From the author of the best-selling A Venetian Affair (“A narrative of novelistic resonance . . . Astonishing” —The Washington Post), the story of an Italian Renaissance book editor who introduced European minds to the wider world through his passion for geography

In the autumn of 1550, a thick volume containing a wealth of geographical information new to Europeans, with startling wood-cut maps of Africa, India and Indonesia, was published in Venice under the title Navigationi et Viaggi (Journeys and Navigations). The editor of this remarkable collection of travelogues, journals and classified government reports remained anonymous. Two additional volumes delivered the most accurate information on Asia and the “New World” available at the time. The three volumes together constituted an unparalleled release of geographical data into the public domain. It was, Andrea di Robilant writes, the biggest Wikileak of the Renaissance.

In This Earthly Globe, di Robilant brings to life the palace intrigues, editorial wheedling, delicate alliances and vibrant curiosity that resulted in this coup by the editor Giovambattista Ramusio. Learned and self-effacing, he gathered a vast array of both popular and closely guarded narratives, from the journals of Marco Polo (he fact-checked them!) to detailed reports on Northern African cultures from the Muslim scholar and diplomat al-Hasan ibn Mohammad al-Wazzan (later known as Leo Africanus). Diverse voices spill out from these chapters as di Robilant recounts how Ramusio pursued the sources, and how he understood both the darker episodes of “exploration” involving colonial violence and the voyage stories which included accounts of people from African and Asian lands, who had a great deal to share about their cultures. The result is a far-flung and delightful homage to one of the founding fathers of modern geography.
“An extraordinary story that reads more like a thriller than a book about history. A dazzling tale, brilliantly told.” —Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads and The Earth Transformed

“What happens when the whole world-picture changes rapidly and decisively? Who assembles the critical information needed to construct a radically new understanding of the way things are? Thanks to the digital revolution, we have been living through such a disorienting transformation, but it is not the first time that received wisdom has been shattered and in urgent need of reassembling. The epochal voyages of the late 15th and early 16th century tore up the traditional European map of the globe and its inhabitants. Andrea di Robilant’s wonderful book explores a succession of thrilling, often terrifying encounters with the other and reconstructs the career of the visionary collector who gave the public access to knowledge of how profoundly their world had changed.” —Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

“A treasure trove of exciting tales and adventures, populated by a fascinating cast, that gives a thorough understanding of how Europeans discovered and mapped the other continents.” —Paul Strathern, author of The Medici

“Andrea di Robilant takes us on a remarkable voyage of discovery, sharing the story of Giovambattista Ramusio, whose monumental work revolutionised our understanding of the world. The story brims with secrecy and skulduggery, drawing in popes and pirates, and beautifully captures the excitement and tumult of the years when Europeans were filling in the blank spaces on their maps. A great read for history buffs and adventure-seekers alike." —Ross King, author of The Shortest History of Italy
© Clementina di Robilant
ANDREA DI ROBILANT was born in Italy and educated in the United States at Columbia University, where he specialized in international affairs. After a career in journalism, he now teaches creative writing at the American University in Rome. He is the author of A Venetian Affair; Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon; Irresistible North: From Venice To Greenland on the Trail of the Zen Brothers; Chasing the Rose and Autumn in Venice: Ernest Hemingway and His Last Muse. View titles by Andrea Di Robilant

About

From the author of the best-selling A Venetian Affair (“A narrative of novelistic resonance . . . Astonishing” —The Washington Post), the story of an Italian Renaissance book editor who introduced European minds to the wider world through his passion for geography

In the autumn of 1550, a thick volume containing a wealth of geographical information new to Europeans, with startling wood-cut maps of Africa, India and Indonesia, was published in Venice under the title Navigationi et Viaggi (Journeys and Navigations). The editor of this remarkable collection of travelogues, journals and classified government reports remained anonymous. Two additional volumes delivered the most accurate information on Asia and the “New World” available at the time. The three volumes together constituted an unparalleled release of geographical data into the public domain. It was, Andrea di Robilant writes, the biggest Wikileak of the Renaissance.

In This Earthly Globe, di Robilant brings to life the palace intrigues, editorial wheedling, delicate alliances and vibrant curiosity that resulted in this coup by the editor Giovambattista Ramusio. Learned and self-effacing, he gathered a vast array of both popular and closely guarded narratives, from the journals of Marco Polo (he fact-checked them!) to detailed reports on Northern African cultures from the Muslim scholar and diplomat al-Hasan ibn Mohammad al-Wazzan (later known as Leo Africanus). Diverse voices spill out from these chapters as di Robilant recounts how Ramusio pursued the sources, and how he understood both the darker episodes of “exploration” involving colonial violence and the voyage stories which included accounts of people from African and Asian lands, who had a great deal to share about their cultures. The result is a far-flung and delightful homage to one of the founding fathers of modern geography.

Reviews

“An extraordinary story that reads more like a thriller than a book about history. A dazzling tale, brilliantly told.” —Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads and The Earth Transformed

“What happens when the whole world-picture changes rapidly and decisively? Who assembles the critical information needed to construct a radically new understanding of the way things are? Thanks to the digital revolution, we have been living through such a disorienting transformation, but it is not the first time that received wisdom has been shattered and in urgent need of reassembling. The epochal voyages of the late 15th and early 16th century tore up the traditional European map of the globe and its inhabitants. Andrea di Robilant’s wonderful book explores a succession of thrilling, often terrifying encounters with the other and reconstructs the career of the visionary collector who gave the public access to knowledge of how profoundly their world had changed.” —Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

“A treasure trove of exciting tales and adventures, populated by a fascinating cast, that gives a thorough understanding of how Europeans discovered and mapped the other continents.” —Paul Strathern, author of The Medici

“Andrea di Robilant takes us on a remarkable voyage of discovery, sharing the story of Giovambattista Ramusio, whose monumental work revolutionised our understanding of the world. The story brims with secrecy and skulduggery, drawing in popes and pirates, and beautifully captures the excitement and tumult of the years when Europeans were filling in the blank spaces on their maps. A great read for history buffs and adventure-seekers alike." —Ross King, author of The Shortest History of Italy

Author

© Clementina di Robilant
ANDREA DI ROBILANT was born in Italy and educated in the United States at Columbia University, where he specialized in international affairs. After a career in journalism, he now teaches creative writing at the American University in Rome. He is the author of A Venetian Affair; Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon; Irresistible North: From Venice To Greenland on the Trail of the Zen Brothers; Chasing the Rose and Autumn in Venice: Ernest Hemingway and His Last Muse. View titles by Andrea Di Robilant