It is not often that a beautifully illustrated book is complemented with equally beautiful word imagery; Bradford successfully matches the splendid color plates of Caribbean seascapes and Mediterranean port scenes with a fine evocation of Genoa at sunset, of the “slop and sigh” of waves beating against Columbus’s caravels at La Navidad, and of eyes aching from constant scanning of “an ocean that bounced with wavy light.” The chief merits of the work lie in the author’s rounded and appreciative character analysis of Columbus, with his unshakeable faith in Providence, his extraordinary persistence in the face of hopeless odds, and his less admirable “ambition flecked with cupidity.” Bradford’s close identification with Columbus, his carefully drawn character portraits of the Navigator, and his own first-hand knowledge of the sea raise the book above the merely popular. Comparable to Morison’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea in its scope and outlook and in its nautical expertise, Bradford’s work is less concerned with details of the broader history and delves deeper into Columbus’s motives, using less technical and more poetic language than Morison’s.

For the scholar, this book commends itself mainly as good literature and pictorial art; it does not attempt to make important corrections to our present historical knowledge and necessarily ignores a voluminous literature that would have spared the author a number of small factual errors and probably reshaped a few of his easy generalizations.