Division of Archives and Records Service

Columbus E-Records Day

Rebekkah Shaw
October 10, 2016

It’s Columbus Day AND Electronic Records Day.

In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue. After that it’s best guess. The log of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage has not survived the journey of time. When he returned to Spain in 1543 he gave his log to his patrons Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in Barcelona. The queen ordered the log to be copied to create what is now referred to as the Barcelona Copy. Today no one knows what happened to the original. Columbus kept the Barcelona Copy until his death. It then passed to his son, Fernando, who used it to write a biography on his father.

Around 1530, the Barcelona Copy was abstracted by Bartolome de las Casas as part of his work on the history of the “Indians.” Shortly thereafter, around 1555, the Barcelona Copy went missing. The Las Casas abstract, known as the Diario, survives today as what is considered the best historical records of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, though some believe the distance conversion from leagues to miles is unreliable. This means that our best record of that famous voyage is three degrees away from the original log!

The original biography Fernando wrote also has not survived. However, there is an old translation of the biography into Italian known as the Historie, which has since been translated to English and can be purchased under the title of “The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus.”


Do you have multiple copies of your records? What do you define as the original? Have you lost original work and been left to interpret what was done or decided based on second- or third-hand accounts? As part of your records management plan, be sure to identify which copy is the record copy. If it’s a permanent record, be sure to create a preservation copy that will not be used so your original record is not lost in the journey of time!

Photo: Pickering, Keith A. Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria. Digital image. Land of Legends. Data Wales, n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.