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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Martin Fernandez de Enciso

ENCISO, Martin Fernandez de, Spanish cosmographer, born in Seville about the middle of the 15th century; died in the same City about 1525. It is not known in what year or in what capacity he went to America, but he had established himself in 1508 in the Island of Santo Domingo, where he made a fortune as a lawyer, and had the title of "baehiller y letrado." The government of that part of America along the isthmus of Darien and east of the gulf of Uraba had just been granted to Ojeda, but, to get possession of the lands that were granted and to colonize them, money was needed, and he addressed Enciso, who had then the reputation of being rich and adventurous. A bargain was soon made between them; Ojeda gave Enciso the title of alcalde mayor of his government, and the latter agreed to furnish a ship with provisions and men. After a visit to the gulf of Uraba, where he found his companions a prey to famine, Ojeda determined to return to Santo Domingo and hasten the arrival of the succors promised by Enciso, leaving Francisco Pizarro in the new colony. Nearly two months had passed, when Enciso appeared at last in the harbor of Carthagena with a ship loaded with provisions, and having on board twelve mares, several stallions, sows and boars, ammunition, spears, swords, and other arms, and over 150 men.

At Carthagena he was joined by a ship, under the orders of Pizarro, which had left Uraba some fifty days after the departure of Ojeda and was carrying to Santo Domingo the few colonists who had survived the famine. After many adventures from shipwreck and with hostile savages, the party reached Darien (1510), and set about building a City, when Enciso excited a mutiny by forbidding them to trade with the Indians for gold under pain of death, and was finally deposed by Vasco Nunez de Balboa (see BALBOA).

Enciso sailed for Spain (1512), brought the arbitrary conduct of Balboa before the court, and Pedrarias Davila was sent out as governor of Darien (1514), with instructions to do justice between the contestants. Enciso accompanied him as alguacil mayor, and after his arrival obtained a decree condemning Balboa to pay him a large sum as an indemnity for the wrongs he had suffered. In 1515 he was sent at the head of an expedition into the province of Cenu, where it was reported there was much gold, and unsuccessfully tried first to persuade and then to force the caciques to submit to the king of Spain. Shortly after this event he returned to Spain and devoted his time to the arrangement and publication of the materials that he had gathered during his stay in the New World. He published a memoir in favor of the commanderies established and about to be established in the West Indies, which met with much opposition from the Franciscans, and "Suma de geografia que trata de todos las partidas y provincias del mundo ; en especial de las Indias y trata larga,hente del arte de marear" (Seville, 1519; new editions, 1530 and 1549).

"Enciso," says Navarrete, "has embraced in this work all that was then known of the theory and practice of pilotage." He gives a dissertation on the sphere according to the Ptolemaic system, with tables of declination, the method of taking the height of the polar star and its use, and the construction of the mariner's compass with thirty-two rhumblines. Enciso was not ignorant of the inaccuracies that resulted from these projections, and of the difficulty of representing a spherical figure on a plane surface, though he could not find the means of correction. The geographical portion of the work is written with great exactness, and contains the first description of the result of Spanish exploration up to 1519. He fixed the latitudes of the islands discovered, and of several points on the mainland. Cape Higuey, in Santo Domingo, is marked 20°, and Cape Cruz 23°, and those positions, although incorrect, are less so than those found in Ruysch, Peter Martyr de Anghierra, and others.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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