the antipodes as St. Augustine had done, believed firmly in the sphericity of the earth, and, interpreting these statements of the book of Esdras in connection with this belief, he held that, as only one seventh of the earth's surface was covered by water, the ocean between the west coast of Europe and the east coast of Asia could not be very wide. Knowing, as he thought, the extent of the land upon the globe, he felt that in view of this divinely authorized statement the globe must be much smaller, and the land of "Zipango," reached by Marco Polo, on the extreme east coast of Asia, much nearer than had been generally believed.
On this point he laid stress in his great work, the Ymago Mundi, and an edition of it having been published in the days when Columbus was thinking most closely upon the problem of a westward voyage, it naturally exercised much influence upon his reasonings. Among the treasures of the library at Seville, there is nothing more interesting than a copy of this work annotated by Columbus himself; from this very copy it was that Columbus obtained confirmation of his belief that the passage across the ocean to Marco Polo's land of Zipango in Asia was short. But for this error, based upon a text supposed to be inspired, it is unlikely that Columbus would have had the courage to undertake his voyage. It is a curious fact that this single theological error thus promoted a series of voyages which completely destroyed not only this but every other conception of geography based upon the sacred writings.
5. The Character of the Earth's Surface.—It would be hardly just to dismiss the struggle for geographical truth without referring to one passage more in the history of the Protestant Church, for it shows clearly the difficulties in the way of the simplest statement of geographical truth which conflicted with the words of the sacred books.
In the year 1553 Michael Servetus was on trial for his life at Geneva on the charge of Arianism. Servetus had rendered many services to scientific truth, and one of these was an edition of Ptolemy's Geography, in which Judea was spoken of, not as "a land flowing with milk and honey," but, in strict accordance with the truth, as, in the main, meager, barren, and inhospitable. In his trial this simple statement of geographical truth was used
- For this error, so fruitful in discovery, see D'Ailly, Ymago Mundi (my own copy is of 1490); the passage referred to is folio 12 verso. For the passage from Esdras, see chap, vi, verses 42, 47, 50, and 52; see also Zockler, Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Theologie und Naturwissenschaft, vol. i, p. 461. For one of the best recent statements, see Ruge, Gesch. des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, Berlin, 1882, pp. 221 et seq. For the letter of Columbus acknowledging his indebtedness to this mistake in Esdras, see Navarrete, Viajes y Descubrimientos, Madrid, 1825, tome i, pp. 242-264; also Humboldt, Hist, de la Geographic du Nouveau Continent, vol. i, pp. 68, 69.