John Verarzanus Coastal North America
Account by John Verarzanus. Dated 1524. [Document known as the Morum Bega [Nurumbega] Discorso d’un gran Capitano di Mare Francese]. Written July 8th, 1524. To the Most Christian King of Fraunce, Fraunces the First. The Relation of John Verarzanus, A Florentine, of the lande by him discouered in the name of his Maiestie, written in Diepe the eight of July 1524. pp. 55-90 (in) Hakluyt, R. 1582. Diverse Voyages Touching the Discouerie of America and the Islands Adiacent unto the Same, Made First of All by Our Englishmen and Afterwards by the French-men and Britons. And Certaine Notes of Advertisements and Observations, Necessarie for Such as Shall Heereafter Make the Like Attempt. With Two Mappes Annexed Heereunto for the Plainer Understanding of the Whole Matter. London: Thomas Woodcocke. The Hakluyt Society. Series One, Number 7. London: The Hakluyt Society, 1850.
The 17 of Ianuarie, the yeere 1524, by the grace of God, wee departed … with fiftie men, with victuals, weapon[s], and other ship munition[s] very well prouided and furnished for 8 monthes: And sayling westwards with a faire Easterly winde, in 25 dayes wee ranne 500 leagues, and the 20 of Februarie wee were ouertaken with as sharpe and terrible a tempest as euer any saylers suffered … wee were deliuered … and followed our course West by North, and in [an]other 25 dayes wee made aboue 400 leagues more: where wee discouered a newe land, neuer before seene of any man, either auncient or moderne, and at the first sight it seemed somewhat lowe, but beeing within a quarter of a league of it, wee perceiued by the great fiers that wee sawe by the Sea coaste that it was inhabited [NOTE: landfall possibly in the vicinity of Charleston, South Carolina or perhaps near Savannah] (pp. 55-56).
Wee caste anker upon the coast, and sent our Boate to shore, where we sawe great store of people, which came to the Sea side, and seeing vs to approche they fled away….but afterwardes, beeing animated and assured with signes that wee made them, some of them came harde to the Sea side, seeming to reioyce very much at the sight of vs, and marueiling greatly at our apparell, shape, and whitenes, shewed vs by sundry signes where wee might most commodiously come a land with our Boat, offering vs also of their victuals to eate … They are wel featured in their limbs, of meane stature [medium stature], and commonly somewhat bigger then we, brode breasted, strong armes, their legges and other partres of their bodies well fashioned … and sayling forwards, wee founde certaine small Riuers and armes of the Sea, that enter at certain creekes, washing the shore on both sides as the coast lyeth [NOTE: perhaps near George Town and Long Bay, South Carolina] … And beyonde this wee sawe the open Countrie rising in height aboue the sandie shore, with many fayre fieldes and plaines, full of mightie great woods, some verie thicke and some thinne, replenished with diuerse sortes of trees … fully of Palme trees, Bay trees, and high Cypresse trees, and many other sortes of trees vnknowne in Europe, which yeeld most sweet sauours, farre from the shore…And the lande is full of many beastes, as Stages, Deare, and Hares, and likewise of Lakes and Pooles of Fresh water, with grat plentie of foules, conuenient for all kinde of pleasant game…Wee departed from this place … wee wanted water, wee sent our Boat a shore with 25 men…We sawe there many people, which came vnto the shore, making diuers signes of friendship, and shewing that they were content wee shoulde come a lande, and by trial we found [them] to be very courteous and gentle, as your maiestie shal vnderstand … Departing … wee came to another lande [NOTE: this landfall was at latitude 38 north in the vicinity of modern Maryland] which shewed much more faire and full of woods … wee sent 20 men a lande…and they founde that the people were fledde to the woods for feare, they sawe onely one olde woman with a young maide of 18 or 20 yeeres olde … to quiet them and to winne their fauour, our men gaue them suche victuals as they had with them to eate, which the old woman receiued thankfully: but the yong woman disdained them al, and threwe them disdainefully on the grounde … [the men] tooke a childe from the olde woman to bring into Fraunce, and going about to take the young woman, which was verye beawtifuol, and of tal stature, they could not possibly [because of the] great outcries that shee made … wee purposed to leaue her behinde, bearing away the childe onely … We found those folkes to bee more white than those that we founde before … their ordinarie foode is of pulse, whereof they haue great store, differing in colour and taste from ours, of good and pleasant taste. Moreouer, they liue by fishing and fouling, which they take with ginnes, and bowes made of hard wood, the arrowes of Canes, being headed with the bones of fishe and other beastes. The beastes in these parts are much wilder than in our Europe, by reason they are continually chased and hunted … We sawe in this Countrey many Vines growing naturally, which growing vp take hold of the trees, as they do in Lombardie [NOTE: Lombardy is a district in northwestern Italy] … [and] if by husbandmen they were dressed in good order, without all doubte they woulde yeelde excellent wines: for wee hauing oftentymes seene the fruite thereof dried, whiche was sweete and pleasaunt, and not differing from ours. Wee doe thinke that they doe esteeme the same, because that in euery place where they growe, they take away the vnder braunches growing rounde about, that the fruite thereof may ripen the better. We found also roswes, violettes, lillies, and many sorts of herbes, and sweete and odoriferous flowers, different from ours … We concluded to departe from thence trending along the shore…sayling onely in the daytime and riding at ancker a-by night. In the space of 100 leagues sayling, wee founde a very pleasant place…and wee passed vp with our boate onely into the sayde Riuer, and sawe the Countrey very wel peopled. The people are almost like vnto the others, and clad with the fethers of foules of diuers colours…Wee weied Ancker, and sayled towarde the Easte [and] we discouered an Ilande in the forme of a triangle, distant from the maine lande … it was full of hilles, couered with trees, well peopled for we sawe fires all along the coaste, wee gaue the name of it of your Maiesties mother [NOTE: possibly Martha’s Vineyard] … And wee came to another lande … [the indians] came so neere vs, that wee cast them certaine bells and glasses and many toyes, whiche when they had receiued, they lookte on them with laughing, and came without feare aborde our ship…[the people] exceed vs in bigness, they are of the colour of brasse … They came in great companies of their small boates vnto the ship with their faces all bepainted with diuers colours, shewing us [that] it was a signe of ioy, bringing vs of their victuals … [we stayed at anchor 15 days] … He [the Indian chief] tooke likewise great pleasure in beholding our apparell, and in tasting our meates, and so courteously taking his leaue departed … wee were oftentimes within the land 5 or 6 leagues, which we found as pleasant as is possible to declare, very apt for any kinde of husbandry, of corne, wine, and oyle: for that there are plaines 25 or 30 leagues broad, open and without any impediment of trees of such fruitfulnesse, that any seede being sowne therein, will bring forth most excellent fruite … We found Pomi appii [Uncertain: older term for a variety of apple in Italy], Damson trees, and Nutte trees, and many other sorts of fruits, differing from ours: there are beastes in great abundance, as hartes, deares, leopardes, and other kinds, which they take with their nets and bowes, which are their chiefe weapons … They feede as the other doe aforesaide, of pulse, whiche doed growe in that countrey with better order of husbandry than in the others. They obserue in their sowing the course of the Moone, and the rising of certaine starres, and diuerse other customes spoken of by antiquitie. Moreouer, they liue by hunting and fishing; they liue long, and are seldome sicke, and if they chaunce to fall sicke at any time, they heale themselues with fire, without any phisition, and they say that they die for very age [of old age]. They are very pitiful and charitable towardes their neighbours … The fift of May being furnished with all thinges necessarie, we departed from ye said Coast … wee sought not to lande there in any place, because the weather serued our turne for sayling…the Coast ranne Eastward for the space of fiftie leagues. And trending afterwardes the North, wee founde another lande [Note: probably near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, perhaps southern Maine] high, full of thicke woods, the trees whereof were firres, Cipresses, and such like, as are wont to growe in colde Countries The people differ much from the other … these [were] full of rudeness and ill manners … Their foode, as farre as wee could perceiue, repayring often vnto their dwellings, wee suppose to bee by hunting and fishing, and of certaine fruites, which are a kind of rootes which the earth yeeldeth of her owne accord. They haue no graine, neither sawe wee any kinde or signe of tyllage, neither is the lande, for the barrenness thereof, apt to beare frute or seed … Wee founde not in this lande any thing notable, or of importance … We departed from thence, keeping our course North-East along the coaster … continuing directly along the coast for the space of fiftie leagues, wee discouered 32 Ilelandes [Perhaps Penobscot Bay?] … Sayling Northeast for the space of 150 leagues, we approached to the lande that in times past was discouered by the Britons, which is in fiftie degrees [i.e. Newfoundland]. Hauing now spent all our prouision and victuals, and hauing discouered about 700 leagues and more of newe Countries, and being furnished with Water and Wood, wee concluded to returne into Fraunce (pp. 56-71).