AleXandro Malaspina to Gherardo Rangoni  (*)

Cádiz: June 2, 1789

To be honest, I am somewhat embarrassed at not having responded punctually to your two highly-valued letters, through which you did me the honour of forwarding to me the note from Father Abbot Spallanzani and the advice of the Academy of Turin. Above all I am fully cognisant that it is to your kindness, for which I am much obliged, that I owe the honour that the Academy proposes to do me. (1)

I was waiting impatiently for details from the Court in order to reply to you with greater clarity and thus to put in order a correspondence which for me is one of the most important, instructive and honourable, and by the same token one of the most fervent and constant. This is the reason I have had to defer my reply to you; the same reason, and not any instructions I have received, oblige me also to be brief.

I previously had the honour to inform you that, right from the beginning, my approach to the investigations desired by the various sages of Europe was consistent with the initial intention of the voyage: to shun discoveries that would turn out to be illusory, and instead to try to examine with philosophical detachment what has been already discovered, and, as this work, though proper to navigators, is directed to the advancement of the natural sciences rather than to the improvement of navigation, I would surely be thought culpable were I not utterly assiduous in seeking that illumination without which my research would be extremely limited and would perhaps then fail to do justice to the desires of the wise. Most esteemed Marchese, the news of our voyage, of our hopes and our efforts to contribute to the improvement of science has spread far and wide. You for your part have been pleased to regard the voyage through the eyes of both a sage and a patron. I hope that the written correspondence will hold nothing but the greatest interest and that by its means I receive during the voyage whatever advice anyone wishes to give me. Cavaliere Belmonti will give you face to face all the fine detail on the armaments which it would be extremely tedious to describe and I, meanwhile, with the intention of sending a long letter in a week or two, do myself the honour of reaffirming myself ...     

(*) Original now lost; copy in APSF; PICANYOL, p. 41; D. MANFREDI, Alessandro Malaspina e Fabio Ala Ponzone. Lettere dal Vecchio e Nuovo Mondo (1788-1803), Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, pp. 181-182. [Editing Criteria]

(1) In fact, by this date the Royal Academy of Sciences in Turin had already nominated Malaspina for the position of academic correspondent. In its records can be read, "On April 26, 1789, the Academy, duly assembled, ... read the draft of the response which, in accordance with what had been determined at the previous session, it deemed it would serve the Academy to make to Cavaliere Malaspina, and proposing at the same time to award the aforesaid Cavaliere the status of Correspondent, to show him further the esteem in which we hold him. The Academy, having approved the proposal, has referred it to the usual vote among its correspondents." (Archive of the Turin Royal Academy of Sciences)

Text courtesy of the Centro di Studi Malaspiniani, Mulazzo, Italy; translated by John Black and Manuela Fahme. Notes by Dario Manfredi, translated by John Black.       Italian Original

Updated: June 3, 2011