Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America

Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0812972988

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In Amerigo, the award-winning scholar Felipe Fernández-Armesto answers the question “What’s in a name?” by delivering a rousing flesh-and-blood narrative of the life and times of Amerigo Vespucci. Here we meet Amerigo as he really was: a rogue and raconteur who counted Christopher Columbus among his friends and rivals; an amateur sorcerer who attained fame and honor through a series of disastrous failures and equally grand self-reinventions. Filled with well-informed insights and amazing anecdotes, this magisterial and compulsively readable account sweeps readers from Medicean Florence to the Sevillian court of Ferdinand and Isabella, then across the Atlantic of Columbus to the brave New World where fortune favored the bold.

Amerigo Vespucci emerges from these pages as an irresistible avatar for the age of exploration–and as a man of genuine achievement as a voyager and chronicler of discovery. And now, in Amerigo, this mercurial and elusive figure finally has a biography to do full justice to both the man and his remarkable era.

Praise for Amerigo:

“Wonderfully idiosyncratic and intelligent.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Fascinating . . . [Fernández-Armesto’s] lively style is effective in evoking the flashy and violent world of Renaissance Europe.”
The Washington Post Book World

“An outstanding historian . . . [Fernández-Armesto] introduces Amerigo Vespucci as an amazing Renaissance character independent of his name’s fame–and does Fernández-Armesto ever deliver.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Dazzling . . . an elegant tale of Vespucci’s ability to transform himself from a merchant into an explorer and conqueror of new worlds.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)


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as had not already dispersed, owing to lack of funds— broke up. Many of the scholars left to pursue careers elsewhere, and the town they had briefly glorified resumed a sleepy, modest, provincial air. But when the news of Vespucci's voyages arrived, a number of creditable writers, commentators, printing experts, and bibliophiles had gathered in St. Dié, thanks to the duke's patronage. There was Pierre de Blarru, who died in 1505, and who wrote those epic-style verses in praise of René. There were

market. The Latin of Mundus Novus is not learned—that is, it is not the pedantic, fastidious Latin of humanist scholars who disdained anything unanticipated in the work of Cicero. In any case, the Latin may not be Vespucci's own. A sort of colophon at the end of the book declares it to be a translation. This should not necessarily be taken literally. Authors often represented original works of the time as translations, to cover imperfections, strew mystification, and introduce distance between

precisely; and these were the quadrant and the astrolabe, which all men have come to know. For this reason they subsequently made me the object of great honour; for I showed them that though a man without practical experience, yet through the teaching of that marine chart for navigators I was more skilled than all the ship-masters of the whole world. For these have no knowledge except of the waters to which they have often sailed. 30 These passages capture Vespucci's authentic voice: the

Vespucci's exercise book with their confessions of inattentiveness. Of course, a clever fraudster could concoct a passage like this one, and the pious yearning to retrieve a misspent youth can be dismissed as a rhetorical device. Nonetheless, how like the real Vespucci is the wheedling tone, how characteristic the allusion to Petrarch! The compiler also mentions Amerigo's brother Antonio by name. Although these passages do not prove Vespucci's authorship of the Letter, they do place the work in a

more evidence of his lies. “He audaciously announced himself to all Europe as the first discoverer of the Continent of the New World,” retorted Claret de Fleurieu, the great publicist of French scientific exploration at the time, “and Europe, deluded, gave credit to his assertion without examining it!”55 The greatest scholar of the age, Alexander von Humboldt, adopted a more balanced approach, insisting on Columbus's priority but declining to indict Vespucci for bad faith. Humboldt perceptively

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