|Amerigo Vespucci (photo: nytimes)|
Last Wednesday, the 22 of February, was the 500th anniversary of the death of a famous Florentine. His name should ring a bell with Americans – AMERIGO VESPUCCI. A number of different events will be held in 2012 celebrating the life of this famous navigator.
Yes, you guessed it, the geographic name America derives from this Italian explorer who grew up on the streets of Florence in the Ognissanti neighborhood.
This merchant turned explorer first worked for the Medici branch bank in Seville, Spain. He became caught up in the exploration frenzy inspired from Columbus’ discoveries and took part in his own sea voyages for Spain and Portugal. He explored the coasts of South America. In one journey he discovered the coast of Brasil and the Amazon basin and in another journey the Plata River south to Patagonia. Understanding he had not arrived in Asia as Columbus believed, his vivid accounts of the ‘new world’ were quite sensational and when published created quite a stir throughout Europe. So much so that in 1507 the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller included Vespucci on his published woodcut map of the world. On this map, he referred to the newly discovered lands as ‘America,' in Vespucci's honor. Even though there was some question a short time afterwards whether an entire continent should be named after one man it was too late, the name had stuck.
You don’t have to travel abroad to see the last surviving copy of this famous 1507 map. It is housed at the Library of Congress in Washington DC! I’ll write more about the arrival of the famous Waldseemüller map in America in a future post!
- Posted by Elizabeth