The Zeno Brothers
Both Nicolò Zeno (1326-1402?) and his brother Antonio (1330?-1403?) did exist. The Zeno family were established among the aristocracy of Venice and the family did historically control the franchise of transportation between Venice and the Holy Land during the Crusades as mentioned in the novel. Both men were esteemed navigators and their brother Carlo was regarded as something of a hero for his role in the war against Genoa.
In life the brothers were noted for their talents as seafarers but not on the same scale as Carlo. This changed in 1558 when one of Nicolò’s descendents, also named Nicolò, published a strange account involving his ancestor in life. According to the published account the younger Nicolò while playing in the family home stumbled across a strange map, a book and a series of letters written between the brothers in life, including some to Carlo. Sadly, the descendent claims to have destroyed many of them, not realising the consequences of his actions.
Over the centuries, the legend of the Zeno brothers has become one of great controversy. If the letters are to be believed the tale described in the novel is historically accurate. The accompanying map, giving poorly drawn locations for the islands of Frislanda, Icaria, Estotilanda, Drogeo and many others has convinced some authors that historical voyages were made by the brothers, possibly across the Atlantic over ninety years before Columbus.
Proving the validity of the map and the letters is a historical nightmare. Most scholars condemn them as hoaxes. One of the greatest arguments against their validity are contradictory accounts that suggest both of the brothers were elsewhere at the time they were said to be in Frislanda.
Another problem is identifying the location of the various islands. Frislanda is supposedly somewhere between Scotland and the Faroe Islands, though nothing obviously exists to meet the necessary criteria. For the purpose of this novel, I have chosen Fair Isle in Scotland, also suggested by Andrew Sinclair. Icaria I chose as St. Kilda, as its location is close to being where Icaria could be based on the assumption Fair Isle is Frislanda, though Icaria is described as being larger than St. Kilda – Sinclair suggested St. Kilda or Kerry as possible answers; Sora, interestingly, refers to a sunken island in the general area rediscovered by Arlington Mallery. Estotilanda is often identified as Labrador or Nova Scotia, which I have accepted, whereas Drogeo I chose to be New England as this fits in with the location of the Newport Tower. Suggestion for Drogeo has been anything from Nova Scotia to Mexico or the Caribbean.