The author of this short work is a Spanish naval officer and director of the Museo Marítimo at Barcelona. His main objective in writing this book was to support his belief that the Santa María was a nao (which seems to be a point of contention in Spain) and that the Niña and Pinta were caravels. S. E. Morison and most others agree that the Santa María was a nao, a sail-driven merchantman of high freeboard, having castles fore and aft, square-rigged on the main and fore masts, with a bowsprit having a sprit sail and a lateen sail on the mizzen mast. This was a slower, more cumbersome, and less Weatherly ship than a caravel. This latter was a distinctive type, having a hull of light displacement, low-sided and sharp-ended, that fitted the capabilities of the lateen rig usually employed. Morison writes that the classic proportions for caravels seems to have been, beam: length of keel: overall length == 1:2:3. These are the proportions that Martínez-Hidalgo claims for naos. According to him, the caravel had hull proportions of 1:2:3.33.
No contemporary painting or drawing exists of any ship in which Columbus sailed, but Martínez-Hidalgo dismisses this fact very airily: “It is unnecessary to dwell upon the fact that no plans, drawings or other graphic material can be accepted as representing the Santa María” (p. 44). He then proceeds to reconstruct the vessel from such varying sources as the “Mataro” model (now in the Maritiem Museum Prins Hendrik at Rotterdam), the nao on an altar by Juan de Reixach, and ones in a painting, The Pilgrimage of Breydenbach, Capaccio’s paintings, Benincasa’s chart, the Libre del Consolat dels Maritims, and the Carrack of WA, the Flemish artist. Eclecticism certainly is his forte!
The result of the author’s work was the construction of a model of the Santa María and a full-size reconstruction for exhibit at the New York World’s Fair of 1964-65. His inclusion of lines and sail plans in this book should prove of interest to professional sailors and provide endless hours of debate among them, but they are not going to settle disputed points or provide useful working plans. Those who accept Commander Martínez-Hidalgo’s sources—and his deductions—will have no argument with his plans; others will be on safe ground maintaining their favorite theories.
When he leaves the technical field and ventures into history, the author is wrong on certain points. He errs in stating that Columbus became a citizen of Spain, and his computations of the total expenditure for fitting out the flotilla are incorrect. Two million maravedís may be the total, but this is not “comparable (according to Morison) to $14,000 today” (p. 74). Morison’s conversion of maravedís to dollars was in terms of pre-1934 dollars (in 1934 the gold dollar was devalued to 59.06% of its former value), and then only if payable in gold. If the maravedís were paid in silver, they were worth only half as much. He has also misspelled the name of Columbus’ wife, Dona Felipa Perestrello e Moniz. The printer or proofreader is responsible for many other errors. Evidently he was unfamiliar with accent and diacritic marks, for they are either omitted, as in Niña, Santa María, and Camoëns, or used incorrectly, the most egregious example of the latter being in the author’s first name on the title page! A bibliography of less than three pages is supplied, and some Colombists will regret certain omissions. The author utilized three works by the German scholar Heinrich Winter but not his Die Kolumbusschiffe. There are no footnotes, save one, and that a citation to a work by the editor, although there are occasional parenthetical citations.