Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/56

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such voyages was "Antilha,"-a word by some antiquaries derived from the Arabic, though more probably a Compound Portuguese word meaning " opposite island,1' or " island in the distance," and denoting any land expected to be descried on the horizon. Year by year vessels from Lisbon scoured the sea beyond the Azores in search of " Antilha" or " Antilhas." In I486, the year in which Diaz reached the Cape of Good Hope, Fernam Dolmos, lord of Terceira, procured from Joao II a grant of Antilha to his own use, conditionally upon its discovery by him within two years. The terms in which it was on this occasion described clearly illustrate the contemporary idea concerning it-" a great isle, or isles, or continental coast." The possibility of reaching Eastern Asia, with its continental coast and numerous islands, by a western passage was no doubt present to the minds of those who framed this grant. But Antilha was by no means conceived of as part of the Asiatic coast, or as one of the adjacent islands. It was believed to lie nearly midway between Europe and Asia, and would form the voyager's half-way station on his passage to and fro; hence its discovery was looked forward to as the first step in the achievement of the westward passage. The description of it as "a great isle, or isles, or continental coast" perhaps connects it with the " New Land " or " Vineland " of the Northmen, which was represented as a continental shore bordering the northern expanses of the Atlantic, with islands of its own adjacent to it. Some such conception of the half-way land was probably present to the mind of John Cabot, who reached Labrador and Newfoundland by taking a northward route, passing by or near to Iceland, the maritime base of the Northmen's discovery of " Vineland."

The more usual conception of Antilha was that of a large solitary island in the midst of the Atlantic in more southern latitudes: and it had been so indicated on the chart sent by Toscanelli for the guidance of Portuguese explorers in 1474. Similar notions were entertained as to the islands of St Brandan, and Brasil, by the seamen of Bristol, who during these years were scouring the Atlantic further to the northward, with not less eagerness than those of Lisbon. The general object of all these voyages was the same. It was to find some convenient halfway island as an outpost of further exploration in the direction of the Far East, and a station in the new commercial route about to be established. Year by year sailors from Bristol sailed from Dingle Bay, on the southwest coast of Ireland, in search of "Brasil Island," pursuing the same plan as that of the Portuguese who sailed from Lisbon in quest of the " Antilha," or " Antilhas." No record exists of the course taken in these voyages: but we can have little doubt that after sailing for some distance due west the course was changed, and a zigzag mode of exploration was adopted, which could lead to nothing but failure. The explorer, ever haunted by the suspicion that he had left Antilha behind him, would at length change his course, and look out in the reverse direction. It is