||The Voyages of John Cabot
||Olson, Julius E. and Edward G. Bourne (editors). The Northmen, Columbus and Cabot, 985-1503: The Voyages of the Northmen; The Voyages of Columbus and of John Cabot. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906). Pages 421-430.
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Few records survive to tell us about Giovanni Caboto (c.
1455-c. 1499), or John
Cabot, as his name came down to us in English records. He was a
contemporary and fellow-countryman of Christopher Columbus, born
near Naples, Italy, and raised in Venice. His family were
merchants in the Asian spice trade, and about the age of
thirty-five he moved to
Valencia, Spain, perhaps because Spanish and Portuguese mariners
were in forefront of finding a sea route to Asia around Africa.
Cabot suspected, like Columbus, that Asia could be reached by
sailing west rather than east, but could not find backers in
either Spain or Portugal. He therefore moved to England in about
1494 where, in the wake of Columbusí discoveries, a group of
investors in the town of Bristol agreed to back him. Having
secured permission from King Henry VII in March 1496, Cabot made
an unsuccessful voyage later that year.
Cabot Expedition, 1497
In 1497 he tried a second time, leaving Bristol in May and
returning in August. This time he was successful, becoming the
first European to find and describe North America since the
Vikings. Unfortunately no records survive from this voyage, and
all that is known about it comes from the reports of two
Italians living in London (see AJ-069) and a letter of John Day
discovered in 1956 (see below). Cabotís landfall occurred on
June 24, 1497, but scholars continue to debate precisely where,
some arguing for Labrador, others for Newfoundland, and yet
others for Cape Breton Island.
When Cabot returned to England on August 6, 1497, he brought
tidings of a new and perhaps easier route to Asia than that
discovered in the south by Columbus. This prompted the King to
outfit him for a second voyage, and in May 1498, he headed west
again with a fleet of five vessels. Documentation on this second
voyage is slight, but Cabot did not return from this voyage and
is believed to have died at sea.
The documents given here are private letters of two Italians
living in London at the time, and the official report of the
Spanish ambassador to England on what he could learn about the
Other Internet and Reference Sources
Memorial University of Newfoundland has mounted many Cabot
primary sources, including the 1497 John Day letter referred to
above and much background material, in the ďEarly ExplorationĒ
segment of its Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage site;
An article on Cabotís voyage and its importance in opening
Englandís Age of Discovery appears in Essays in History,
a journal put out by the Corcoran Department of History
http://www.virginia.edu/~history/home.html at the University
of Virginia. It is available at
The Newfoundland Historical Society has published a pamphlet
on John Cabot. Williams, Alan F. John Cabot and Newfoundland
(St. Johnís: Newfoundland Historical Society, 1996).