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Marckalada: When America Had Another Name // Paolo Chiesa

Marckalada: When America Had Another Name // Paolo Chiesa

168 pages, Laterza, 2023

#history #columbus #america #marckalada

150 years before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean, there were Italians who knew America existed. They called it "Marckalada." The proof lies in an ancient lost manuscript, rediscovered and now stored in a mysterious unknown location - and whose contents were almost completely unknown until a few years ago. That astonishing discovery today is a book: a quest as exciting as a spy story, an international plot full of twists and turns. A very serious book and, at the same time, equipped with a plot that makes it impossible to abandon.

The story begins in 1998 when a manuscript was auctioned in London. According to Sotheby's catalog, it contained the first four books of the Chronicon maius, a work attributed to Galvanus Flame and well-known among scholars of the Middle Ages. The book was sold for $42,024 to a person whose name is unknown - and whom the auction house has never revealed.

With the utmost secrecy and only thanks to a retired French professor, philologist Paolo Chiesa had the chance in 2015 to browse through the manuscript - or rather, to examine it briefly, for an hour, in a private library in New York. From studying and translating the text - written in medieval Latin - there appears to be mention of a land called Marckalada, located west of Greenland. Sailors who travelled the Northern Seas speak of it as a land full of trees and animals, where great buildings were found and giants lived. This is sensational news: astonishing! The first mention of the American continent in the Mediterranean area, a century and a half before Columbus' voyage!

The discovery was published in 2021 in the scientific journal Terrae Incognitae with the title: Marckalada: The First Mention of America in the Mediterranean Area (c. 1340) and relaunched in major newspapers all around the world.

But who is Galvano Fiamma and where does he get this information from? What was really known in Italy about the lands across the ocean?

To answer these Paolo Chiesa interrogates many evocative characters: the Viking explorers who landed on American shores from Iceland; the priest in the port of Genoa, who charted maps; the merchants who travelled north from the Mediterranean to buy furs and birds of prey; and the people aboard the Genoese galleys that disappeared in the Atlantic as they tried to reach India by sailing west.


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at·las | ˈatləs |

  • a book of maps or charts: a road atlas 

  • a book of illustrations or diagrams on any subject

  • Anatomy the topmost vertebra of the backbone, articulating with the occipital bone of the skull.

  • Architecture a stone carving of a male figure, used as a column to support the entablature of a Greek or Greek-style building.

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