Friday, March 8, 2013

Americus Vespucius (1451 -1512) and the name of America

The most popular story about the naming America is derived from the Latin version of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci’s name, Americus Vespucius, in its feminine form.

Amerigo Vespucci or his Latin name Americus Vespucius, was the third son of Anastasio Vespucci and Elizabeth Mini, and was born in Florence in the 9th of March 1451.

About 1490 he moved to Spain, where it is said he became acquainted with Columbus in 1942.

Amerigo sailed from Cadiz, May 20, 1497, and returned to the same port, October 15, 1498, having discovered the coast of Paria and passed as far as the gulf of Mexico.

On May 20, 1499, accompanied with Alonso de Ojeba, and proceeded to the Antilles islands and thence to the coast of Guiana and Venezuela and returned to Cadiz in November 1500. On this voyage Vespucci is believed to have ‘discovered’ the mouth of the Amazon River.

The part of the continent discovered by him was near the equator. In his letter dated July 18, 150, he says, ‘We discovered a very large country of Asia’.

After his return, Emanuel, King of Portugal, who was jealous of the success and glory of Spain, invited him to his Kingdom and gave him the command of three ships to make a third voyage of discovery.

He sailed from Lisbon, May 10, 1501 and ran down the coasts of Africa as far as Sierra, Leone and coasts of Angola, and then passed over to Brazil in South America. He might have sighted Guanabara Bay or Rio de Janeiro’s bay and sailed to the Rio de la Plata, making him the first European to discover that estuary.

He then returned to Sierra Leone and the coast of Guinea and entered again the port of Lisbon, September 7, 1502. He was received at Lisbon with great honor and rejoicing.

He died at the island of Tercera in aged about 63 years.

In 1507 the German cartographer and geographer Martin Waldseemuller suggested that the new lands be named “America”, thus Vespucius got the credit.

There are two letters attributed to Vespucci were published during his lifetime. Mundus Novus or New World was published in late 1502 and ‘Letter of Amerigo Vespucci concerning the isles newly discovered on his four voyages’, known as Lettera al Solderini printed in 1504.

One person who accepted Amerigo Vespucci’s claims was Martin Waldseemuller.

It was the publication and widespread circulation of the letters that led Martin Waldseemuller to name the new continent America on his world map of 1507 in Loraine. He published and sold 1,000 copies of a large woodcut map, entitled ‘Map of the World According to the Traditions of Ptolemy and Americus Vespucius’. The name America appears for the first time, though it is applied only to South America.

In 1538, influential Belgian cartographer Gerard Mercator published a map dividing the New World into ‘North America’ and ‘South America’.
Americus Vespucius (1451 -1512) and the name of America
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