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Cavendish, Thomas, 1560–1592

Account of the last voyage of Thomas Cavendish.

Physical Description:
1 v. (38 leaves) ; 20 cm.
Rare Books and Manuscripts
G246.C38 L37 1592+ Oversize
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Information
Archives & Manuscripts
Phillipps MS 25851.
Provenance: Tristram Gorges; Reverend Joseph Hunter; Sir Thomas Phillipps (MS 25851); Lionel and Philip Robinson; Paul Mellon (1962).
Bound in contemporary limp vellum fashioned from a manuscript deed, trimmed to fit the paper to which it is stitched. The parchment cover appears to have been reattached upside down (at an undetermined time), with what once may have been a title in ms. now on the back cover. The deed on the inside covers of the parchment, probably written by Tristram Gorges, dates to the late 16th century, and relates to the transfer of land in Cornwall (cf. Quinn).
The manuscript is reproduced in its entirety (except for the inside covers), together with a transcription, in Quinn's The last voyage of Thomas Cavendish, 1591-1592.
Quinn, David Beers. The last voyage of Thomas Cavendish, 1591-1592 : the autograph manuscript of his own account of the voyage, written shortly before his death : from the collection of Paul Mellon. Chicago : Published for the Newberry Library by the University of Chicago Press, [1975].
Subject Terms:
Cavendish, Thomas, 1560-1592.
Davis, John, 1550?-1605.
Gorges, Tristram, ca. 1562-1608.
Hunter, Joseph, 1783-1861 -- Ownership.
Magellan, Strait of (Chile and Argentina) -- Discovery and exploration -- British -- Early works to 1800.
Mutiny -- Great Britain -- Early works to 1800.
Ocean travel -- Early works to 1800.
Phillipps, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1872 -- Ownership.
Purchas, Samuel, 1577?-1626. Hakluytus posthumus.
Seafaring life -- Great Britain -- Early works to 1800.
South America -- Discovery and exploration -- British -- Early works to 1800.
Travel literature
IIIF Manifest:

"The Mellon bequest included this remarkable manuscript by the navigator Sir Thomas Cavendish, best known as the second Englishman to lead a voyage around the world, after Sir Francis Drake. Cavendish had squandered the fortune he made on his circumnavigation and in an attempt to regain his wealth undertook a second such voyage, which ended in disaster. Departing from Plymouth in August 1591, he reached the Straits of Magellan by March 1592 but was unable to pass through because of stormy weather. After two months, his crew rebelled; they were almost out of food, "as smale A portion, as euer men were At in the seaes" (fol. 34), and forced Cavendish to abandon the expedition. The manuscript, entirely in Cavendish's hand, is his personal testament and account of that last voyage. It was written in the mid-Atlantic shortly before he died at sea, brokenhearted and in despair, toward the end of 1592. He addressed the work to his friend and executor, Tristram Gorges: "now I am growne so weake & fainte as I am scarce able to holde the penn in my hande" (fol. 32). Cavendish decided, if they reached Ascension Island, "to haue there ended my vnfortunate lief" (fol. 36). It sounds as though he had decided to commit suicide. The island could not be found, however, and the ship finally turned toward home. Cavendish died shortly afterward from unknown causes and was buried at sea. His crew sailed on, likely obtaining food and water in the Azores. Further details of the voyage home are not known, but the ship, the “Galleon Leicester,” was first heard of again in Portsmouth in March 1593. A copy of the manuscript came into the possession of the writer Samuel Purchas (possibly through the auspices of Richard Hakluyt) and was published in his “Pilgrimes” (1625), although Purchas suppressed the most "passionate speeches of Master Candish [sic] against some private persons" (vol. 4, p. 1191)."-- Elisabeth Fairman. Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 300, no. 122, N5220.M552 P38 2007+ OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Paul Mellon's Legacy : A Passion for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Wilde Americk - Discovery and Exploration of the New World, 1500-1850 (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-09-27 - 2001-09-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

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