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Maximilianus Transylvanus

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Maximilianus Transylvanus (Transilvanus, Transylvanianus), also Maximilianus of Transylvania and Maximilian (Maximiliaen) von Sevenborgen (c. 1490 – c. 1538), was a sixteenth-century author based in Flanders who wrote the earliest account published on Magellan and Elcano’s first circumnavigation of the world (1519–22). Written after he interviewed the survivors of the Victoria, and being a relative of sponsor Christopher de Haro, his account De Moluccis Insulis is a main source about the expedition along with that of Antonio Pigafetta.

In 1520, Transylvanus had published, at Augsburg, a work in Latin that describes the reception that nominated Charles I, King of Spain, as Holy Roman Emperor in 1519 at Molins de Rei, in Spain. This is the Legatio ad sacratissimum ac invictum Caesarem divum Carolum …. ab reverendissimis et illustrissimis principibus … qua functus est …Federicus comes palatinus in Molendino regio vlt. Novembris Anno MDXIX (Augsburg: Sigismund Grimm und Marx Wirsung, 1520). At this point, Maximilianus seems to have already been serving as personal secretary to Charles V, as well as accompanying the monarch on his travels.

As Secretary to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, for whom Magellan had sailed, Transylvanus interviewed the survivors of the voyage when Magellan’s surviving ship Victoria returned to Spain in September 1522. This group included Juan Sebastián ElcanoFrancisco Albo, and Hernando de Bustamante. The result was Maximiliani Transyluani Caesaris a secretis epistola, de admirabili & novissima hispanoru in orientem navigatione, que auriae, & nulli prius accessae regiones sunt, cum ipsis etia moluccis insulis, published in Cologne in 1523.

Maximilianus, a pupil of Peter Martyr Vermigli, interviewed the surviving members of the expedition when they presented themselves to the Spanish court at Valladolid in the fall of 1522. Eager to acquire fame as a writer, he produced his tract De Moluccis Insulis as a letter to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Salzburg, who had suggested that he perform the interviews in the first place.[1] It may have also been Vermigli who suggested the project to the young courtier. Vermigli, was, after all, very interested in overseas exploration.

Maximilianus’ letter is dated 24 October 1522, and his account was sent to Lang, whom he calls ambiguously domine mi unice (“my sole lord”), while the cardinal-archbishop was attending the Diet of Nuremberg. This diet was concerned with pacifying the first Protestants, which resulted in the sending of a letter of appeal to Pope Adrian VI.

Maximilianus’ letter reached the hands of a Cologne printer, Eucharius Cervicornus (a Latinized rendering of “Hirtzhorn”), and the first edition of De Moluccis Insulis was printed in January 1523. Despite the war that had erupted between Charles V and Francis I of France (see Italian War of 1521), this first edition reached Paris, where it was printed anew by Pierre Viart in July 1523. A subsequent edition was printed at Rome by Minutius Calvus (Minizio Calvo), in November 1523.

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