Venetian Navigators – A fascinating book

If you like historic stories with a great touch of mystery and adventure, I would like to recommend the following book about the the voyages of the Zen brothers. The book is called Venetian Navigators: The Voyages of the Zen Brothers to the Far North, written by the historian Andrea di Robilant.

I stumbled upon this book by chance and was fascinated by its title immediately. Venetian navigators were known and famous for travelling the Mediterranean sea and the Orient route into the Black Sea. However, I was not aware that some of them, namely the brothers Nicolo and Antonio Zen undertook adventurous travels into the Nordic seas in the 14th century. By doing so, even though it is blurred by the mist of history, they eventually discovered new land and possibly even reached Newfoundland in the Americas, o whole century before Christopher Columbus. The book, based on heavily damaged letters found by his descendant Nicolo Zen some 150 years later, was published in the 16th century, precisely in 1558.

Map of Frislandia by Nicolo Zen in 1558

Map of Frislandia by Nicolo Zen in 1558

Heavy mystery lays above the discovered island of Frislandia, which was included into world maps all the way until even the 19th century and which historians were discussing for ages, trying to assign it properly to other known parts of the northern territories. Here is a map of the northern seas including Frislandia, drawn by Nicolo Zen (a descendent of the original Nicolo Zen) in 1558, as shown on Wikipedia.

The author and historian Andrea di Robilant worte a very exciting-to-read book about his own discoveries along the old routes the Zen brothers possibly took. His route took him from the old Zen palace in Venice which still exists to the Faroes, Shetland, Iceland and even Greenland. Take a deeper look if you find this story as interesting as I did.

The remains of the Zen Palazzo in Venice and the memorial tablet

The remains of the Zen Palazzo in Venice and the memorial tablet

 

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