Last week, the lovely Gal Friday had a very interesting post about maps. This reminded me of one of the greatest and most interesting world maps, the Waldseemüller map.
I first became aware of its existence upon watching a documentary and I was immediately intrigued. I guess not many know that it clearly, for the first time ever, mentions America by name.
It was created by two young men, one of them being the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller and was originally published in April 1507, carrying the name: "Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii aliorumque lustrationes". As palpable from this extended title, the new continent was named in honour of Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer, navigator and cartographer.
The map is fascinating due to two details; for the first time in history, it names a thin land line in the west as America, and it shows the Pacific Ocean. This means, that in the time when the world in error believed that Christopher Columbus has found a way to Asia, Waldseemüller, according to Vespucci, correctly assumed that a new continent has been discovered. This clarifies particularly the second enigmatic feature of the map; a new continent meant that it had to be separated from Asia by an ocean. Thus, Waldseemüller used his intuition at the time of the map creation, as by then no Westerner has seen the west coast of America. However, this has nevertheless raised speculations concerning the fact that Waldseemüller possibly could have known about the Pacific from other maps, drawn by unknown explores.
About 1000 copies of the wall map existed at one time. Today only one remains. It was discovered in 1901 at the Wolfegg Castle in Württemberg, Germany. In 2001, this last copy was purchased by the united States Library of Congress, for 10 million dollars, where it is kept on display today.