Felipe Fernández-Armesto

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In 1507 cartographers in Europe, struggling to redraw their map of the world to accommodate new discoveries, decided on a name for the western hemisphere. They called it 'America' after Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine explorer who was obscure at the time and has remained so ever since. Quibbles about whether he deserved to have America named after him have dominated the literature. But Amerigo the man-his life, his mind, his character, his relationships, his ambitions and inhibitions-has never inspired a serious, critical biography. Until now.

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto gives us a credible flesh-and-blood Vespucci. We see Amerigo for what he really was: a sometime pimp and small-time jewel-trader, who practised magic and attained the 'fame and honour' he sought through a series of disastrous failures and amazing self-reinventions. Amerigo's genius for makeovers makes him a suitably mercurial hero for our times. But lies, evasions, outrageous fantasies and monumental misjudgements strew his career.

Fernandez-Armesto pilots us through the evidence with scholarly caution, disciplined imagination and well-informed insights. We follow Amerigo from the Florence of Lorenzo de'Medici, to the Seville of Ferdinand and Isabella, across the Atlantic of Columbus, to his encounters with the brave New World beyond the ocean. Salesman, sorcerer and ruthless borrower of others' experiences, Vespucci emerges from this book, still elusive-as dodgy as in the Florentine demi-monde of his youth-but intimately knowable for the first time.

ISBN: 9780753822197
Publication Date: 01-Nov-2007
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group, Limited