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ART. I.-On the Discovery of North America by the Scan
dinavians, about the year 986. [Translated from the first number of the Svea, a new scientific paper, published in
Sweden, by F. H. Schroeder.] THE discovery of the new hemisphere, together with the immense treasures it contains, belongs undoubtedly to those extraordinary events, from which, towards the end of the fifteenth century, a new order of things was generated in the ancient world. At the time, when those important changes took place, new empires, founded upon a series of states, hurried to destruction, had been formed of fresh tribes, arrived from the north, in the southern and western parts of Europe. Under a more southerly and serener sky, they preserved, for a considerable period, that ardent desire for adventures, which, at all times, and through all ages, has most promiscuously distinguished the Normans; and it was certainly this very same restless and active character of the new inhabitants of those states, which created the dawning day of the modern history of Europe, which began with the commencement of its renovated political institutions.
Christopher Colon was born in those times, and nourished in the same spirit. He was the first, who ventured to navigate the western ocean, and opened to the Europeans the way to America. In after-ages, several learned men have examined, with undeniable sagacity, whether Colon had really first discovered the new world, or whether it had already been known to our ancestors before him.
Among the great number of valuable scientific documents, not sufficiently known, of the library of St. Mark at Venice, two maps of the year 1436 were found, published by Andrea Bianco, on which, far to the westward of the Atlantic ocean, in the same latitude with Gibraltar, a great island was marked under the name of Antillia; and to the north of that island, in the latitude of Cape Finisterre, a smaller island, called Isola de la Man Satanaxio, Vincenzio Formalconi, in 'Saggio sulla nautica antica de Veneziani,' Venezia, 1783, has made various examinations on this subject, in a particular dissertation, published under the title of “ Illustrazioni di due charte antiche della Biblioteca di S. Marco, che dimostrano l'isole Antille primo della scoperta di Christoforo Colombo.' From his inquiries it results, that according to his views, by Antillia was understood one of the present Antillæ or West India islands, and that, in consequence, our ancestors knew America in earlier times, or at least that group of islands, situated in front of the American continent; but, that its knowledge was lost again, until Colon reopened the way to this country, to all future generations. Formalconi observes on this occasion: non e percio minore la gloria di Colombo, che seppe ritrovare una terra perduta, e aprirsi il passagio all'opposto emisfero,' by which he expressed, that the glory of Colon is not lessened, on account of an earlier discovery of America, since he knew to rediscover a lost country, and open
himself passage to the opposed hemisphere.' However, in examining more accurately the maps of Bianco, one can easily perceive, that Formalconi was far from having exhausted the subject.
This circumstance has given rise to latter examinations by N. Buache, whose researches are contained in the 'Memoires de l'institut des Sciences, Lettres, et Arts, Tome VI, Paris 1306,' in which his dissertation is especially to be found, in the “ Memoires de la Classe des Sciences Mathimatiques et Physiques,' page 1-29, entitled: "Recherches sur l'ile Antillia et sur l'epoque de la decouverte de l'Amerique.' From this interesting publication we learn, that the island of Antillia, and that of Isola de la Man Satanaxio, must be comprehended, according to all probability, in the Archipelago which forms the Azores. From accounts of more ancient authors, whose opinions he knew artfully to connect, but especially from a map of earlier date, than the before-mentioned, that of F. Picignano, Venice, 1367, which is contained in the cabinet of the duke of Parma,-Buache endeavours to prove, that the island of Antillia most probably Sanct Mi. chel; and Isola de la Man Satanaxio, the Puo of the Azores, the latter of which is known on accuunt of its volcano, and in earlier times was called, in consequence of this phenomenon, bont de Satan, or Devil's Mount. In like manner, Teneriffe, one of the Canary Islands, was called on the oldest maps, Isola del Inferno, or Hell Island,
Buache, in consequence of his statements, maintained, against the hypothesis of Formalconi, that it is Colon alone, to whom the glory of having discovered America is to be ascribed, and he concluded his dissertation with the following expression: “il resulte de ces diverses considerations, que l'Ile Antillia n'etoit point une des iles de l'Amerique, et qu'ainsi l'Amerique n'etoit point connue avant le premier voyage de Christophe Colomb. C'est a ce navigateur seul qu'appartient la gloire de la decouverte du Nouveau Monde.'
In our subsequent remarks on this subject, we shall lowever show, that the researches of Buache, are far from being conclusive, and although it may appear strange to the learned of the southern parts of Europe, that northern documents should contain more positive elucidations on this important matter, yet the fact really exists. The accounts inserted more than a century ago, in the Vinlandia and Groenlandia Antiqua of Torfaeus, concerning the subject before us, appear, notwithstanding the time elapsed since their publication, not to be sufficiently known; we shall therefore communicate some illustrations on the subject, which may be considered as the continuation of Buache's inquiries.
The earliest traditions, which must be considered as the beginning of the northern history, furnish us with accounts of voyages of discovery to unknown countries. To this class belongs Fundin Noregur, which is the relation of an expedition from Sweden to Norway. The young Viking, at a premature age,
and Iceland was known to the inhabitants of the north already about the middle of the ninth century, when it was called Snow Land, on account of the constant snow, which remained on the tops of the mountains. Gardar Svafarson, a Swede, navigated afterwards round the island, and gave it the name of Gardarsholm, or Island of Gardar. His follower was Flocke, a Norman, who called it Iceland, which denomination it preserves to the present day. A great political event in Norway gave rise to the formation of a colony on that island. For, since king Harald Haarfager subdued the whole of Norway, the flower of the Norwegian nobility withdrew from the dominion of the despot, and they went with their liberty and their Sagas (traditions) to Iceland. Ingolf was their chief, and founder of the new colony, which took place in the year 874.
From that time also begin the written documents of the inhabitants of Iceland, and we may follow, from that period, with perfect security, the maritime expeditions of the Scandinavians. Greenland was discovered a century after the colonization of Iceland. Erik Raude, a Norman, sailed in the year 981 from Iceland, and fell in with an unknown coun
try to the north of that island, which, at the time, was blessed with such a mild climate, that Erik, on account of its delightful verdure, was induced to call it Greenland. At his return, it was not difficult to persuade his countrymen, to take possession of the new discovered land, and to make settlements on its coasts. Already in the year 985,* Erik Raude carried the new settlers, in twenty-five vessels, to the eastern coast of Greenland; and it is from that part of the world, that new expeditions of discovery were undertaken, by the Scandinavians, to remote unknown countries. These expeditions are related in Are Frode, Sturleson, Landnama, and Erybriggia, Saga, &c. and according to the accounts these documents contain, we shall now proceed to the historical examination of the subject at present under our consideration.
Towards the beginning of the eleventh century, at the time when Olaf Tryggvason fought for Christianism, we find the first accounts of voyages devoted to discoveries, and since Iceland, and even Greenland, were aboriginally settled from Norway, her kings, considering their empire as the mother country, had a desire to rule those countries, in which attempt they however succeeded only in latter periods, and never to their entire satisfaction. But, notwithstanding these unfavourable circumstances, Olaf Tryggvason, could not be shaken in his pious zeal, but he sent, at an early period, missionaries to those remote countries, to spread the doctrines of Christianism among their inhabitants. On this occasion, Sturleson relates, in Olaf Tryggvason's Sagas, in an episode, the voyages of discovery, which the Scandinavians undertook from Greenland.
* Dr. Cranz, in his history of Greenland, observes, that after the year 986, there were on the eastern coast, one hundred and ninety farms, twelve churches, two convents and two towns, called Garde and Hrattalid or Albe; and on the western coast, four churches and one hundred and ten farms.-S.