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Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 7, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400062810
  • ASIN: B005Q7CWBM
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,927,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In 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)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* An outstanding historian of Atlantic exploration, Fernández-Armesto delves into the oddities of cultural transmission that attached the name America to the continents discovered in the 1490s. Most know that it honors Amerigo Vespucci, whom the author introduces as an amazing Renaissance character independent of his name's fame—and does Fernández-Armesto ever deliver. Pimp, flimflam man, diplomat, business agent, and inventive writer, Vespucci's many guises spring from his record of failing at one thing and moving on to the next. A Florentine, he performed government functions for the Medici, apparently not well enough for promotion but good enough to maintain correspondence when Vespucci decamped for Seville and entered the orbit of Columbus. Vespucci's letters and travel writings about his several voyages to the New World became his brief to be an explorer, but Vespucci's authorship is contested, informs Fernández-Armesto, who analyzes the scholarly controversy with clarity. In 1507 one of the writings that Fernández-Armesto regards as bogus reached gullible geographers in the landlocked duchy of Lorraine, of all places; they added "America" to their world map, which became popular. On such contingencies was the permanence of America's name achieved, a story brightly animated by Fernández-Armesto's biography. Taylor, Gilbert

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By RPD on October 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Felipe has done an excellent job of writing a concise and beautifully articulate account on Amerigo, the man who gave his name to America. However, I think the subtitle should perhaps be- The man who finagled getting his name stamped upon America.

This biography offers a wealth of information about Renaissance Florence, Seville and the famous characters of history that many know; yet, few seldom realize how much they overlapped each other. Due to a limited amount of factual documentation on Amerigo, Felipe needed to fill a book with additional facts, yet it was not done to simply fill out a volume, but rather to fill out the times, the mindset, and the world of Amerigo and his famous contemporaries. This includes Columbus, the Medici family, Toscanelli, Ferdinand and Isabella, as well as important men like Gianotto Berardi, the banker who along invested his life and financial resources for Columbus, but met financial disaster instead.

Amerigo happened to work for Berardi, and after this financial debacle, he was forced to make an occupational shift in direction. That journey took him westward, in the footsteps of Columbus and eventually led to worldwide fame, as his name supplanted the New World's rightful hero to indelibly mark two huge continents.

We as Americans shall always ponder our nation blaringly sounding the name of the Italian adventurer Amerigo Vespucci, while lamenting that it should have been Columbus or Columbia or something similar. More astounding still is how Ferdinand and other monarchs were incapable of silencing Amerigo, or any other claimant from attaining such a colossal honor.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By KaitouKiddo on November 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"Amerigo Vespucci, who gave his name to America, was a pimp in his youth and a magus in his maturity," is the first line of the book Amerigo: the Man Who Gave His Name to America by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. It can be concluded that Fernandez-Armesto liked using words that the current readers would know. He divided his book into six chapters, each having their own sections. He claimed Amerigo to be a curious man with a dream of discovering India. Some historians think that Amerigo was not trying to steal Columbus's thunder but Fernandez-Armesto argues that Amerigo was a compliment to Columbus by adding just as much information about Columbus as about Amerigo.

Fernandez-Armesto first chapter, "The Sorcerer's Apprenticeship" details the ties Amerigo had with the Medici, the all powerful family, which gave him right to education and his knowledge about India and the spice islands. He eventually left school after his father's death to work. His grandfather had money and a home where the Vespucci family lived. His father worked under Lorenzo and his son Giovanni, and so had Amerigo. His ties with the Medici family were important to Amerigo interest in cosmology. Later in his life, Lorenzo sent him to work in the Medici Bank.
Next, the second and the third chapter explain his life away from Italy and the new ideas Amerigo gained to start his voyage. He then left Italy to live his life. He became a financier and a commission agent dealing in jewelry in Seville, Spain. During his work, he gained knowledge of India and many riches that lies in the Indian Ocean. Amerigo was naturally good at reading the stars and wanted to go on a voyage. He went to South America and North America with Captain Pedro Alvares Cabral. Cabral was the second man to see America.
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Format: Paperback
This book is only for those with a strong interest in the commercial interests behind America's discovery by a bunch of Italians under Spanish and Portugese flags. I thought no one knew much about Columbus until I started trying to learn about Vespucci who makes Columbus look like an open book. Vespucci and Columbus were friends, compatriots, and perhaps rivals but I doubt that Admiral Columbus saw Vespucci as anything more than a second rate financier turned amateur sailor, geographer, and map-maker.

My favorite part of Vespucci's story is that historians today don't even know how many voyages he took, let alone where he went and if he really shed any light on navigation or map-making as he claimed. Apparently some early scholars took fables and fabrications to heart and gave Vespucci a lot of undeserved credit. It may be that he never discovered much of anything, but played a role in trading (especially slaves), and publishing others' work. The 400th anniversary of the naming of America for Vespucci passed without much fanfare a few years ago so I think we all know the final score on the man's legacy. Hard to imagine changing the name of a continent these days but it might be called for.

We do know Vespucci was from a somewhat noble Florentine family and had befriended some Medici. He seems to have picked the right allies and ended up going to Sevilla in their service. This was around the time that Columbus was sailing out. Later Vespucci himself graduated from commercial agent to actual naval officer (probably not expedition leader). This was a big step up from his early days of slave trader, womanizer, and procurer of goods and illicit services.
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