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|1488 in poetry|
- January 8 – The Royal Netherlands Navy is formed, by the decree of Maximillian of Austria.
- February 3 – Bartolomeu Dias of Portugal lands in Mossel Bay, after rounding the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of Africa, becoming the first known European to travel this far south, and entering the Indian Ocean.
- February 28 – Choe Bu (1454–1504), the Korean Commissioner of Registers for the island of Cheju, shipwrecks on the south east coast of China in Taizhou, Zhejiang, during the Ming Dynasty. From then until July 12, he and his crew are hosted by Chinese military courier officers to travel along the Grand Canal of China, all the way to Beijing, and then finally back across the Yalu River into Korea. His written commentary on Chinese customs, foreign and domestic trade, and transport in places such as Hangzhou and Suzhou, are valuable records of Ming era culture and commerce.
- June 11 – Battle of Sauchieburn: James IV of Scotland becomes king.
- July 28 – Battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier: Troops loyal to King Charles VIII of France defeat rebel forces, led by the Dukes of Orleans and Brittany, in the main engagement of the Mad War.
- September 9 – Anne of Brittany becomes Duchess of Brittany at the age of 11. Her marriage to King Charles VIII in 1491 effectively ends Breton independence from France.
- Jasper Tudor, 1st Duke of Bedford, takes possession of Cardiff Castle.
- Michelangelo Buonarroti becomes apprentice to Domenico Ghirlandaio.
- The city of Bikaner in western India is founded by Rao Bika.
- Rathbornes Candles is established in Dublin; the company is still trading in the 21st century.
- January 6 – Helius Eobanus Hessus, German Latin poet (d. 1540)
- January 20
- March 19 – Johannes Magnus, last Catholic Archbishop of Sweden (d. 1544)
- April 16 – Jungjong of Joseon (d. 1544)
- April 21 – Ulrich von Hutten, German religious reformer (d. 1523)
- May 1 – Sidonie of Bavaria, eldest daughter of Duke Albrecht IV of Bavaria-Munich (d. 1505)
- May 5 – Lê Uy Mục, 8th king of the later Lê dynasty of Vietnam (d. 1509)
- May 7 – John III of the Palatinate, Administrator of the Bishopric of Regensburg (d. 1538)
- June – Heinrich Glarean, Swiss music theorist (d. 1563)
- June 29 – Pedro Pacheco de Villena, Spanish Catholic cardinal (d. 1560)
- July 15 – Juan Álvarez de Toledo, Spanish Catholic cardinal (d. 1557)
- October 17 – Ursula of Brandenburg, Duchess consort of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (d. 1510)
- December 1 – Elisabeth of Nassau-Dillenburg, Countess of Wied, German noblewoman (d. 1559)
- December 15 – Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria (d. 1550)
- date unknown
- April 1 – John II, Duke of Bourbon (b. 1426)
- April 14 – Girolamo Riario, Lord of Imola and Forli (b. 1443)
- May 9 – Frederick I of Liegnitz, Duke of Chojnów and Strzelin from 1453 (b. 1446)
- May 26 – Iizasa Ienao, Japanese swordsman (b. c. 1387)
- June 11 – King James III of Scotland (at the Battle of Sauchieburn; b. c. 1451)
- July 18 – Alvise Cadamosto, Italian explorer (b. 1432)
- July 28 – Edward Woodville, Lord Scales (at the Battle of St. Aubin-du-Cormier; b. c. 1456)
- July 30 – Clarice Orsini, Florentine noblewoman and wife of Lorenzo de’ Medici (b. 1453)
- September – Abu 'Amr 'Uthman, Hafsid caliph of Ifriqiya (b. 1419)
- September 9 – Francis II, Duke of Brittany (fell from a horse) (b. 1433)
- September 13 – Charles II, Duke of Bourbon (b. 1434)
- date unknown
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