Traducir y reinventar leyendas: una copia lisboeta del Itinerarium de Alejandro Geraldini y las riquezas del fabuloso reino del Preste Juan etíope

  • Daniele Arciello University of León


Of all extant copies of the Itinerarium ad regiones sub aequinoctiali plaga constitutas written by the 16th century Italian bishop Alessandro Geraldini, there is one that is preeminently relevant which is held in the National Library of Portugal. According to what the copyist, Pompeo Mongallo, stated in his work, it can be dated to 1565. However, it is probable that the text kept in that library is a copy of the 16th century document due to a watermark which would suggest 1601 as the date of composition. What is significant about the manuscript is the addition of some chapters extracted from a book written in Portuguese and translated by Mongallo. The author of that work was João Bermudez, a doctor and cleric who travelled to Ethiopia as a member of a 1520 expedition guided by Captain Rodrigo da Lima. The main purpose of the journey was to meet the leader of the Ethiopian people in order to obtain a new ally against the numerous enemies of the Portuguese Crown. Thus Bermudez decided to write a report of what he saw and knew: the Breve relaçāo da embaixada que o patriarcha d. Joāo Bermudez trouxe do imperador da Ethiopia, chamado vulgarmente Preste João. The title itself reveals the imaginary elements that characterise the text, since Preste João or Prester John was a legendary Christian king whose principal fictional qualities derive from medieval folklore. This article aims to underline the connection between Itinerarium, Breve relaçāo and the figure of Prester John, as well as the ability of Mongallo as the translator of the above-mentioned chapters. Moreover, some literary features related to the marvels and riches described by Bermudez will be highlighted.


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