Giovanni de Verrazzano

Birth: 1470


Giovanni de Verrazzano or VERRAZANO, VERAZZANI (1470-1527) (vay-rah-tsah'-ne) was a Florentine navigator, b. in Yaldi Greve, near Florence, in 1470 ; d. either in Newfoundland or Puerto del Pico in 1527. At the age of twenty-five he entered the French maritime service and was employed in voyages of discovery. It is asserted in the French annals that he visited the northern coast of America as early as 1508, but no account of his discoveries is known to exist. Later he was employed in ravaging the Spanish and Portuguese possessions in the East and West Indies, and soon became famous as a corsair. In 1521 he secured valuable prizes in the West Indies, and he captured in 1522 the treasure-ship in which Hernan Cortes was sending home the rich spoils of Mexico.

Toward the end of 1523 he left Dieppe on the frigate "La Dauphine" with a mission from Francis I., king of France, to explore the coast of North America. He sailed from Madeira, 17 Jan., 1524, and arrived in February off the coast of North America. For three months he explored the coast from 30° to 50° north latitude, landed at a point near Cape Fear, and, coasting northward, discovered New York and Narragansett bays. He landed on Newfoundland, of which he took possession in the name of the king, and endeavored to find a passage to the East Indies by the northwest. On his return to Dieppe he wrote, on 8 July, a memoir to Francis I., relating his discoveries, of which he gave a somewhat confused description.

Very little is known of the remainder of Verrazano's life. References to the French annals make it possible that he was killed by Indians in Newfoundland during a subsequent voyage of exploration. It is known that he communicated to persons in England a map of his discoveries, and a document found at Rouen in 1876 proves that he executed a power of attorney to his brother, Geronimo (Jerasme de Verasenne), 11 May, 1527, before sailing to the East Indies, by virtue of an agreement with Admiral Philippe Chabot and the famous merchant of Dieppe, Jean Ango. It is claimed that during the voyage he was captured on the southern coast of Spain, and executed at Pico as a privateer. His exploits, capture, and execution are narrated by Pietro Martire d'Anghiera, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, and others, who call him Juan Florin.

In the 18th century, on the authority of Andres Gonzalez Barcia, in his "Ensayo Cronologico, etc." (Madrid, 1723), Juan Florin was identified with Verrazano, but more modern authors contest the identification. Ramusio published in his collection in 1556 an Italian version of Verrazano's letter to King Francis I. ; and Antonio de Herrera, in his "Decades," gives extracts from the letter, saying that he had seen the original. The authenticity of the letter was attacked in 1864 by Buckingham Smith, who claimed that Esteban Gomez, pilot of Magellan, was the first to visit the coast of Carolina in 1525.

But James Carson Brevoort, in "Verrazzano, the Navigator" (New York, 1874), maintains the authenticity of the letter, which Henry C. Murphy rejects as spurious in his "Voyage of Verrazzano, a Chapter of the Early Maritime Discoveries in America" (New York, 1875). The conclusion is not yet definitive, as George W. Greene discovered in the Strozzi library at Florence a manuscript copy of Verrazano's letter, varying somewhat in text from the* Ramusio version, and containing some additional paragraphs. It was published in the transactions of the New York historical society for 1841. Brevoort gave also an account of a planisphere that is preserved in the Strozzi library, dated 1529, signed by Geronimo Verazzano, in which he calls the land "Nuova Gallia, quale discopri, 5 annos fa, Giovanni de Verazzano, Fiorentino." The French archives, recently searched by Ramee for his "Documents inedits sur Jacques Cartier et le Canada," afford proof that Verrazano discovered the northern coast of North America.


Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biography (1889) Volume 6 pg. 310

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