Gary Brecht's Reviews > Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreen
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's review
Sep 23, 2009

really liked it

The title of this book conveys the danger and sense of adventure that Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe entailed. Bergreen gives a detailed description of the adventure by utilizing first hand accounts from among the eighteen (of 260) mariners who accompanied the bold Portuguese captain who sailed under the flag of Spain. The principal source of information comes from Magellan’s hand-picked scribe, Pigafetta, who was charged to record the entire voyage for his captain general. Pigafetta’s record of the most monumental of all sixteenth century sea discovery voyages focuses on the strange sights and cultures encountered by the crew. While he touches lightly upon the episodes of mutiny that occurred during the voyage, others of the crew serve as sources of information (or misinformation) about these moments when their mission to discover the spice islands for Spain were in danger of being undermined.

Bergreen skillfully blends his copious sources into a suspenseful tale that has the reader wondering what will happen next. He carefully builds a picture of the historical setting in which this adventure unfolds so we are not only informed of the facts, but we are left in awe of the magnitude of this event. The author paints a portrait of Magellan that we can admire for his courage and devotion to duty; a captain general who is ruthless to those who betray him; a leader who, on the cusp of success, self-destructs due to his sense of superiority over the natives he encounters. Above all, modern navigators, including the experts who explore space, acknowledge Magellan’s navigational skill

For those interested in reading about the sixteenth century of discovery, this book is an exceptional addition to their libraries.

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