Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Author . Random $24.95 (231p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6281-2

I n a dazzling new biography, noted historian Fernández-Armesto (Columbus ) captures the exploits of the now mostly forgotten adventurer for whom the New World was named—a man the author characterizes as a self-promoter lacking in talent and accomplishment. Born into a Florentine family, the young Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512) entered the seagoing life to make his fortune; his earliest expeditions were in search of pearls. As a result of his later voyages, however, Vespucci presented himself as a celestial navigator and “master of the art of reading latitude and even longitude.” As Fernández-Armesto points out, Vespucci's own accounts of his voyages were largely colored by his readings, so that he exaggerated the physical beauty of the new worlds and the new peoples he encountered, and he promoted himself as an expert in cosmography when his skills were far more modest. Although Vespucci claimed to have navigated beyond the Pole Star and to have measured longitude by lunar distances, Fernández-Armesto shows that these claims were false. But Vespucci promoted himself so well that mapmakers in 1507 chose to name America after him. Fernández-Armesto weaves an elegant tale of Vespucci's ability to transform himself from a merchant into an explorer and conqueror of new worlds. (Aug. 7)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2007
Release date: 08/01/2007
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-7538-1802-2
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