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The 16th century book that launched a thousand travel books

Navigationi et Viaggi offered by Isseido Booksellers of Tokyo

Travel writing has been around for about two thousand years with both the Romans and Greeks documenting their experiences of early exploration. However, the 16th century marked the real start of travel writing with advances in printing technology and numerous explorers – from Francis Drake to Martin Frobisher – traveling to the corners of the globe on behalf of their respective superpowers.

Tokuei Ueda, foreign books manager at Isseido Booksellers, opens the copy of Navigationi et Viaggi

The Isseido Booksellers in Tokyo recently gave AbeBooks a special insight into one particularly important travel book from this period. Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557) was a civil servant in the Venetian Republic but his real passion was geography and he keenly followed all the latest developments from the great explorers of this age.

Fluent in several languages, Ramusio amassed various books and manuscripts, and compiled his learnings into Navigationi et Viaggi (Navigations and Travels). The book includes details on the travels of  Marco Polo, Niccolò Da Conti, Magellan, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and Giosafat Barbaro. Early maps of Brazil, Canada, New England, Africa, Asia and Japan were included.

The first volume was published in 1555 with the third volume published in 1556. The second was delayed by a fire that destroyed the manuscript (a not uncommon occurrence at this time) and was finally published in 1559. The book was so popular that is was reprinted several times and translated into several languages. People were genuinely eager to learn about the extent and nature of the world around them.

The copy offered by Isseido Booksellers covers volumes printed in 1563, 1565 and 1583, and is priced at $40, 845. There are four more copies available on AbeBooks for higher prices, which indicates the importance of this particular book.

Navigationi et Viaggi

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