Giovanni Battista Ramusio
Born in Treviso, Italy, at that time in the Republic of Venice, Ramusio was the son of Paolo Ramusio, a magistrate of the Venetian city-state. In 1505 young Giovanni took a position as secretary to Alvise Mocenigo, then serving as the Republic's ambassador to France; he would spend the rest of his career in Venetian service, and died in Padua. He was keenly interested in geography, and his position ensured that he would receive news of all the latest discoveries from explorers around Europe as they were sent back to Venice. A learned man, fluent in several languages, he began to compile these documents and translated them into Italian, then the most widely understood of the European languages.
Collection of travel books
Though he himself traveled little, Ramusio published Navigationi et Viaggi ("Navigations and Travels"); a collection of explorers' first-hand accounts of their travels. This was the first work of its kind. It included the accounts of Marco Polo, Niccolò Da Conti, Magellan, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and Giosafat Barbaro, as well as the Descrittione dell’ Africa. He also published an excerpt of Tomé Pires' work on the Indies, which had come into his hands, though he did not know the name of its author.
The first volume was published in 1555, quickly followed by the third volume in 1556. Publication of the second volume was delayed because the manuscript had been destroyed in a fire before being sent to the printer, and was finally published in 1559, two years after its compiler's death. Navigationi et Viaggi was translated into several languages and reprinted a number of times, indicating how popular such books were becoming on the Continent. It paved the way for a slew of other such works, including those of Richard Hakluyt.
- Giovanni Battista Ramusio, Primo Volume delle Nauigationi et Viaggi, Venetia, 1550
- Armando Cortesão, The 'Suma Oriental' of Tomé Pires: An Account of the East, from the Red Sea to China, 2 vols, (1944) 1990:xviii.
- Editions of Navigationi et Viaggi
- Volume I: Primo Volume delle Nauigationi et Viaggi
- Volume II: Secondo Volume delle Nauigationi et Viaggi
- Volume III: Terzo Volume delle Nauigationi et Viaggi
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