Exploring the Early Americas
- The 1507 World map is the first known map to show the Continent of South America separated from Asia in a way that reveals the existence of the Pacific Ocean. This fact is problematic in that neither Magellan nor Balboa had reached the Pacific Ocean by this time. The geographic and cartographic sources that Waldseemüller used for his depiction of the New World remain unknown to scholars although Waldseemüller discusses some unknown Portuguese charts in his book the Cosmographiae introductio.
- Waldsemüller named the continent of South America after Amerigo Vespucci. The name appears for the first time on any map on the 1507 world map and is discussed by Waldseemüller in his book the Cosmographiae introductio. Waldseemüller and Ringman say, “Today these parts of the earth have been explored more extensively than a fourth part of the world, as will be explained in what follow, and that has been discovered by Amerigo Vespucci [. . . .] I can see no reason why anyone would object to calling this fourth part Amerige, the land of Amerigo, or America, after the man of great ability who discovered it.
- In several areas on the 1507 world map corrections have been made to the woodblocks. The most obvious change is the relocation of a group of islands off the west coast of Africa. The islands have been relocated a little farther north and to the east than their previous position. These islands were important in defining the line between Spanish and Portuguese territories in the early sixteenth century.
- The northwest coast of Africa on the 1507 map has a shape that is not modern but was defined and modeled after that found in the Geographia of Claudius Ptolemy. Ptolemy was a Greek second–century geographer and astronomer whose works were important far into the Renaissance. Waldseemüller and Ringmann combined the new geographic information provided by Columbus and Vespucci along with that of Ptolemaic and other ancient sources to make the 1507 world map.
- Besides naming the continent of South America after Amerigo Vespucci, Waldseemüller also pays homage to him on the 1507 map by showing his portrait opposite that of Ptolemy. The portrait is accompanied by a map that shows the new lands whose discovery Waldseemüller attributed to him. The insect that sits near Vespucci’s shoulder above the "q" in Aquilo may be a wasp (in Latin “vespa”). The pictured insect could also be a fly, thought by sixteenth–century printers to protect their works from damage.
- Waldseemüller indicates why he made the 1507 map. In the last line he recognizes that his new view of the world might disturb viewers until they understand and accept the new discoveries.
The full translation is "Although many of the ancients were interested in marking out the circumference of the world, things remained unknown to them in no slight degree; for instance, in the west, America, named after its discoverer, which is now known to be a fourth part of the world. Another is, to the south, a part of Africa, which begins about seven degrees this side of Capricorn and stretches in a large expanse southward, beyond the torrid zone and the Tropic of Capricorn. A third instance, in the east, is the land of Cathay, and all of southern India beyond 180 degrees of longitude. All these we have added to the earlier-known places, so that those who are interested and love things of this sort may see all that is known to us of the present day, and may approve of our painstaking labors. This one request we have to make, that those who are inexperienced and unacquainted with cosmography shall not condemn all this before they have learned that it will surely be clearer to them later on, when they have come to understand it."