This volume contains the texts of four documents relating to the Magellan-Elcano voyage of circumnavigation and Obregón’s introductory narrative of the voyage. The documents are Juan Sebastián Elcano’s letter to Charles V, San Lúcar, September 6, 1522; Francisco Albo’s rutter of the voyage; Federico Ruiz M.’s 1941 Spanish translation of Antonio Pigafetta’s account of the voyage; and the “Libro de paces e amistades . . . con los reyes e señores de las islas e tierras donde hemos llegado,” which is somewhat misleadingly identified in the table of contents as the “Libro de la Nao Victoria” (Log of the Victory).
Obregón’s introductory history of the Magellan-Elcano voyage is done in the style of the late Samuel Eliot Morison. Readers familiar with Morison’s treatment of the voyage in The European Discovery of America, II: The Southern Voyages will find nothing here that is not also there save a few illustrations from the Morison-Obregón flight that did not make Morison’s text.
Contrary to claims made in the “introduction” and “prolog,” the existence, exact archival location, contents, and even text of the “libro” have been known to scholars since early in this century. In addition to the extracts printed in Navarrete’s Colección de viajes that were known to the editor, extracts have been published at least twice since Navarrete, and a facsimile was published in Spain by the Archivo General de Indias. Most of these facts could have been ascertained by checking Pablo Pastells, El descubrimiento del Estrecho de Magallanes, a work nowhere acknowledged in Obregón’s book. It is true that no complete, transcribed text has yet been published, so on those grounds this book has some claim to importance. A related, if less important problem with this work is that the Elcano letter and the Albo rutter (and certain items in the notes) are cited with non-standard legajo numbers.
The book is excellently printed and illustrated, but is marred by the carelessness of the editors in assembling the facsimile plates of the “libro.” More care might also have been taken in preparing some of the plates, which cannot be easily read because of the reduction and lack of correction for the differences in contrast in the originals.
These problems with the author-editor’s claims for his work, the citations and the facsimile plates aside, this book is a useful addition to the literature on the Magellan-Elcano voyage because it publishes a complete transcription of the “libro” for the first time.