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A Portuguese navigator and explorer in Spanish service, Quirós’ discoveries on voyages into the Pacific included the New Hebrides island group, now Vanuatu, which he named ‘La Australia del Espiritu Santo’ in the belief that it was a promontory of the then still mythical great southern continent.

Quirós’ voyage also took him towards the Antarctic regions and through the Torres Strait that separates Australia and New Guinea before returning across the Pacific to Mexico.

Back in Spain, he spent years bombarding the king and his ministers with letters and memorials, urging them to sponsor further expeditions into the southern hemisphere that could fully explore ‘Terra Australis’ and claim the new continent for God and Spain. Quirós may have sent 50 or more of these letters or ‘Memorials’, all without success, and though most were manuscripts, a number were printed.

These are now extremely rare and at Christie’s on December 1, one of only two recorded copies of the 13th, a bifolium (or four-page document) printed in Madrid in January 1613 (above left), sold for a low-estimate but record £80,000.