Review by: Scott Hadley, The Classical Outlook - July 31, 2007
Columbus' First Voyage: Latin Selections from Peter Martyrs De Orbe Novo. By CONSTANCE P. IACONA and EDWARD
V. GEORGE. Wauconda IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers Inc., 2005. Pp. 39. Cloth. $20.
The authors make it quite clear that the premise behind using Latin readings concerning the New World is to widen the study of Latin to include other texts besides those of the traditional Roman authors. This by no means devalues such a traditional approach, but narrowing the study of Latin exclusively to the ancient world leaves out an entire body of work that includes not only the Middle Ages but also the Renaissance and the modern world. Thus, the authors try to bridge this gap by providing a Latin reader with five selections from Peter Martyr's De Orbe Novo. In the Preface and Introduction, the authors justify using these selections for several reasons but the two that seem to stand out the most are the purity of the Latin and the interest in the subject. As regards to the first reason, the authors assure us that Peter Martyr and his contemporaries believed that the most correct Latin was that of the Romans, especially Cicero, and that Martyr's narrative style follows that of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars. As regards to the second reason, the authors believe that literature of the "Hispanic New World" is just the thing for a contemporary US readership with a growing Hispanic population and growing relations with Spanish speaking countries in this hemisphere.
The Introduction also provides interesting background information into Peter Martyr as the author of the earliest history of Columbus' voyages and the person responsible for coining the term "New World" in the very title of his book. Also a paragraph is included here concerning the controversial image of Columbus himself which prepares the reader for a multidimensional perspective of the subject and encourages a critical reading.
Taking a look at the five individual selections themselves, the reader will find that they are not only attractive in appearance but also comfortable to read. First, each selection includes a reproduction of an illustration from a 1493 printing of Columbus' letter. There are also maps and charts that facilitate following both the voyage and the historical chronology. Second, selections are comfortable to read because the right hand page has an introductory paragraph of the selection with the selection itself which never extends on to the next page. At a glance on the left is the vocabulary and some notes corresponding to different lines of the selection. Very rarely do the authors translate entire phrases but give extensive grammatical help for understanding. On the next two pages following each selection of the text are the "Background Notes" which are very extensive and can satisfy a variety of interests. The Latin text is reprinted on these pages so that at no time does the reader have to flip hack and forth to see what the notes referred to. A Latin to English lexicon is furnished at the end of the book that brings all of the vocabulary help from the different selections.
Perhaps one of the most interesting pedagogical features of the book is the use of the "auxiliary sentences" which were inspired by the late Gareth Morgan. These are grouped together by selection at the end of the book and they provide a variety of simplified forms of individual sentences from the text that the reader can use to understand the sentence without being provided with a direct translation. Some of the sentences have four or five or even seven alternatives where the vocabulary and the syntax are slightly altered between each. As to their use, the authors suggest that students can read these auxiliary sentences before taking on the selection or after depending on their individual abilities. There is also an extensive bibliography that invites further reading on Columbus and other related topics.
To conclude, the authors are quite successful in showing the role that histories of the New World can play in the study of Latin by providing different and interesting reading topics with high linguistic quality. It is hoped that this book inspires more study in the different directions that represent the richness of the language the Romans left us.
Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla
shadley_k@yahoo. com. mx
Review by: Craig Kallendorf, Seventeenth-Century News - May 1, 2007
Columbus' First Voyage: Latin Selections from Peter Martyr's De Orbe Novo. Ed. by Constance P. Iacona and Edward V. George. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2005. xv + 39 pp. $20. This is an intermediate Latin text that offers unusual promise for the classroom. While the central place in any beginning Latin program must be occupied by the standard Roman authors, most readers of this journal will be open to the argument that judiciously used, Neo-Latin material can offer a useful supplement. Since good Latin in the Renaissance was understood to be classical Latin, the best writers expressed themselves in ways that are very hard to distinguish from Cicero and Virgil. Thus nothing, or next to nothing, is sacrificed in terms of grammar and style if a good Neo-Latin text is read, and something considerable can be gained if the subject matter is of interest to the students. That is what we have here.
Peter Martyr of Angleria (1457-1526) was an Italian in the service of the Spanish crown. He had a patron back in Italy; though, whom he had promised to keep abreast of his activities, and when Columbus returned with stories of what he had found on his voyages, Martyr began almost immediately to interview the travellers and prepare reports on what they said. Samuel Eliot Morison, the distinguished historian, describes De Orbe Novo as the earliest history of the 'New' World', although the full scope of what Columbus had found was not immediately understood.
Columbus has become a controversial figure, being both praised for his daring and courage and condemned for his role in starting the encounter between the Europeans and the indigenous peoples that had such disastrous consequence for the latter group. Martyr's text can be read against both interpretations. The background notes included by the editors refer the reader to the other main sources for Columbus' first voyage: Columbus' own journal, abstracted by Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas; Columbus' 1493 letter announcing his discoveries; the biography of Columbus by his son Ferdinand; and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo's Natural History of the West Indies. Martyr's account does not always agree with what is found in these other sources, allowing for discussions of motive and historical method that can be fleshed out through reference to the bibliography at the end of the book.
Martyr's Latin style is much like that of Caesar's Gallic Wars, favoring spare simplicity over ornate embellishment making it as easy to use in the intermediate-level classroom as Caesar. Each Latin extract is accompanied by vocabulary and notes, along with contextual explanations in English and engaging pictures. There are also a group of "auxiliary sentences" which convey Martyr's thought in somewhat easier form, allowing different teaching strategies depending on the level at which particular students are working.
For American students in particular, this book offers a chance to see how Latin maintained its relevance beyond the limits they typically imagine. It is one thing to say in general terms that people like Copernicus and Newton wrote in Latin; it's quite another to show them how Latin was the language that carried news of an event whose importance will be immediately obvious to them. I'm going to give this book a try in my intermediate Latin class. (Craig Kallendorf)
Review by: Bob Bass, JACT, The Journal of Classics Teaching - June 1, 2006
COLUMBUS' FIRST VOYAGE: LATIN SELECTIONS FROM PETER MARTYR'S DE ORBE NOVO, ed. by Constance P. Iacona and Edward V. George
Bolchazy-Carducci (2005) p/b 39pp $18.00 (ISBN 0865166137)
In the corpus of writers of post-classical Latin. the name of Peter Martyr cannot be described as pre-eminent. A Florentine humanist, M. was tutor at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella and then Spanish Royal Chronicler under Charles V. He had direct contact with the first Spanish explorers and from interviews with these he produced in Latin what were the first historical accounts of their voyages in the Americas. These are, therefore, of seminal importance to experts in this field. M.'s De Orbe Novo (the first usage of the phrase 'the New World') was published between 1511 and 1530 and was first translated into English in 1555.
This modest but intriguing tome is well produced and thorough in its approach. It contains five selections totalling a mere 84 lines of text. Each section, introduced by a full-page woodcut, consists of a brief introduction and text (with macrons), with vocabulary and linguistic glosses opposite. The text is then reprinted with detailed historical notes. Some 'auxiliary sentences' are included to aid comprehension of M.'s prose, and a bibliography and Latin-English lexicon bring up the rear.
M.'s Latin is nicely classical with a simplicity reminiscent of Caesar. The subject matter would he of great interest to historians of the period. It is of course intended for the American market. On this side of the pond it might be used as an off-beat diversion for those preparing for A Level - assuming that there is the leisure time and budget to spare - but it could not in all fairness be described as a must-have resource.
Bob Bass - Orwell Park School
Review by: Geoffrey Barto, Multilingua.info - October 24, 2005
A Little Latin, A Little History
Columbus' First Voyage
Latin Selections from Peter Martyr's De Orbe Novo
Constance Iacona and Edward George
Every junior Latinist knows that Gaul is divided in three parts. And every junior historian knows (we hope!) that "In 1492 / Columbus sailed the ocean blue." But there might be more to learn.
In the typical Latin class, one learns the Latin of the Golden Age - Ovid, Vergil, Cicero... What isn't so widely realized is that at different times, the language of that age was taken up again by men of learning and sophistication (or at least those who wanted to appear as such). This means that from time you'll find a writer from another era whose prose won't be that different from Caesar's. One such man is Peter Martyr, who just happened to be hanging around the Spanish court when Columbus went on his first expeditions. Martyr wrote back home to former senior associates and the letters were such a hit that they were distributed all over.
Were Martyr famous, it would be for the phrase "The New World." His "De Orbe Novo" is probably the first reference to the idea. But Martyr was not a starstruck fan of Columbus. He called 'em as he saw 'em, making for interesting reading as an intelligent observer gives one man's view of the living, breathing Cristopher Columbus, both from personal observation and based on chats with the Columbus' crew and numerous others.
In Columbus' First Voyage, the authors take a handful of excerpts from Martyr's writing, put in extensive glosses to help the beginning student along and include copious notes on what others were writing, as well as what the historical literature has turned up. What results is not quite a Latin primer and not quite histori(ographi)cal scholarship, but a mix of the two that should remind high school and college students - and other readers of Latin - that they have special tools for approaching and understanding the past that others might lack and that are worth developing.
Columbus' First Voyage is not a comprehensive look at Martyr, Columbus or the implications of the discovery of "A New World." But it is an excellent starting point for those seeking an often overlooked perspective about the explorer - that of the people of his own time. In Columbus' First Voyage, less advanced students have a relatively authentic bit of prose to work through with interesting subject matter. But more than that, general readers with some Latin have a nicely assembled source book dealing with a historical matter often debated in 20th/21st century terms but rarely considered from the vantage point of those who lived through the period.
Review by: Chris DeSalvo, This and That (blog) - October 21, 2005
The nice folks at Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers have sent me two more Latin books for review. The one I’m reviewing here got me really excited:
Columbus’ First Voyage: Latin Selections from Peter Martyr’s De Orbe Novo
by Constance Iacona and Edward George
Peter Martyr was a contemporary of Christopher Columbus. He was educated in Rome as a geographer, and then went to Spain to act as a diplomat. When he left Italy he promised his patron that he would report frequently. He certainly kept his word. For ten years he wrote about the conquest of the Americas - in fact he’s credited with having coined the phrase “The New World”. Martyr personally interviewed Columbus on his return, plus many of his shipmates. As more and more happened across the sea, Martyr’s reports were the primary source of the news outside of Spain.
Anyway, this book is a collection of five passages from Martyr’s De Orbe Novo, plus supplementary materials to both aid, and interest the Latin scholar. I really like the concept behind this book. It is hard for us to think about now, but until about 300 years ago all European scholarly writing was in Latin. Every educated person could read it in addition to their native tongue. Most current Latin courses focus on Classical authors, but there is a lot of really fascinating material in Latin for students to read. I think it’s great that Latin educators today are finding good ways to keep Latin study fun.
For each of the five passages there are:
* the Latin text
* a brief English summary
* detailed analysis of the passages
* vocabulary and notes
* an illustration
There are also lots of other bits such as a chart comparing Latin, Spanish, and modern English forms of the names of the major players in the text: Christophorus Colo-nus, Cristóbal Cólon, Christopher Columbus. There are also timelines, maps, auxiliary sentences from De Orbe Novo, and a full vocabulary list at the end.
I had a good time going through this book and I hope that more works like this are produced. My only complaint, and it’s my usual one, is that the book is too short. Of course, I also think that the extended 11 hour DVD version of The Lord of the Rings is too short.
Review by: Sharon Kazmierski, The Classical Outlook, 83.1Latinteach Newslist - October 1, 2005
DE ORBE NOVO
Columbus' First Voyage: Latin Selections from Peter Martyr's De Orbe Novo is a new intermediate Latin reader, edited for students by Constance P. lacona and Edward V. George. Geared toward Latin students in their second or third year of high school Latin or in their third or fourth semester of college, this slim paperback volume (only forty pages) includes five highly readable selections from the fifteenth century Italian-born Spanish historian's account of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World. The simplicity and elegance of Martyr's Latin will undoubtedly give intermediate students more confidence in their reading ability while the controversial figure of Christopher Columbus will certainly spark some thoughtful and lively classroom discussion. This Bolchazy-Carducci edition features facing vocabulary and grammatical commentary, useful background notes and a Latin-to-English lexicon. Particularly helpful are the auxiliary sentences keyed to each selection. Students may use these sentences as a preface to reading the actual selections or they may use them as a reference for understanding Martyr's syntax. Macrons are included and will be particularly welcomed by teachers who wish to emphasize the proper pronunciation of the Latin.
Review by: Ginny Lindzey, Porter Middle School - September 27, 2005
I have just received a copy of _Columbus's First Voyage: Latin Selections from Peter Martyr's De Orbe Novo_ by Constance Iacona and Ed George.
I really didn't think I was going to have time to look at this slim but delightful little volume this afternoon, but I got sucked in.
The preface describes how Peter Martyr had actually interviewed Columbus and his crew, which sounded almost too modern. Of course, there are other historical sources from the period which differ in some regard from what he has written, but the authors of this text give several suggestions for the reasons this is the case.
I was just about to save this text for later when my beloved methods prof, the late Gareth Morgan, was mentioned in regard to the use of Auxiliary Sentences. I admit that I didn't know about his auxiliary sentences, but this strategy does not surprise me in the least. That is, in the back of the book there are sets of Auxiliary Sentences for each section that you can read in order to understand the grammar in the actual section.
I was intrigued so I turned straight away to these sentences. After reading through the dozen sentences which increased in length or complexity, I was able to read the first section of the narrative with no problem. (Keep in mind that after teaching just level one Latin for several years, you do admittedly get a little rusty with more complex sentences.) I immediately jumped to the second section, pausing long enough to work through the auxiliary sentences first, which are truly valuable.
Now, perhaps I'm just ignorant of my early American history, but there was something fascinating to me (who knows why) to learn that the Santa Maria was a cargo vessel while the other two were caravels (?) or light merchant ships. I didn't realize Columbus and company had discovered what is now Cuba and Haiti/Dominican Republic first. I'm eager to read more, but really need to grade papers.
There are some other features about this book which I like a lot. First, MACRONS! If I'm going to take the time to work on my own reading skills, I want to learn new words the RIGHT WAY--in context and with the right pronunciation. I can't do this if the words don't have macrons because then I'm forever debating in my head how the word must sound unless I stop to look it up, and then it becomes tedious work, quickly tossed aside. Hidden vowel quantities aren't marked (rex really should be rEx), but otherwise I'm thrilled to see the macrons. I want to be able to *hear* what I'm reading and without a native speaker around, I'm all I've got.
Next, there are wonderful, wonderful woodcuts throughout. I love this kind of stuff, but then I'm a sucker for old books. Timelines are also included, as well as facing vocabulary and notes, a glossary at the back, maps, plus background material.
My only disappointments in the book are 1) it's too short! There are only 5 passages/sections and after two I'm hooked for more, and 2) I fear that it may be a little more than most people would want to spend on a 40 page text at $17--oh, but wait! The website (www.bolchazy.com) says it has been discounted to $12.75.
However, I can tell more time went into book preparation on this volume than in previous volumes I've seen of other authors--that is, taking the time to typeset and double check macrons is no easy task and probably something that editors are often eager to avoid. I applaud the editors of this volume, LeaAnn Osburn and Vicki Wine, for sticking to their guns and taking the time to produce a QUALITY reader for those of us who want to continue with building their reading skills. (I confess I have put down books that I would otherwise have eagerly continued to read because I really wanted to *hear* what I was reading and became too frustrated with the lack of macrons.) I know that I'm probably on my own with my obsession for macrons so that I can pronounce new words in context and learn them in that fashion, but having them means I really will finish reading this book, as opposed to other fairly recent texts that lacked them and are now gathering dust.
I personally think this Columbus text would be great to have as a class set to use for when the AP Exams are over, or for a break at Thanksgiving. It's a small tidbit, but just the right size for sticking into your curriculum once your students have met subjunctives. Earmark your fundraising money for a set of these. If nothing else, it lets students see a true international language at work.