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Amerigo Vespucci

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This article is about the explorer. For the ship, see Amerigo Vespucci (ship).

Amerigo Vespucci

Statue outside the Uffizi, Florence.

March 9, 1454

Florence, Republic of Florence, in present-day



February 22, 1512 (aged 57)

Seville, Crown of Castile, in present-day Spain
Italian, Florentine
Amrico Vespucio [es]

Other names Americus Vespucius [la]

Alberigo Vespucci
Occupation Merchant, Explorer, Cartographer
Demonstrating that the New World was not
Known for

Asia but a previously-unknown fourth


Amerigo Vespucci (March 9, 1454 February 22, 1512) was an Italian explorer,
navigator and cartographer. The continents of North America and South America are
generally believed to have derived their name from the feminized Latin version of his
first name.[1][2]


1 Expeditions
2 Historical role
3 Voyages
o 3.1 First Voyage
o 3.2 Second Voyage
o 3.3 Third voyage
o 3.4 Fourth voyage
4 Notes
5 References

6 External links


Illustration of the birthplace of Amerigo Vespucci

Amerigo Vespucci was born and brought up by his uncle in the Republic of Florence in
what is now Italy.
He worked for Lorenzo de' Medici and his son, Giovanni. In 1492 he was sent to work
at the agency of Medici bank in Seville, Spain.
At the invitation of king Manuel I of Portugal, Vespucci participated as observer in
several voyages that explored the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502.
In 1500 that King's commander, Pedro lvares Cabral, on his way to the Cape of Good
Hope and India, had discovered Brazil at latitude 1652'S. Portugal claimed this land by
the Treaty of Tordesillas, and the King wished to know whether it was merely an island
or part of the continent Spanish explorers had encountered farther north.

Vespucci, having already been to the Brazilian shoulder, seemed the person best
qualified to go as an observer with the new expedition Manuel was sending. Vespucci
did not command at the start - the Portuguese captain was probably Gonalo Coelho but ultimately took charge at the request of the Portuguese officers. Vespucci, in all
probability, voyaged to America at the time noted, but he did not have command and as
yet had no practical experience piloting a ship. 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 Waldseemller
produced a world map on which he named the new continent America after Vespucci's
first name, Amerigo. In an accompanying book, Waldseemller 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, primarily the Soderini Letter, has led to the view that the early published
accounts could be fabrications, not by Vespucci, but by others.
In 1503 Vespucci sailed in Portuguese service again to Brazil, but this expedition failed
to make new discoveries. The fleet broke up, the Portuguese commander's ship
disappeared, and Vespucci could proceed only a little past Bahia before returning to
Lisbon in 1504. He did not sail again, and as there seemed no more work for him in
Portugal he returned to Seville, where he settled permanently and where he had earlier
married Maria de Cerezo. He was middle-aged, and the fact that there were no children
might indicate that Maria was also past her youth.

Historical role
Columbus never thought Vespucci had tried to steal his laurels, and in 1505 he wrote his
son, Diego, saying of Amerigo, "It has always been his wish to please me; he is a man
of good will; fortune has been unkind to him as to others; his labors have not brought
him the rewards he in justice should have."
In 1508, after only two voyages to the Americas, 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.
Two letters attributed to Vespucci were published during his lifetime. 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.[3] Lettera di Amerigo Vespucci delle isole
nuovamente trovate in quattro suoi viaggi (Letter of 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 the German Martin Waldseemller
in 1507 in Cosmographiae Introductio, a book on cosmography and geography, as
Quattuor Americi Vespuccij navigationes (Four Voyages of Amerigo Vespucci).[3]

In 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).
In the 18th century three unpublished familiar letters from Vespucci to 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 voyage.`[3]
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 Martin Waldseemller 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 Waldseemller
used as a base for the new name, taking the feminine form America, according to the
prevalent view (for other hypotheses, see the footnote in the introduction). 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". Amerigo itself is an Italian form of the medieval Latin
Emericus (see also Saint Emeric of Hungary), which through the German form Heinrich
(in English, Henry) derived from the Germanic name Haimirich.[4]
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 mainland the first time. Some historians like
German Arciniegas and Gabriel Camargo Perez think that his first voyage was done 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
continent of the Americas for the first time; its existence became generally known
throughout Europe within a few years of the letters' publication. He died on February
22, 1512 in Seville, Spain, of an unknown cause.

[edit] Voyages

Portrait of Amerigo Vespucci, part of the Madonna della Misericordia by Domenico

Ghirlandaio at the Ognissanti church in Florence
[edit] First Voyage
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.[5] Whoever did write the letter makes several observations of native
customs, including use of hammocks and sweat lodges.[6]
[edit] Second Voyage
About the 14991500, Vespucci joined an expedition in the service of Spain, with
Alonso de Ojeda (or Hojeda) as the fleet commander. The intention was to sail around
the southern end of the African mainland into the Indian Ocean.[7] After hitting land at
the coast of what is now Guyana, the two seem to have separated. Vespucci sailed
southward, discovering the mouth of the Amazon River and reaching 6S, 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 [8] on August 23, 1499, while on this
voyage. However, that claim may be fraudulent,[8] which could cast doubt on the letter's
[edit] Third voyage
The last certain voyage of Vespucci was led by Gonalo Coelho in 15011502 in the
service of Portugal. Departing from Lisbon, the fleet sailed first to Cape Verde where
they met two of Pedro lvares Cabral's ships returning from India. In a letter from Cape
Verde, Vespucci says that he hopes to visit the same lands that lvares Cabral had
explored, suggesting that the intention is to sail west to Asia, as on the 1499-1500
voyage.[7] On reaching the coast of Brazil, 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 of Patagonia before turning back, although this also seems doubtful, since his
account does not mention the broad estuary of the Ro 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 Canania at
25 S, so this may represent the southernmost extent of their voyages.
After the first half of the expedition, Vespucci mapped Alpha and Beta Centauri, as well
as the constellation Crux, the Southern Cross.[8] 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
d'Medici that the land masses they explored were much larger than anticipated and
different from the Asia described by Ptolemy or Marco Polo and therefore, must be a
New World, that is, a previously unknown fourth continent, after Europe, Asia, and
[edit] Fourth voyage
Little is known of his last voyage in 15031504 or even whether it actually took place.
Vespucci died from malaria in Seville in 1512.

[edit] Notes

Europeans had long conceptualized the Afro-Eurasian landmass as divided into

the same three continents known today: Europe, Asia, and 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.
1. ^ See e.g. Encyclopaedia 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.
2. ^ Rival explanations have been proposed (see Arciniegas, Germn. Amerigo and the
New World: The Life & Times of Amerigo Vespucci. Translated by Harriet de Ons. New
York: Octagon Books, 1978.[specify]) For example, some have speculated that the name's
origin may lie with Richard Amerike [1], or with the region Amerrique in Nicaragua.
None of these theories has been accepted in mainstream academia yet.
3. ^ 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.
4. ^
5. ^ "Life of Amerigo Vespucci". Retrieved 2010-02-28.
6. ^ "Account of alleged 1497 voyage". Retrieved 201002-28.
7. ^ a b O'Gorman, Edmundo (1961). The Invention of America. Indiana University Press.
pp. 106107.
8. ^ a b c 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 Vespucci.[citation needed]