The first printed account of Vespucci’s travels of 1501-2 appeared in the form of a letter to his patron, Lorenzo di Piero Francesco de Medici.

Vespucci's Biography
Vespucci's Journals
Vespucci's Plans

This account, under the title Mundus Novus (New World), was probably published in Florence in late 1502 or the beginning of 1503. This first edition was quickly followed by Latin printings in Venice, Paris, and Antwerp and printings in Cologne, Nuremberg, Strassburg, and Rostock. The German translation of 1504 published in Augsburg is the first dated edition. How true these many editions remained to the accounts that Vespucci wrote is a matter of debate. That the lively descriptions of Vespucci’s adventures were read eagerly is not debatable.

In his text Vespucci makes fun of the idea that the Torrid Zone was so hot that people could not live there: "indeed, on my voyage I have found the contrary to be true: the air is fresher and more temperate in that region than outside it, and so many people live within it that they outnumber those outside it. . . ." (Vespucci 1992, 8). He describes people who were cannibals, writing "These are people of quite courteous disposition, and fine stature; they go about completely naked. Their weapons are bows and arrows — which they carry with them — and round shields; they are very valiant and energetic people; they are excellent archers" (Vespucci 1992, 9-10).


A woodcut illustration of three Portuguese ships, one carrying Vespucci, sailing into a river (Río de la Plata) in South America and meeting the people there, was printed in 1505-6.

Note the proportion between the man in the ship and the native on the land. Vespucci and his crew must have found the natives impressive.

(Click on image for a detailed look.)

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