1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ramusio
RAMUSIO. The noble Italian family of Ramusio—the spelling adopted in the publication of the Navigationi, though it is also written Ramnusio, Rhamnusio, Rannusio, &c.—was one of note for literary and official ability during at least four generations. Its original home was in Rimini, and the municipality of that city has within the last few years set up a tablet on the town hall bearing an inscription which may be thus rendered: “The municipality of Rimini here records the claim of their city to the family of the Ramusios, adorned during the 15th and 16th centuries by the illustrious jurist and man of letters Paolo the elder, who rendered the work of Valturius, our fellow-citizen, into the vernacular; by the physician Girolamo, a most successful student of Oriental tongues, and the first to present Europe with a translation of Avicenna; and by Giovanni Battista, cosmographer to the Venetian republic and secretary to the Council of Ten, who bequeathed to the world that famous collection of voyages and travels, regarded in his own day as a marvellous work, and still full of authority among all civilized nations.”
Paolo the Elder (c. 1443–1506), the first of those thus commemorated, migrated in 1458 from Rimini to Venice, where he obtained full citizenship, studied law and became a member of the magistracy, filling the offices of vicario, of judicial assessor, and of criminal judge under various administrators of the Venetian provinces on the continent. He continued, however, to maintain relations with the Malatesta princes of his native city, and in 1503 negotiated with them the cession of Rimini to the republic. The wife of Paolo, bearing the singular name of Tomyris Macachio, bore him three sons and four daughters. Paolo died at Bergamo on 19th August 1506 at the age of sixty-three, and was buried in S. Agostino at Padua. Paolo was the author of a variety of legal treatises and the like, and also published at Verona in 1483 both a corrected edition and an Italian translation of a once famous book, Valturius, De re militari, dedicating both to Pandolfo Malatesta of Rimini.
Girolamo (1450–1486), younger brother of Paolo, had a notable history. After he had studied medicine at Padua public suspicion was roused against him in connexion with the death of a lady with whom he had had some love passages, and this ran so high that he was fain, by help of his brother Paolo, to whom he transferred his property, to make his escape (about 1481–1483) to Syria and to take up his abode at Damascus. In 1486 he removed to Beyrout, and died the same year, killed, as the family chronicler relates, by a surfeit of “certain fruit that we call armellini and albicocche, but which in that country are known as mazzafranchi,” a title which English sailors in southern regions still give to apricots in the vernacular paraphrase of killjohns. During his stay in Syria Girolamo studied Arabic and made a new translation of Avicenna, or rather, we may assume, of some part of that author’s medical works (the Canon?). It was, however, by no means the first such translation, as is erroneously alleged in the Rimini inscription, for the Canon had been translated by Gerard of Cremona (d. 1187), and this version was frequently issued from the early press. Girolamo’s translation was never printed, but was used by editors of versions published at Venice in 1579 and 1606. Other works of this questionable member of the house of Ramusio consisted of medical and philosophical tracts and Latin poems, some of which last were included in a collection published at Paris in 1791.
Gian Battista (1485–1557), the eldest son of Paolo Ramusio and Tomyris Macachio, was born at Treviso in 1485 (June 20). Having been educated at Venice and at Padua, at an early age he entered the public service (1505), becoming in 1515 secretary of the senate and in 1533 secretary of the Council of Ten. He also served the republic in various missions to foreign states, e.g. to Rome, to Switzerland and to France, travelling over much of the latter country by special desire of the king, Louis XII. He also on several occasions filled the office of canceller grande. In 1524 he married Franceschina, daughter of Francesco Navagero, a noble-a papal dispensation being required on account of her being cousin to his mother Tomyris. By this lady he had one son, Paolo. In his old age Ramusio resigned the secretaryship and retired to the Villa Ramusia, a property on the river Masanga, in the province of Padua, which had been bestowed on his father in 1504 in recognition of his services in the acquisition of Rimini the year before The delights of this retreat are celebrated in the poems and letters of several of Gian Battista’s friends. He also possessed a house at Padua in the Strada del Patriarcato, a mansion noted for its paintings and for its collection of ancient sculpture and inscriptions. These, too, are commemorated by various writers. A few days before his death Ramusio removed to this house in Padua, and there died, 10th of July 1557, at the age of seventy-two. He was, by his own desire, buried at Venice, in the tomb which he had made for his mother, in Santa Maria dell’ Orto. His wife’s death had occurred in 1 5 36. In the work called Museum Mazzuchellianum (Venice, 1761, vol. i. pl. lxiv. No. 6) there is represented a 16th-century medal of Ramusio, which looks a genuine likeness, and a bronze example of which, without the reverse, is preserved in St Mark’s Library. There was a portrait of him, represented as in conversation with Andrea Gradenigo, in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, but in 1577 this perished in a fire, as did also a portrait of his father, Paolo. A professed portrait of Gian Battista by Francesco Grisellini, in the Sala dello Scudo, appears to be, like the companion portrait of Marco Polo, a work of fancy. A public nautical school at Rimini received from the government the title of the Istituto Ramusio.
Ramusio was evidently a general favourite, as he was free from pushing ambition, modest and ingenuous, and, if it be safe to judge from some of the dissertations in his Navigationi, must have been a delightful companion; both his friend Giunti and the historian Giustiniani speak of him with the strongest affection. He had also a great reputation for learning. Before he was thirty Aldus Manutius the elder dedicated to him his edition of Quintilian (1514); a few years later (1519) Francesco Ardano inscribed to him an edition of Livy, and in 1528 Bernardino Donati did the like with his edition of Macrobius and Censorinus. To Greek and Latin and the modern languages of southern Europe he is said to have added a knowledge of “Oriental tongues,” but there is no evidence how far this went, unless we accept as such a statement that he was selected in 1530 on account of this accomplishment to investigate the case of one David, a Hebrew, who, claiming to be of the royal house of Judah, wished to establish himself at Venice outside of the Ghetto. But Ramusio had witnessed from his boyhood the unrolling of that great series of discoveries by Portugal and Spain in East and West, and the love of geography thus kindled in him made that branch of knowledge through life his chief study and delight. He is said, with the assistance of friends touched by the same flame, to have opened a school for geography in his house at Venice. And it appears from a letter addressed to him by his friend Andrea Navagero, that as early as 1523 the preparation of material for his great work had already begun. The task had been suggested and encouraged, as Ramusio himself states in a dedicatory epistle to the famous Girolamo Fracastoro, by that scholar, his lifelong friend; an address to the same personage indeed introduced each of the three volumes, and in the first the writer speaks of his desire to bequeath to posterity, along with his labours, “ a testimony to the long and holy friendship that had existed between the two.” They were contemporaries in the strictest sense (Ramusio 1485-1557, Fracastorius 1483-1553). His correspondence, which was often devoted to the collection of new material for his work, was immense, and embraced many distinguished men. Among those Whose names have still an odour of celebrity were Fracastoro, just mentioned, Cardinal Pietro Bembo, Damiano de Goez, and Sebastian Cabot; among lesser lights, Vettor Fausto, Daniel Barbaro, Paolo Manuzio, Andrea Navagero, the cardinals Gasparo Contarini and Gregorio Cortese, and the printer Tommaso Giunti, editor after Ramusio's death of the Navigationi.
Two volumes only of the Navigationi e Viaggi were published during the life of Gian Battista, vol. i. in 1550, vol. iii. in 1556; vol. ii. did not appear till 1559, two years after his death, delayed, as his friend and printer T. Giunti explains, not only by that event but by a fire in the printing-office (November 1557), which destroyed a part of the material which had been prepared. It had been Ramusio's intention to publish a fourth volume, containing, as he mentions himself, documents relating to the Andes, and, as appears from one of the prefaces of Giunti, others relating to explorations towards the Antarctic. Ramusio's collection was by no means the first of the kind, though it was, and we may say on the whole continues to be, the best. Even before the invention of the press such collections were known, of which that made by a certain Long John of Yprés, abbot of St Bertin, in the latter half of the 14th century was most meritorious, and afforded in its transcription a splendid held for embellishment by the miniaturists, which was not disregarded. The best of the printed collections before Ramusio's was the Novus Orbis, edited at Basel by Simon Grynaeus in 1532, and reissued in 1537 and 1555. This, however, can boast of no disquisitions nor of much editorial judgment. Ramusio's collection is in these respects far superior, as well as in the variety and fulness of its matter. He spared no pains in ransacking Italy and the Spanish peninsula for contributions, and in translating them when needful into the racy Italian of his day. Several of the pieces are very rare in any other shape than that exhibited in Ramusio's collection; several besides of importance-e.g. the invaluable travels of Barbosa and Pigafetta's account of Magellan's voyage-were not publicly known in any complete form till the present century. Of two important articles at least the originals have never been otherwise printed or discovered; onerof these is the Summary of all the Kingdoms, Cities, and Nations from the Red Sea to China, a work translated from the Portuguese, and dating apparently from about 1535; the other, the remarkable Ramusian redaction of Marco Polo (q.'v.). The Prefatione, Espositione and Dichiarazione, which precede this version of Marco Polo's book, are the best and amplest examples of Ramusio's own style as an editor. They are full of good sense and of interesting remarks derived from his large reading and experience, and few pictures in words were ever touched more delightfully than that in which he sketches the return of the Polo family to their native city, as he had received it in the tradition of the Venetian elders.
There were several editions of the Navigationi e Viaggi, and as additions continued to be made to the several volumes a good deal of bibliographical interest attaches to these various modifications. The two volumes (i. and iii.) published in Ramusio's lifetime do not bear his name on the title-page, nor does it appear in the addresses to his friend Fracastorius with which these volumes begin (as does also the second and posthumous volume). The editions of vol. i. are as follows: 1550, 1554, 1563, 1588, 1606, 1613. The edition of 1554 contains the following articles which are not in that of 1550: (1) copious index; (2) “ Narr. di un Compagno di Barbosa ”; (3) “ Informationi del Giapan ”; (4) “ Alli Lettori di Giov. de Barros ”; (5) “ Capitoli estratti da di Barros.” The edition of 1563 adds to these a preliminary leaf concerning Rarnusio, “ Tommaso Giunti alli Lettori.” After 1563 there is no change in the contents of this volume, only in the title-page. It should be added that in the edition of 1554 there are three double-page woodcut maps (Africa, India and India extra Gangem), which do not exist in the edition of 1 5 50, and which are replaced by copperplate maps in subsequent editions. These maps are often missing. The editions of vol. ii. are as follows: 1559, 1574, 1583, 1606. There are important additions in the 1574 copy, and still further additions in that of 1583. The additions made in 1574 were: (1) “ Herberstein, Della Moscovia e della Russia ”; (2) “ Viaggio in Persia di Caterino Zeno ”; (3) “ Scoprimento dell' Isola Frislanda, &c., per due fratelli Zeni ”; (4) “ Viaggi in Tartaria per alcuni frati Minori ”; (5) “ Viaggio del Beato Odorico ” (two versions). Further additions made in 1583 were: (1) “Navigatione di Seb. Cabota”; (2) at the end oo ff. with, fresh pagination, containing ten articles on “ Sarmatia, Polonia, Lithuania, Prussia, Livonia, Moscovia, and the Tartars by Aless. Guagnino and Matteo di Micheovo.” The two latest “editions” of vol. ii. are identical, i.e. from the same type, with a change of title-page only, and a reprint of the last leaf of the preface and of the last leaf of the book. But the last circumstance does not apply to all copies. In one, whilst the title bears 1606, the colophon bears “ Appresso i Giunti, 1583.” Vol. iii. editions are of 1556, 1565 and 1606. There is no practical difference between the first two, but that of 1606 has forty-five pages of important new matter, which embraces the Travels of Cesare Fedrici or Federici in India, one of the most valuable narratives of the 16th century, and Three Voyages of the Holeanders and Zealanders to Nova Zembla and Groenland. Vol. iii. also contains (omitting maps and figures inserted in the text, or with type on the reverse) a two-page topographical view of Cuzco, a folding map of Terra Nova and Labrador, a two-page map of Brazil, a two-page map of Guinea, &c., a two-page map of Sumatra, a two-page pictorial plan of the town of Hochelaga in New France, and a general map of the New World in a hemisphere. Brunet's statement mentions issues of vol. ii. in 1564, and of vol. iii. in 1613; but these seem to have no existence. It would thus appear that a set of Ramusio, to be as complete as possible, should embrace—for vol. i., 1563 or any subsequent edition; for vol. ii., 1583 or 1606; for vol. iii., 1606.
Paolo (Girolamo Gaspare) (1532-1600) was the only child of Gian Battista, and was born on the 4th of July 1532. Like his father, he maintained a large correspondence with many persons of learning and note. In 1541 Francesco Contarini, procurator of St Mark's, brought from Brussels a MS. of Villehardouin's History of the Conquest of Constantinople, which he presented to the Council of Ten. In 1556 they publicly ordered its translation into Latin, and gave the commission to Paolo Rannusio. His father also seems to have taken much interest in the work, for a MS. vernacular translation by him exists in the Marciana. Paolo's book was not completed till 1573, many years after the father's death, and was in fact a paraphrase enlarged from other sources, thus, according to Cigogna's questionable judgment, “converting the dry story of Villehardouin into an elegant (fiorita) historical work.” It was not published till 1609, nine years after Paolo's death; nor was it ever really reprinted, though it became the subject of a singular and unintelligible forgery. For Iacopo Gaffarelli, who was sent to Venice to buy books for Richelieu, having apparently procured the “remainder” copies, removed the title and preliminary pages and substituted a fresh title with the date 1634, and a dedication to his master the cardinal.
Girolamo Giuseppe (1555–1611), the son of Paolo, was born at Venice in 1555. He entered the public service in 1577, and was employed in Connexion with various foreign missions. In 1601 he published at Lyons the French text of Villehardouin; and, besides an Italian translation of this old historian (who seems thus to have furnished occupation for three generations of Ramusios), he left behind him a Storia o Cronaca di Casa Ramusia, a folio MS still in St Mark's Library. He died at Padua in 1611, and his posterity did nothing to continue the reputation of the family, official or literary.
Besides the circumstances to be gathered from the Navigationi regarding the Ramusio family, see the Iscrizioni Venete of Emanuele Cigogna. There is also in the British Museum Monografia letta il 14 Marzo 1883... by Guglielmo Carradori (Rimini, 1833); but hardly anything has been found in this except the inscription quoted at the beginning of this article. (H. Y.)
- Both works are in the British Museum.
- “ Ramusii Ariminensis Carmina", in Quinqae Illustrium Paetarum . . . Lusus in Venerem. Girolamo’s are grossly erotic.
- The reverse is an amorphous map. The book is in the British Museum.
- Rerum Venetarum . . . Historia, bk. xiv.
- Ramusio’s report on this Hebrew is preserved in the diaries of Marcus Sanudo, and is printed by Cigogna. It is curious. David represented himself as a prince of the Bedouin Jews who haunt the caravan-road between Damascus and Medina; he claimed to be not only a great warrior covered with wounds but great also in the law and, in the cabala, and to have been inspired by God to conduct the dispersed tribes to the Holy Land and to rebuild the temple. In this view he had visited Prester John and the Jews in his kingdom, and then various European countries. David was dark in complexion, “like an Abyssinian,” lean, dry and Arab-like, well dressed and well attended, full of pretensions to supernatural cabalistic knowledge, and with enthusiastic ideas about his mission, whilst the Jews regarded him as a veritable Messiah.
- See in vol. iii. the end of Ramusio's Discorso on the conquest of Peru, and Giunti's “ Alli Lettori " in the 3rd edition of the first volume.
- Brunet's statements on the subject are borrowed, and not quite accurate. The detail in Cigogna seems to be accurate, but it is vague as to the deficiencies of the earlier editions.
- All of these are in the British Museum.
- All at the British Museum.
- This person and his son affected the spelling Rannusio.
- In the British Museum.