblioteca di S Marco, che dimostrano l'isole Antille prima della scoperta di Cristoforo Colombo
(Venice: Formaleoni, 1783).

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A couple of further remarks. At first sight, the Pérez Pastor reference gives the impression that the scholar encountered the Speculum-Tartar Relation codex in the church archives of Palencia, in north-northeast Spain. However, there are very strong objective reasons (which I set out fully in my book) for believing that the editor was mistaken on this point. In any case,it is certain that both of the pre-1957 references relate to the manuscripts which are now at Yale.

The Formaleoni engraving was reproduced in the collections of Santarem and Nordenskiöld. The curious depiction of the Sea of Marmara in the Vinland Map is due to the fact that a decorative icon in the Formaleoni engraving obscures the rest of the sea (in the Bianco map itself, the sea is visible beneath the icon). There are other instances in which creator of the Vinland Map blundered in copying Formaleoni's careless deviations from Bianco.
John Paul Floyd
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue 26 Mar 2013, 13:25

Re: Details of the recent Vinland Map discoveries

Postby LuisRobles » Tue 28 May 2013, 21:58

I am surprised that nobody has posted a reply yet to the message above. Personally I am eager to know more about Mr Floyd’s investigation, and look forward to his book.

I guess that in the good old times of the MapHist listserv such an announcement would have generated tens of emails. Why does indifference seem to reign now in this forum?
Luis A. Robles Macías

Posts: 18
Joined: Thu 05 Jan 2012, 11:02
Location: California

Re: Details of the recent Vinland Map discoveries

Postby E. F. Vogt » Fri 14 Feb 2014, 21:03

Congratulations on your bibliographic discoveries, I find them quite exciting!

I wonder about Pastor's reference to Palencia being a mistake and that both references are to the same manuscript, as the contents described are different. Pastor has that Speculum containing the "second and thrid parts", whereas the Speculum from the Colombian Exhibition is described as containing "books 21 through 24 of the third part", much more consistent with the Yale manuscript, which, however, contains books 21 through 25. It seems a little hard to credit that he made two such fundamental errors in his description of the manuscript as to get both its location and content wrong. Given that Gregory Guzman found a second, older copy of the Tartar Relation also appended to a Speculum in 2004, establishing a precedent for a manuscript tradition of binding the two together, I wonder if what you have found is evidence of a third, and possibly I suppose a fourth, such combinations. I guess I'll just have to wait for your book to learn what the strong objective reasons are that have you concluding they are both references to the Yale manuscript, yet I am more keen to discover why this is important to your thesis.

It is intriguing, to say the least, that the exhibition manuscript was supplied by one of the very institutions Ferrajoli was convicted of stealing from, and that Pastor's description includes the detail that the signatures contain the same mix of vellum and paper that is found in the Yale documents.
E. F. Vogt
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu 13 Feb 2014, 04:31

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