The First Italian: Pietro Caesare Alberti and the Dutch in 17th-Century ManhattanNew Netherlands Institute
By John Keahey.
The First Italian tells the story of the first known Italian, actually a Venetian from a noble family, to set foot, in 1635, on the tip of Manhattan Island, then known as New Amsterdam. The book ties together, in narrative form, legal documents translated from the early Dutch by the New Netherland Project, and from documents in the Brooklyn Public Library and The Holland Society of New York. The story describes how the Alberti family rose to prominence within Venetian society. It begins with a tale about Pietro’s ancestor who, 431 years earlier, emerged as a Venetian hero during the Fourth Crusade’s assault on Constantinople. Our Pietro, the oldest surviving child, left Venice under mysterious circumstances, went to Amsterdam and eventually shipped out, as a crew member aboard a Dutch ship, to the New World. He jumped ship in New Amsterdam, settled there, married a Dutch woman, and raised a family on a tobacco farm across the East River in today’s Brooklyn. Locations of his homes — one on the southern tip of New Amsterdam and the one in Brooklyn — have been identified. The story concludes with the untimely deaths, in 1655, of Pietro and his wife, Judith Jans Magne, during the “Peach War” They were, however, survived by six small children.