Decades of the New World

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Title page of Richard Eden's translation of Peter Martyr's Decades of the New World (1555).

Decades of the New World (De orbe novo decades) by Peter Martyr's is a series of letters and reports of the early explorations of Central and South America that was published beginning 1511 and later anthologized. Being among the earliest such reports, Decades are of great value in the history of geography and discovery and describe the early contacts of Europeans and Native Americans derived from the narrative of the voyages of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean and the reports from Hernán Cortés's Mexican expedition.

The Decades consisted of eight reports, two of which Martyr had previously sent as letters describing the voyages of Columbus, to Cardinal Ascanius Sforza in 1493 and 1494. In 1501 Martyr, as requested by the Cardinal of Aragon, added eight chapters on the voyage of Columbus and the exploits of Martin Alonzo Pinzón. In 1511 he added a supplement giving an account of events from 1501 to 1511. By 1516 he had finished two other Decades:

In 1530 the eight Decades were published together for the first time at Alcalá. Later editions of single or of all the Decades appeared at Basel (1533), Cologne (1574), Paris (1587), and Madrid (1892). A German translation was published in Basle in 1582; a French one by Gaffarel in Recueil de voyages et de documents pour servir à l'histoire de la Geographie (Paris, 1907).

The first three decades were translated into English by Richard Eden and published in 1555 (found in Arber's The first three English books on America Birmingham, 1885), thus beginning the genre of English discovery travel writing, which stimulated English exploration of the New World.[2] Eden's translations were reprinted with supplementary materials in 1577 by Richard Willes under the new title, The historie of travayle into the West and east Indies. Richard Hakluyt had the remaining five decades translated into English by Michael Lok and published in London in 1612.



  1. Gerbi, Antonello, and Jeremy Moyle. Nature in the New World: From Christopher Columbus to Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010, p. 53, n. 10.
  2. Parks, George Bruner. Richard Hakluyt and the English Voyages. New York, American Geographical Society, 1928, 21, 23.


  • Hartig, Otto (1910). "Peter Martyr d'Anghiera". Catholic Encyclopedia. vol. IX (New Advent online reproduction ed.). New York: Robert Appleton and Company. Retrieved 2007-09-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Martyr D'Anghiera, Peter (1912) [ca. 1504–1526]. De Orbe Novo, Volume 1. Francis MacNutt (trans.) (Project Gutenberg reproduction ed.). Retrieved 2007-09-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

This article incorporates text from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article "Peter Martyr d'Anghiera" by Otto Hartig, a publication now in the public domain.