Contemporary Accounts: Magellan-Elcano Expedition

Opening pages of a Pigafetta manuscript.
Opening pages of an Antonio Pigafetta manuscript. (Source.)

Updated 10/25/23

Most of the contemporary writings about the Magellan-Elcano expedition are available online, translated into English and free. These include the accounts of Antonio Pigafetta and others who survived the voyage and Maximilian of Transylvania, who interviewed survivors. Here are links to many of them. (More coming soon.)

Antonio Pigafetta

Journal of Magellan’s Voyage. The original manuscript, believed to be written in a mixture of Italian and Castilian, has not survived. Four early copies were preserved, three in French and one in Italian. Pigafetta’s account gives us the bulk of what we know of the journey.

A digital copy of one of the French manuscripts is available online at Yale University Library, and at the Library of Congress

An English translation by James Alexander Robertson (1873-1939) can be found in multiple formats at (in two parts). A translation of the Italian manuscript, it places the English next to the original Italian in two columns, paragraph by paragraph.

Another translation, by Henry E. J. Stanley (Lord Stanley of Aderley, 1802-1869) is online at, one of several texts contained there in the book The First Voyage Around the World. The book also has  accounts of other survivors and the letter from Maximilian the Transylvan, who interviewed the survivors. Multiple digital formats are available.

Antonio Pigafetta and other contemporary writers. The First Voyage Round the World. Translated and edited by Lord Stanley of Alderley. From (multiple formats). This comprehensive collection of contemporary writings about the first circumnavigation was first published in 1876 and includes the key sources from the time. It’s perhaps the single best collection.

Introduction by Henry Edward John Stanley, translator and editor.

The Genoese Pilot’s Account of Magellan’s Voyage

Narrative of the Anonymous Portuguese

Pigafetta’s Account of Magellan’s Voyage

Pigafetta’s Treatise of Navigation

Names of the First Circumnavigators

Magellan’s Order of the Day in the Straits

Letter of Maximilian, the Transylvan

Log-Book of Francisco Alvo or Alvaro [Albo]

Account of the “Trinity” and her Crew

Account of the Mutiny in Port St. Julian; Gaspar Correa’s Account of the Voyage

Cost of Magellan’s Fleet



(Part 1 of Pigafetta’s journal). Editor: Emma Helen Blair. Translator: James Alexander Robertson. This translation of one of the Italian manuscripts has Italian and English side by side. From (multiple formats). Part 2 of the manuscript:

Duarte Barbosa

The Book of Duarte Barbosa (Portuguese: Livro de Duarte Barbosa). The Duarte Barbosa travelogue was an imperial guide detailing the riches found along the coasts of East Africa and India and beyond—alongside a callous outlook on Portuguese excesses in ports that refused to recognize the Portuguese king.

Historians originally credited this work to the Duarte Barbosa related to Ferdinand Magellan by marriage, a confidant of Magellan's who played a few big roles in the first circumnavigation and who was killed on Cebu days after Magellan's death at Mactan. But three Duarte Barbosas served the Portuguese in India and East Africa at the time the book was written.

More recent studies show that Barbosa the writer was likely not Magellan’s relation. Studies of the original Portuguese manuscript aim to one of the others. Read more on Duarte Barbosa here.

Several versions of Barbosa’s work exist, including an Italian version by Giovanni Battista Ramusio, a Spanish version, and an original Portuguese version. Historians have suggested that Magellan may have contributed to the book and that it may have been among documents and maps presented to Charles V when Magellan proposed the expedition.

An English translation by Mansel Longworth Dames is available in multiple digital formats at Internet Archive ( The Book Of Duarte Barbosa  Vol. 1 and The Book Of Duarte Barbosa  Vol. 2. This version includes an introduction by Dames detailing Duarte Barbosa’s history.

The Ramusio translation of Barbosa’s book was translated into English by Henry E. J. Stanley (Lord Stanley of Aderley, 1802-1869) in 1867. The book is available in multiple digital formats at Stanley’s lengthy introduction includes comment on “the piracies of the Portuguese … told without any reticence, apparently without consciousness of their criminality …”

Here are full links:




Introduction by Henry Edward John Stanley, translator and editor.


The Book Of Duarte Barbosa  Vol. 1

by Dames, Mansel Longworth, Tr.

From Internet Archive /

The Book Of Duarte Barbosa  Vol. 2

by Dames, Mansel Longworth, Tr.

From Internet Archive /

Gaspar Corrêa

Gaspar Corrêa (also Correia) 3,500-page Lendas da Índia (Legends of India) covers Portuguese maritime activity in India and Malacca from 1497 and 1550 including events that Ferdinand Magellan were involved in. Corrêa lived and worked in India for thirty-five years beginning around 1514. He served as secretary to Alfonso de Albuquerque from 1510–1515.


The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama and His Viceroyalty. From the Lendas de India, Gaspar Correa. Accompanied by original documents. Translated from the Portuguese with notes and an introduction by Henry E. J. Stanley. 

   • Available in PDF online at Hathi Trust Digital Library


Discovery and Conquest of the Molucco and Philippine Islands.

Written in Spanish by Bartholomew Leonardo de Argensola, Chaplain to the Empress, and Rector of Villahermosa (in 1609). Now Translated into English: And Illustrated with a Map and several Cuts (1708). CONTAINING, Their History, Ancient and Modern, Natural and Political: Their Description, Product, Religion, Government, Laws, Languages, Customs, Manners, Habits, Shape, and Inclinations of the Natives. With an Account of many other adjacent Islands, and several remarkable Voyages through the Strait of Magellan, and in other Parts.

Southeast Asia

Ma Huan
Ma Huan, Ying-yai Sheng-lan (瀛涯勝覽, “Overall Survey of the Oceans Shores”), 1433. Translated from the Chinese text with introduction, notes, and appendices by J. V. G. Mills. Cambridge University Press / Hakluyt Society, 1970. The Chinese voyager and chronicler Ma Huan compiled a rich history of the Ming Treasure Voyages led by the admiral Zheng He, which helped establish a new age of trade around the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. Ma Huan is a key source for information on early Malacca. The work is available free in multiple formats including downloadable PDF at