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Markland and Galvano Fiamma

Featured Image: Markland (Wikipedia | Finn Bjørklid | CC-BY-SA 2.5)

The story of Yale revealing the forgery of the Vinland map is just behind us. Already, here is another story to add to the saga on ‘Who discovered America first’. 

The Manuscript

Just under ten years ago, a scholar discovers a new work from Galvano Fiamma in a private collection. Fiamma was an Italian monk in the service of the Visconti family in fourteenth-century Genoa. This new work is known as Cronica Universalis and this is the only copy that exists. If the manuscript is authentic, the Cronica is the first textual evidence of the northern American coastline before Columbus set sail a century later.

An Italian professor and his team are preparing a text edition, but they now share a remarkable discovery in advance. During their close readings, they find descriptions of the North Atlantic. Not only of Iceland and Greenland, but also Markland (or Marckalada). This is intriguing, as Markland is a region somewhere in what is now Canada. It is mentioned several times in the sagas of Leif Eiriksson, who ventured beyond Greenland into Northern America.

There is information about the original discovery of the Cronica. There are comparisons to relevant textual and archaeological evidence, too. Yet, the text from the manuscript is only shared in long citations. That feels like a missed opportunity. Just an image of the page where it says ‘Markland’ would have increased the excitement, and allowed academia to confirm the manuscript’s authenticity.

The article is in free access at the moment (Oct 21) but not in Open Access: Chiesa, Paolo, ‘Marckalada: The First Mention of America in the Mediterranean Area (c. 1340),’ in: Terrae Incognitae Volume 53:2, pp. 88-106. DOI: 10.1080/00822884.2021.1943792. (Free Access in October 2021).

Read more on My Modern Met and The Economist

On Galvano Fiamma, see Dale, Sharon, et al., Chronicling History. (University of Pennsylvanian Press, 2007), pp. 172-173.

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