By Laurence Bergreen
Ferdinand Magellan’s daring circumnavigation of the globe in the sixteenth century was a three-year odyssey filled with sex, violence, and amazing adventure. Now in Over the Edge of the World, acclaimed author Laurence Bergreen, interweaving a variety of candid, first-person accounts, some previously unavailable in English, brings to life this groundbreaking and majestic tale of discovery that changed many long-held views about the world and the way explorers would henceforth navigate its oceans.
In 1519 Magellan and his fleet set sail from Seville, Spain, to find a water route to the Spice Islands in Indonesia, where the most sought-after commodities — cloves, pepper, and nutmeg — flourished. Most important, they were looking for a passageway, a strait, through the great landmass of the Americas that would lead them to these fabled islands. Laurence Bergreen takes readers on board with Magellan and his crew as they explore, navigate, mutiny, suffer, and die across the seas. He also recounts the many unusual sexual practices the crew experienced, from orgies in Brazil to bizarre customs in the South Pacific. With a fleet of five ships and more than two hundred men, they had set out in search of the Spice Islands. Three years later they returned with an abundance of spices from their intended destination, but with just one ship carrying eighteen emaciated men. They suffered starvation, disease, and torture, and many died, including Magellan, who was violently killed in a fierce battle.
A man of great tenacity, cunning, and courage, Magellan was full of contradictions. He was both heroic and foolish, insightful yet blind, a visionary whose instincts outran his ideals. Ambitious to a fault and not above using torture and murder to maintain control of his ships and sailors, he survived innumerable natural hazards in addition to several violent mutinies aboard his own fleet — and it took no less than the massed forces of fifteen hundred men to kill him.
This is the first time in nearly half a century that anyone has attempted to narrate the complete story of Magellan’s unprecedented circumnavigation of the globe — to tell this truly gripping and profoundly important story of heroism, discovery, and disaster. A voyage into history, a tour of the world emerging from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance, an anthropological account of tribes, languages, and customs unknown to Europeans, and a chronicle of a desperate grab for commercial and political power, Over the Edge of the World is a captivating tale that rivals the most exciting thriller fiction.
From Publishers Weekly
Journalist Bergreen, who has penned biographies of James Agee, Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin and Al Capone, superbly recreates Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan’s obsessive 16th-century quest, an ill-fated journey that altered Europe’s perception of the planet: “It was a dream as old as the imagination: a voyage to the ends of the earth…. Mariners feared they could literally sail over the edge of the world.” In 2001, Bergreen traveled the South American strait that bears Magellan’s name, and he adds to that firsthand knowledge satellite images of Magellan’s route plus international archival research. His day-by-day account incorporates the testimony of sailors, Francisco Albo’s pilot’s log and the eyewitness accounts of Venetian scholar Antonio Pigafetta, who was on the journey. Magellan’s mission for Spain was to find a water route to the fabled Spice Islands, and in 1519, the Armada de Molucca (five ships and some 260 sailors) sailed into the pages of history. Many misfortunes befell the expedition, including the brutal killing of Magellan in the Philippines. Three years later, one weather-beaten ship, “a vessel of desolation and anguish,” returned to Spain with a skeleton crew of 18, yet “what a story those few survivors had to tell-a tale of mutiny, of orgies on distant shores, and of the exploration of the entire globe,” providing proof that the world was round. Illuminating the Age of Discovery, Bergreen writes this powerful tale of adventure with a strong presence and rich detail. Maps, 16-page color photo insert.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Adventure tales are even more exciting if they’re true, as this narrative is. The text, based on the diary of Venetian scholar Antonio Pigafetta and the pilot’s log of Francisco Albo, gives a day-by-day account of the hardships, misfortunes, and triumphs of life on the sea in the sixteenth century as Magellan and his crew sought a water route to the fabled Spice Islands. Tim Jerome reads the harrowing events with the voice of a historian–calm yet not dull. He inserts precise accents when speaking as the voice of Pigafetta and when reading the names contained in the narrative. His voice rolls like the ships rolled in the waves as he navigates this sea tale to its completion. J.F.M. © AudioFile 2004, Portland, Maine– Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
Ferdinand Magellan’s ship was the first to circumnavigate the globe. While the accomplishment is recognized as a historic milestone, less known are the details of that voyage around the world. Magellan spent years trying to win the favor of the king of Portugal, and failing that he swore loyalty to the Spanish crown. After finally receiving Spain’s backing for a trip to the Spice Islands, the king imposed numerous stipulations that would affect Magellan’s crew and his authority over them. Once his fleet finally embarked, he had to contend with violent storms, mutinous crewmembers, and hostile natives. Bergreen tells a well-rounded story of Magellan, not just that of the romanticized hero but also that of the explorer’s darker side. He also puts the voyage into its historical context, going into detail about what was known of the world at the time (and what was still uncharted), the rivalry between Portugal and Spain, and the church’s attempt to divide up the New World between them. Fascinating reading for history buffs, and a great story that rivals any seagoing adventure. Gavin Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
A Very Impressive Read
I’m really glad historians are beginning to write for people who aren’t preparing for a test and simply want a book that’s as informative as it is enjoyable. This is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s really unforgettable. Some reviewers obviously didn’t like this, but that’s life. As for me, I couldn’t put it down and was wanting more at the end. Here you’ll see Magellan, warts and all–plenty of warts, yet so much a man of principle even when he was misguided. What’s so amazing to me is that Bergreen shows Magellan realistically standing alone for what he believes all the while facing challenges (natural and personal) that would make the most steel-hearted man alive flinch in a second. This is a portrait of bravery and dedication to purpose like I’ve never seen before in a man who is most certainly not without his faults. Read it and enjoy.
As exhilarating as the voyage itself
This book makes Columbus and even Cook seem like mere amateurs in comparison. Magellan is the main man! Bergreen knows how to write the story of the great explorer with the hand of a novelist. It makes a fantastic read.
As a follow-up I suggest you read the book “1492 – The year China discovered America”. It puts things in perspective, like how did Magellan know about the strait from the atlantic to the pacific that would later bear his name?
Short and Simple
If not the best book i have ever read……..For sure in the top three!!!!!!!!!