AMERIGO VESPUCCI (Italian pronunciation: ; March 9, 1454 –
February 22, 1512) was an Italian explorer , financier , navigator and
cartographer who first demonstrated that
Brazil and the West Indies
did not represent Asia's eastern outskirts as initially conjectured
from Columbus\' voyages , but instead constituted an entirely separate
landmass hitherto unknown to Old Worlders .
Colloquially referred to as the
New World , this second super
continent came to be termed "
Americas ", deriving its name from
Latin version of Vespucci's first name .
* 1 Background
* 2 Expeditions
* 3 Historical role
* 4 Voyages
* 4.1 First voyage
* 4.2 Second voyage
* 4.3 Third voyage
* 4.4 Fourth voyage
* 5 Personal life
* 6 Final years
* 7 Notes
* 8 Further reading
* 9 References
* 10 External links
The birthplace of
Amerigo Vespucci was born and raised in
Florence on the Italian
Peninsula . He was the third son of Ser Nastagio (Anastasio) Vespucci,
a Florentine notary , and Lisabetta Mini. The father of Ser Nastagio
(Anastasio) Vespucci had the name
Amerigo Vespucci also.
Amerigo Vespucci was educated by his uncle, Fra Giorgio Antonio
Vespucci, a Dominican friar of the monastery of San Marco in Florence.
While his elder brothers were sent to the
University of Pisa to pursue
Amerigo Vespucci embraced a mercantile life, and
was hired as a clerk by the Florentine commercial house of Medici ,
headed by Lorenzo de\' Medici . Vespucci acquired the favor and
protection of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de\' Medici who became the head
of the business after the elder Lorenzo's death in 1492. In March
1492, the Medici dispatched the thirty-eight-year-old Vespucci and
Donato Niccolini as confidential agents to look into the Medici branch
Cádiz (Spain), whose managers and dealings were under
suspicion. In April 1495, by the intrigues of Bishop Juan Rodríguez
de Fonseca , the
Crown of Castile broke their monopoly deal with
Christopher Columbus and began handing out licenses to other
navigators for the
West Indies . Just around this time (1495–96),
Vespucci was engaged as the executor of Giannotto Berardi, an Italian
merchant who had recently died in Seville. Vespucci organized the
fulfillment of Berardi's outstanding contract with the Castilian crown
to provide twelve vessels for the Indies. After these were delivered,
Vespucci continued as a provision contractor for Indies expeditions,
and is known to have secured beef supplies for at least one (if not
two) of Columbus' voyages.
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At the invitation of king
Manuel I of Portugal , Vespucci
participated as observer in several voyages that explored the east
South America between 1499 and 1502. On the first of these
voyages he was aboard the ship that discovered that South America
extended much further south than previously thought.
The expeditions became widely known in
Europe after two accounts
attributed to Vespucci were published between 1502 and 1504. In 1507,
Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new
continent America after the feminine
Latin version of Vespucci's first
name, which is Americus. In an accompanying book, Waldseemüller
published one of the Vespucci accounts, which led to criticism that
Vespucci was trying to upset
Christopher Columbus ' glory. However,
the rediscovery in the 18th century of other letters by Vespucci has
led to the view that the early published accounts, notably the
Soderini Letter , could be fabrications, not by Vespucci, but by
In 1508, the position of chief of navigation of Spain (piloto mayor
de Indias) was created for Vespucci, with the responsibility of
planning navigation for voyages to the Indies. Vespucci's first
encounter with Native Americans in Honduras, 1497 (De Bry 's
Two letters attributed to Vespucci were published during his
Mundus Novus (New World) was a
Latin translation of a lost
Italian letter sent from
Lisbon to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de'
Medici. It describes a voyage to
South America in 1501–1502. Mundus
Novus was published in late 1502 or early 1503 and soon reprinted and
distributed in numerous European countries. Lettera di Amerigo
Vespucci delle isole nuovamente trovate in quattro suoi viaggi (Letter
Amerigo Vespucci concerning the isles newly discovered on his four
voyages), known as Lettera al Soderini or just Lettera, was a letter
in Italian addressed to
Piero Soderini . Printed in 1504 or 1505, it
claimed to be an account of four voyages to the
Americas made by
Vespucci between 1497 and 1504. A
Latin translation was published by
Martin Waldseemüller in 1507 in Cosmographiae Introductio
, a book on cosmography and geography , as Quattuor Americi Vespucij
navigationes (Four Voyages of Amerigo Vespucci).
On March 22, 1508, King Ferdinand made Vespucci chief navigator of
Spain at a huge salary and commissioned him to found a school of
navigation, in order to standardize and modernize navigation
techniques used by Iberian sea captains then exploring the world.
Vespucci even developed a rudimentary, but fairly accurate method of
determining longitude (which only more accurate chronometers would
later improve upon). The first known depiction of cannibalism in
the New World. Engraving by Johann Froschauer for an edition of
Amerigo Vespucci's Mundus Novus, published in Augsburg in 1505
In the 18th century, three unpublished familiar letters from Vespucci
Lorenzo de' Medici were rediscovered. One describes a voyage made
in 1499–1500 which corresponds with the second of the "four
voyages". Another was written from Cape Verde in 1501 in the early
part of the third of the four voyages, before crossing the Atlantic.
The third letter was sent from
Lisbon after the completion of that
Some have suggested that Vespucci, in the two letters published in
his lifetime, was exaggerating his role and constructed deliberate
fabrications. However, many scholars now believe that the two letters
were not written by him but were fabrications by others based in part
on genuine letters by Vespucci. It was the publication and widespread
circulation of the letters that might have led Waldseemüller to name
the new continent America on his world map of 1507 in Lorraine .
Vespucci used a Latinised form of his name, Americus Vespucius, in his
Latin writings, which Waldseemüller used as a base for the new name,
taking the feminine form America, according to the prevalent view. The
book accompanying the map stated: "I do not see what right any one
would have to object to calling this part, after Americus who
discovered it and who is a man of intelligence, Amerige, that is, the
Land of Americus, or America: since both Europa and
Asia got their
names from women". It is possible that Vespucci was not aware that
Waldseemüller had named the continent after him.
The two disputed letters claim that Vespucci made four voyages to
America, while at most two can be verified from other sources. At the
moment, there is a dispute between historians on when Vespucci visited
the mainland the first time. Some historians like Germán Arciniegas
and Gabriel Camargo Pérez think that his first voyage was made in
June 1497 with the Spanish Pilot Juan de la Cosa.
Vespucci's real historical importance may well rest more in his
letters, whether he wrote them all or not, than in his discoveries.
From these letters, the European public learned about the newly
discovered continents of the
Americas for the first time; its
existence became generally known throughout
Europe within a few years
of the letters' publication.
Amerigo Vespucci as a child, part of the Madonna
della Misericordia (c. 1472) by
Domenico Ghirlandaio at the Ognissanti
The first and fourth voyages are perhaps fabulous, but the second and
third are certain.
A letter published in 1504 purports to be an account by Vespucci,
written to Soderini, of a lengthy visit to the New World, leaving
Spain in May 1497 and returning in October 1498. However, modern
scholars have doubted that this voyage took place, and consider this
letter a forgery. Whoever did write the letter makes several
observations of native customs, including use of hammocks and sweat
lodges . The names of Amerigo Vespucci's ships were the San Antiago,
Repertaga, Wegiz, and the Girmand.
About 1499–1500, Vespucci joined an expedition in the service of
Alonso de Ojeda (or Hojeda) as the fleet commander. The
intention was to sail around the southern end of the African mainland
Indian Ocean . After hitting land at the coast of what is
Guyana , the two seem to have separated. Vespucci sailed
southward, discovering the mouth of the
Amazon River and reaching
6°S, before turning around and seeing
Trinidad and the Orinoco River
and returning to Spain by way of
Hispaniola . The letter, to Lorenzo
di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, claims that Vespucci determined his
longitude celestially on August 23, 1499, while on this voyage.
However, that claim may be fraudulent, which could cast doubt on the
Portrait of Vespucci which titles him "discoverer and conqueror
of Brazilian land"
The last certain voyage of Vespucci was led by
Gonçalo Coelho in
1501–1502 in the service of
Portugal . Departing from
Lisbon , the
fleet sailed first to Cape Verde where they met two of Pedro Álvares
Cabral 's ships returning from
India . In a letter from Cape Verde,
Vespucci says that he hopes to visit the same lands that Álvares
Cabral had explored, suggesting that the intention is to sail west to
Asia, as on the 1499–1500 voyage. On reaching the coast of
they sailed south along the coast of
South America to Rio de Janeiro
's bay. If his own account is to be believed, he reached the latitude
Patagonia before turning back, although this also seems doubtful,
since his account does not mention the broad estuary of the Río de la
Plata , which he must have seen if he had gotten that far south.
Portuguese maps of South America, created after the voyage of Coelho
and Vespucci, do not show any land south of present-day
25° S, so this may represent the southernmost extent of their
voyages. Vespucci awakens "America" in a
After the first half of the expedition, Vespucci mapped Alpha and
Beta Centauri , as well as the constellation
Crux , the Southern Cross
and the Coalsack Nebula. Although these stars had been known to the
ancient Greeks , gradual precession had lowered them below the
European horizon so that they had been forgotten. On his return to
Lisbon, Vespucci wrote in a letter to Medici that the land masses they
explored were much larger than anticipated and different from the Asia
Marco Polo and therefore, must be a New World,
that is, a previously unknown fourth continent, after Europe, Asia,
Vespucci's fourth voyage was another expedition for the Portuguese
crown down the eastern coast of Brazil, that set out in May 1503 and
Portugal in June 1504. Like his alleged first voyage,
Vespucci's last voyage in 1503–1504 is also disputed to have taken
place. The only source of information for the last voyage is the
Letter to Soderini, but as several modern scholars dispute Vespucci's
authorship of the letter to Soderini, it is also sometimes doubted
whether Vespucci undertook this trip. However, Portuguese documents
do confirm a voyage to
Brazil was undertaken in 1503–04 by the
Gonçalo Coelho , very likely the same captain of the 1501
mapping expedition (Vespucci's third voyage), and so it is quite
possible that Vespucci went on board this one as well. However, it is
not independently confirmed Vespucci was aboard and there are some
difficulties in the reported dates and details.
The letters caused controversy after Vespucci's death, especially
among the supporters of Columbus who believed Columbus' priority for
the discovery of America was being undermined, and seriously damaged
Vespucci was a cousin of the husband of
Simonetta Vespucci . He
married Maria Cerezo. One of the very few references to Amerigo's wife
is contained in a royal decree dated May 22, 1512, giving his widow,
Maria Cerezo a lifetime pension of ten thousand marvedis per annum
deducted from the salary of her husband's successor.
Not long after his return to Spain, Vespucci became a Spanish
citizen. On March 22, 1508 he was made the pilot major of Spain by
Ferdinand II of Aragon in honor of his discoveries. Vespucci also ran
a school for navigators in the Spanish House of Trade , based in
He died on February 22, 1512 at his home in
Seville , Spain.
A Europeans had long conceptualized the Afro-Eurasian landmass as
divided into the same three continents known today:
Africa . Once cosmographers realized that the
New World was not
connected to the Old (but before its true geography was fully mapped
), they considered the
Americas to be a single, fourth continent . B
The question of the authenticity of Vespucci's authorship of the 1504
Mundus Novus and the 1505 Letter of Soderini, the only two texts
published in Vespucci's lifetime, was famously raised by Magnaghi
(1924). He proposed the Soderini letter was not written by Vespucci,
but rather cobbled together by unscrupulous Florentine publishers,
cutting and pasting together various accounts, some from Vespucci,
others from elsewhere. Magnaghi was the first to propose that only the
second and third voyages were true (as they are corroborated in
Vespucci's other manuscript letters), while the first and fourth
voyages (which are only found in the Soderini text) were fabricated by
the publishers. The later (1937) discovery of a corrobotary Vespucci
manuscript letter for the first voyage – the "Ridolfi fragment"
(Formisiano, 1992: p.37–44) – means only the fourth voyage is
really found in Soderini alone. The Magnaghi thesis has been a
bitterly divisive factor in Vespucci scholarship. The Magnaghi thesis
was accepted and popularized by Pohl (1944) but rejected by Arciniegas
(1955), who posited all four voyages as truthful. Formisiano (1992)
also rejects the Magnaghi thesis (although recognizing publishers
probably fiddled with it), and declares all four voyages genuine, but
in details (esp. the first) differing from Arciniegas.
Fernández-Armesto (2007: p.128) declares the authenticity question
"inconclusive", hypothesizes that the first voyage is probably just
another version of the second, the third is unassailable, and the
fourth probably true (but too mangled to be sure).
* Arciniegas, German (1955) Amerigo and the New World: The Life &
Times of Amerigo Vespucci. New York: Knopf. 1955 English translation
by Harriet de Onís. First edition published in Spanish in 1952 as
Amerigo y el Nuevo Mundo, Mexico: Hermes.
* Fernández-Armesto, Felipe (2007) Amerigo: The Man Who Gave his
Name to America. New York: Random House.
* Formisano, Luciano (1992) Letters from a New World: Amerigo
Vespucci's Discovery of America. New York: Marsilio.
* Magnaghi, Alberto (1924) Amerigo Vespucci: Studio critico, con
speciale riguardo ad una nuova valutazione delle fonti e con documenti
inediti tratti dal Codice Vaglienti, 2 vols, 1926 (2nd.) ed., Rome:
* Markham, Clements R., ed. (1894) The Letters of Amerigo Vespucci,
and Other Documents Illustrative of His Career.
Hakluyt Society .
Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press , 2010. ISBN 978-1-108-01286-7
* Pohl, Frederick J. (1944) Amerigo Vespucci: Pilot Major. New York:
Columbia University Press.
* Ober, Frederick A. (1907) Heroes of American History: Amerigo
Vespucci New York: Harper -webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width:
30em; list-style-type: decimal;">
* ^ See e.g. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, Amerigo Vespucci; and
Room, Adrian. 2004. Placenames of the world: origins and meanings of
the names for over 5000 natural features, countries, capitals,
territories, cities and historic sights: America believed to have
derived their name from the feminized
Latin version of his first name
* ^ Rival explanations have been proposed (see Arciniegas, Germán.
Amerigo and the New World: The Life ">) For example, some have
speculated that the name's origin may lie with
Richard Amerike BBC, or
with the region
Nicaragua . None of these theories has
been accepted in mainstream academia.
* ^ A B C D C.R. Markham (1894) "Introduction", in The Letters of
Amerigo Vespucci and other documents illustrative of his career.
* ^ Alexander Christopher Bickle et alii page: 6000000050473130275
Geni November 28, 2016 Retrieved 2017-02-23
* ^ Alexander Christopher Bickle et alii - page:6000000050483095880
Geni November 28, 2016 Retrieved 2017-02-23
* ^ A B C Formisano, Luciano (Ed.) (1992). Letters from a New
World: Amerigo Vespucci's Discovery of America. New York: Marsilio.
ISBN 0-941419-62-2 . Pp. xix–xxvi.
* ^ Ober, p. 234
* ^ Ray, p.93
* ^ "Life of Amerigo Vespucci". Millersville.edu. Archived from the
original on 28 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-28.
* ^ "Account of alleged 1497 voyage". Fordham.edu. Retrieved
* ^ A B O\'Gorman, Edmundo (1961). The Invention of America.
Indiana University Press. pp. 106–107.
* ^ A B on a rainy and stormy day with calm seas, stars could be
identified near the horizon to judge latitude /longitude celestially.
Although South America's continental shelf drops quickly into the deep
ocean beyond the
Orinoco River , the mouth is on the shelf, avoiding
the ocean swells and waves which hinder visibility of stars near the
horizon. Seamen who could navigate from
Europe to America and back
could chart stars on the horizon, especially for a cartographer like
* ^ Dekker, Elly (1990), Annals of Science, vol. 47, pp. 535–543.
* ^ Ray, p.91
* ^ Markham, pp.52–56
* ^ Fernández-Armesto (2007: p.168–169).
* ^ Ray, pp.96–97; Arciniegas (1955:p.16)
* ^ Hoogenboom, Lynn (2005-09-01). Amerigo Vespucci: A Primary
Source Biography. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-4042-3037-8 .
* ^ Donaldson-Forbes, Jeff (2002-01-01). Amerigo Vespucci. The
Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8239-5833-7 .
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