Columbus' Huberman

  • Issue: April 1992
  • Designer: O. Meirav
  • Stamp size: 40 x 25.7 mm
  • Plate no.: 156
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

By reaching America, Columbus opened up not only the route to a new world but also a new period in the history of mankind.

He was born, probably, in 1451 in Genoa, and according to his own words went to sea at the age of 14. He gained his experience as a master mariner on voyages to the eastern Mediterranean and to the eastern and northern Atlantic.

Towards the end of the 15th Century, Portugal took the lead in chartmaking and explorations, and Portuguese navigators were sent to find the route to the Indies by sailing east around Africa. Columbus moved to Lisbon to promote the idea of finding a new short route to the Indies by sailing westward - a daring enterprise in his day. After working out his proposal, he put it to John II, King of Portugal, but John rejected the idea, as did the kings of France and England. In 1485, Columbus went to Spain and put his plan before Ferdinand and Isabella. The royal couple turned it down as well, but the Controller-General and the Secretary of the Royal Household - the Marranos, Gabriel Sanchez and Luis de Santangel - were excited by the idea and Santagel even suggested loaning the King of Spain the money required to finance the voyage. It took several years until at last Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to back the enterprise.

On the 3rd of August, 1492 Columbus set out on his voyage with three ships and eighty men. The voyage was long, and after 30 days, with no land in sight, his men ran out of patience. Only by promising them that they would return to Spain if they didn't sight land within two or three days was Columbus able to calm down his crews. And indeed, on the night of the 12th of October, an island was seen by the full moon, which Columbus named San Salvador. In the course of this voyage Columbus landed at Cuba and Haiti and in March 1493 arrived in Spain with his extraordinary news.

Columbus made four voyages to the "New World", during which he explored much of the coasts of central and southern America.

For many years scholars are divided on the question of Columbus' Jewishness. Some are of the opinion that he was a Marrano, which would explain his close connections with many other Marranos in Spain and also the fact that he spoke Spanish, not only in Spain but in Italy as well. However, this opinion is rejected today by most of the scholars

Nevertheless, there is no dispute that Columbus was aided on his voyages by charts, navigational instruments and scientific publications made by Jewish astronomers and cartographers. The most famous among them were Abraham lbn Ezra, the author of "Keli Nehoshet" (an essay on astrolabes) and a compiler of astronomic tables, Yaacov Ben Makhir and Levi Ben Gershon who invented the quadrant called "Jacob's Staff". This instrument, for finding the ship's position, was used by navigators until the 18th Century.

Many Jewish scholars contributed to the improvement of astronomical tables, and it is known that Columbus took with him on his voyages a Latin translation of the "Almanach Perpetuum", which was compilled by Abraham Zacut.

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500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage