The Smugglers' City
Department of History, University of Bristol


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London Chronicles of John Cabot's voyage of 1498

Source: J.A. Williamson, The Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery Under Henry VII (Hakluyt Society, Second Series, No. 120, CUP, 1962), pp. 220-23
Manuscript: Various, see notes.
Web version by:
Somaya Ebrahim (2004)

(i) The Great Chronicle of London 1

Thys yere also [September 1497-September 1498], the kyng by
meanys of a venyzian which made hym sylf verray expert &
kunnyng In knowlage of the cyrcuyte of the world and Ile landis
of the same, as by a caart & othir demonstracions Reasonable he
shewid, Cawsid the kyng to man & vytayll a Shypp at Brystow to
seche for an Ile land which he said he knewe well was Rich &
Replenysshid with Rych commodytees, Which shyp thuys mannyd
& vitaylid at the kyngis Cost dyvers marchauntis of london
aventrid In (hir) small stokkys beyng In hir as chieff patron the
said venesian, and In the Company of the said shypp saylid also
owth of Brystow iij or iiij smale shyppis ffrawgth wyth sleygth &
groos marchandysis as course cloth cappis lasis poyntis & other
tryfyls And so departid ffrom Brystow In the begynnyng off
maii, Of whoom in this mayris tyme Retowrnd noo tydyngisy.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Thys yere also [September 1501-September 1502] were
browgth unto the kyng iij men takyn In the Newe ffound Ile
land, that beffore I spak of In wylliam purchas tyme beyng mayer,
These were clothid In bestys skynnys and ete Rawe fflesh and spak
such spech that noo man cowde undyrstand theym, and In theyr
demeanure lyke to bruyt bestis whom the kyng kept a tyme afftyr,
Of the whych upon (ij) yeris passid (afftir) I sawe ij of theym
apparaylyd afftyr Inglysh men In westmysteyr paleys, which at
that tyme I cowde not dyscern ffrom Inglysh men tyll I was
lernyd what men they were, But as ffor spech I hard noon of them
uttyr oon word.

(ii) 'Cronicon regum Anglie' 2

This yere the kyng at the besy request and supplicacion of a
Straunger venisian, which by a Caart made hym self expert in
knowyng of the world, caused the kyng to manne a ship with
vytaill & other necessaries for to seche an Iland wheryn the said
straunger surmysed to be grete comodities. With which ship by
the kynges grace so rygged went iij or iiij moo owte of Bristowe,
the said straunger beyng Conditor of the said fflete. Wheryn
dyvers merchauntes aswell of london as Bristow aventured goodes
& sleight merchaundises, which departed from the west cuntrey
in the begynnyng of somer, but to this present moneth came
revir knowledge of their exployt.

(iii) The Chronicle of Robert Fabyan as rendered by Richard Hakluyt 3

A note of Sebastian Gabotes Voyage of Discoverie, taken out of
an old Chronicle, written by Robert Fabian, sometime Alderman
of London, which is in the custodie of John Stowe, Citizen, a
diligent searcher and preserver of Antiquities. 4

This yere the king [In the 13 yere of King Henrie the VII. 1498.]
(by means of a Venetian, whiche made
himself very expert and cunning in knowledge of the circuite of
the worlde and Ilandes of the same as by a Carde and other
demonstrations reasonable hee shewed), caused to a man and v
ictuall a shippe at Bristowe, to search for an Ilande, which hee
saide hee knewe well was riche and replenished with riche com-
modities [Note.]. Which Ship, thus manned and victualed at the Kinges
cost, divers merchants of London ventured in her small stockes,
being in her as chiefe Patrone the saide Venetian. And in the
companie of the saide shippe sayled also out of Bristowe three or
foure small ships fraught with sleight and grosse merchandizes, as
course cloth, Caps, Laces, points, and other trifles, and so departed
from Bristowe in the beginning of May: of whom in this Maiors
[William Purchas, Maior of London.] time returned no tidings.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Of three savage men which hee 5 brought home
[Three savage men brought into England.] and presented
unto the king in the xvij yeere of his raigne.

This yeere also were brought unto the king three men, taken in
the new founde Iland, that before I spak of in William Purchas
time, being Maior. These were clothed in beastes skinnes, ate
rawe fleshe, and spake such speech that no man coulde understand
them, and in their demeanour like to bruite beastes, whom the
king kept a time after. Of the which upon two yeeres past after I
saw two apparelled after the manner of Englishmen, in West-
minster pallace, which at that time I coulde not discern from
Englishmen, till I was learned what they were. But as for speech, I
heard none of them utter one worde. 6

(iv) The Chronicle of Robert Fabyan as rendered by John Stow 7

Stow gives the extracts from the Fabyan Chronicle, then in his poss-
ession, which have been quoted above from Hakluyt's Divers Voyages ,
but with the following variations:

[Opening of the first extract] This yeere one Sebastian Gabato, a
Genoa's sonne, borne in Bristowe, professing himself to be experte
in knowledge of the cicuite of the worlde and Ilandes of the
same, as by his Charts and other reasonable demonstrations
he shewed, caused the King to man and victual a shippe at Bristow....

[Opening of the second extract] 1502, ann. reg. 18. This yeere
were brought unto the king three men taken in the new found
Ilands, by Sebastian Gabato, before named, in anno 1498....

1 Ed. A. H. Thomas and I. D. Thornley (London, 1939), pp.287-8, 320.

2 British Museum, Cotton MS Vit. A xvi, f. 173. The year referred to is the civic year September 1497 to September 1498. The summer is that of 1498.

3 R. Hakluyt, Driver Voyages (London, 1582); repr. Hakluyt Society, ed. J. W. Jones (1850), pp. 23-4. The Fabyn Chronicle itself has not been preserved.

4 Note that this heading is from the pen of Hakluyt, who assumes that the navigator was Sebastian Cabot. Fabyan himself speaks only of 'a Venetian', and his account evidently describes the second voyage of John Cabot in 1498. The marginal notes are also by Hakluyt.

5 Again the heading is Hakluyt's, and so is the quite gratuitous assumption that the savages were brought home by the navigator of 1498.

6 In 1600 Hakluyt reprinted the above passages in the third volume of his Principal Navigations, with the words 'by means of a Venetian' altered to 'by meanes of one John Cabot a Venetian'. It is evident that Hakluyt supplied the name from independent information, and did not find it in the Fabyan Chronicle.

7 From Stow's Chronicle (London, 1580), p. 875. Both Stow and Hakluyt worked from the same copy of the original. There can be no doubt that it did not contain the name of Sebastian Cabot, which was supplied by both editors. Hakluyt admits as much by placing the name in the introductory heading avowedly written by himself. Stow simply interpolated from independent knowledge, without avowing the fact. This was in accordance with sixteenth-century practice in editorship. It is apparent from the general similarity of the texts that Stow's Fabyan Chronicle was substantially the Great Chronicle above quoted.

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