Giovanni Battista Ramusio

(1485 - 1557)

Giovanni Battista Ramusio, an Italian editor and secretary of the Senate in Venice, was pre-eminent in sparking popular interest in European exploration of the rest of the world by compiling, in one language, accessible accounts of the most important expeditions since the late fifteenth century. Including those of Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Cortez, Coronado, Cartier, Cadamosto, and many others, the third volume of his Viaggi… is entirely devoted to America, and is a foremost authority on the early history of the continent. It includes accounts of Peter Martyr, Oviedo – including the first publication of his book XX – Cortes, Cabeça de Vaca, Guzman, Ulloa, Coronado, Fray Marcos di Niza, Xerez, Verrazano, and Cartier.

Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s death in July 1557, together with the fire at the Giuntia presses in November the same year, prevented the production of a fourth volume. Nonetheless, Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s works up to this date “…open an era in the literary history of voyages and navigation” (Harrisse) and are widely acknowledged as “the definitive geographies of the sixteenth century”.