Sources for Petrus Maffeius’ Historicae Indicae, Books 1 and 2

Petrus Maffeius’ Historiarum Indicarum Libri XVI, first published in 1588, was the result of a request placed by Henry I of Portugal, who, having seen Maffeius' skill as a writer and historian through his translation into Latin of Manuel da Costa’s book on the Jesuit missions in Asia, invites him to spend some time in Lisbon, with free access to books and people who would help him accomplish his task: telling the world, in elegant Latin, the story of the many deeds of the Portuguese in the oceans. During the five years of residence in Portugal (1579-1583), Maffeius certainly used the Royal Library of the Kings of Portugal – later destroyed during the Great Lisbon Earthquake – but he also diligently collecting the testimony of the men who had crossed the sea to Congo, Mozambique, India, Brazil, China, both through interviews, carried on in many different places in Portugal, and letters, sent to all corners of the world. Unfortunately, Maffeius does not tell us, in his work, many of the names of these informants, or on which works he based some of his stories. In this paper, we shall look at some of the possible sources for the narration in Books 1 and 2 of the Historiae Indicae, which cover the period from 1385 to 1503.


  • Neo-Latin Studies