Books: The Name & The Man

AMERIGO VESPUCCI, PILOT MAJOR—Frederick J. Pohl—Columbia University Press ($3).

Amerigo Vespucci first sighted the coast of Brazil late in June 1499. Vegetation grew so thickly at the water's edge that his ships could not land. The air was scented with flowers, gums, resins, wet wood, rotting leaves, redolent barks and fruits. Because it smelled good (and with a playful passing bow to Saint Ambrose), Amerigo Vespucci named the land "Ambrosia," and sailed southward to find the passage to India.

As all the world knows, Vespucci's christening did not stick. A Viennese writer sensationally garbled his dry, precise accounts of his discoveries, making boasts...

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