Small 4to., (9 4/8 x 7 inches). Engraved vignette on the title page. Engraved frontispiece by Menabuoni after Sveicarte, fine folding engraved chart of the Vespucci genealogy, woodcut diagram in the text showing a globe surrounded by a celestial sphere (short marginal tear), engraved head- and tail-pieces, initials. Early 20th- century vellum over paste-board by Pratt for H. Stevens, black morocco lettering-piece on the spine, small floral device stamped in blind in the centre of the front cover, uncut.
Provenance: early shelf-marks on the front paste-down.
"AN ELABORATE PANEGYRIC OF VESPUCIUS, IN WHICH HE IS CALLED THE DISCOVERER OF AMERICA" (Sabin)
First edition of an extremely important biography of Amerigo Vespucci, the navigator after whom America is named, and printing the four letters attributed to Vespucci recounting his four voyages. Vespucci's "fame in his own time rested on two works that bore his name, usually known as the Mundus Novus and the Soderini Letter. The first was an enormous popular success, probably first printed in Florence in 1503-1504, though the earliest dated edition is of 1504, from Otmar of Augsburg. Despite overlaps with four manuscript accounts (reliably ascribed to Vespucci) of the Ojeda voyage and the Coelho voyage of 1501, these printed works cannot be definitely pronounced authentic. In any case, all of Vespucci's narratives belong to a twilight zone between history and travel literature and cannot be treated as literal truth. Estimates of distance traversed and latitude attained have to be taken as exaggerations.
"Under the impact of the printed accounts, Martin Waldseemüller, the influential cosmographer of St. Dié, hailed Vespucci as the modern Ptolemy and proposed that the New World should be named America in his honor. Though Waldseemüller withdrew the suggestion in 1513, acknowledging Columbus's prior and superior claims, the name stuck. The belief that Vespucci was the first to use the name "New World" is erroneous: if the phrase was indeed his, Columbus and Peter Martyr had probably preceded him in using it; nor is it true that he was the first to recognize the continental dimensions of Columbus's discoveries or their distinctness from Asia. Columbus had identified South America as a continent in 1498, and Vespucci's own writings reproduce a worldview very like Columbus's, including the belief that the New World was close to or contiguous with Asia" (Felipe Fernández-Armesto for ANB). Catalogued by Kate Hunter