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Document Number: AJ-094
Author: Verrazzano, Giovanni da, 1485?-1527
Title: Voyage of John de Verazzano, along the Coast of North America, from Carolina to Newfoundland, A.D. 1524
Source: Collections of the New-York Historical Society. (New York: New York Historical Society, 1841). Second series, volume 1, pages 37-67.
Pages/Illustrations: 19 / 0
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-094/

Author Note

Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485?-1527) was born in or around Florence. Very little is known of Verrazzano’s life prior to his first voyage to America. In 1526 Verrazzano and his brother led an unsuccessful French attempt to round Cape Horn but, repulsed by storms, explored the coast of Brazil instead before returning to France the next year. In 1528 the brothers headed an expedition to Central America during which, after reaching Florida and crossing the Caribbean to the coast of Panama, Verrazzano was killed.

Exploration of 1524

When Ferdinand Magellan returned to Europe from the first voyage around the globe in the autumn of 1522, he proved that Asia and its riches could be reached by sailing west across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, his route around South America via Cape Horn was long and dangerous, so European rulers and investors became more interested than ever in finding an alternative. By then, the Portuguese had explored southern American coasts; the Spanish, thanks to Columbus (see AJ-061 to AJ-068) and Ponce de Leon ( see AJ-095), knew the coastline from Venezuela to Florida; and the English under Cabot’s lead had begun to chart the far north (see AJ-069). No one knew, however, what lay between the Spanish in Florida and the English in Newfoundland, so the French, largely left behind in the misguided race for Asia-America, decided to find out.

In March 1523, French king Francis I hired Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano (Jean de Verrazane in French records and John Verrazzano in the Victorian translation given here) to investigate a route to Asia. Verrazzano left that summer by a northern route with four ships, two of which were quickly sunk in the mid-Atlantic and the other two driven back to France by a storm. Verrazzano gathered his remaining resources and set out again on January 17, 1524, in a single ship, this time striking south across the Atlantic.

He sighted land near Cape Fear, North Carolina, and turned south for 160 miles to explore the coast toward the Spanish possessions. Fearing an international incident, he turned north again and reached the Outer Banks on March 25, 1524. For the next eight weeks he coasted northward, visiting with local Indians (whom he observed closely and, in general, treated with respect) and carefully noting the landscape, harbors, rivers, islands, plants, and animals. He explored New York harbor and described Manhattan Island, both of which would be forgotten for nearly another century. In June he anchored at present-day Newport, Rhode Island, for two weeks in order to take on fresh food and water, and then continued north past Cape Cod to the coasts of Maine and Cape Breton. He returned to France on July 8, 1524.

Document Note

Verrazzano sent the letter given here to his sponsor, Francis I, telling the king what he had found. The original manuscript of the letter is now in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. A facsimile, with an authoritative text and the standard English translation, is in Lawrence C. Wroth’s The Voyages of Giovanni da Verrazano, 1524-1528 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1970)

Other Internet and Reference Sources

A more complete biography and account of this voyage is online as part of Discoverers Website at http://www.win.tue.nl/~engels/discovery/verrazzano.html

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