Columbus feared that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella would not honor pledges they had made to him as recompense and honor for his great work of discovery on their behalf. Before his final voyage, he assembled a legal document showing those promises made to him, and his work for Spain.
This illustrates, once again, the human dimension of the great drama of the age of exploration, of Columbus’s stumbling on to the America’s in his efforts to get to China.
On January 5, 1502, prior to his fourth and final voyage to America, Columbus gathered several judges and notaries in his home in Seville. The purpose? To have them authorize copies of his archival collection of original documents through which Isabel and Fernando had granted titles, revenues, powers and privileges to Columbus and his descendants. These 36 documents are popularly called “Columbus’ Book of Privileges.” Four copies of his “Book” existed in 1502, three written on vellum and one on paper. The Library’s copy, one of the three on vellum, has a unique paper copy of the Papal Bull Dudum siquidem of September 26, 1493, which extended the Spanish claim for future explorations.