More than 500 years after its creation, Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map—the first map to display the name “America”—continues to fascinate cartographers, historians and those interested in the nation’s founding and the mapping of the globe. Acquired by the Library of Congress in 2003, the map is the subject of a new book, “The Naming of America” by John W. Hessler.
Published by the Library of Congress in association with London-based fine-art publisher D Giles Limited, “The Naming of America” tells the story behind the map’s creation in 16th-century France and rediscovery more than 300 years later in the library of Wolfegg Castle in Germany. Of the 1,000 originally printed, it is the only copy known to survive.
Produced in 12 sheets, the 1507 map represents the continents of North and South America separated from Asia by the Pacific Ocean. The book shows the composite view and features the first sheet-by-sheet color facsimile. The book also includes a completely new translation of and commentary by Hessler to the “Cosmographiae Introductio,” the seminal cartographic text by Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann that is thought to have originally accompanied the World Map. Together the 1507 map and the “Cosmographiae Introductio” occupy a crucial place in history, between the discovery of the New World by Columbus in 1492 and the birth of the scientific revolution with Copernicus in 1543.
Currently on display in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building in a sealed, oxygen-free encasement, the Waldseemüller map is the cornerstone of a new exhibition, “Exploring the Early Americas.” It allow visitors to interact virtually with the 1507 map and other artifacts.
Hessler is a member of the Collections Management Team in the Library’s Geography and Map Division. He has published extensively on the history of mathematical and planetary cartography and is the author of several articles on the Waldseemüller map.
“The Naming of America,” a 128-page hardcover book with 40 color illustrations, is available for $24.95 in the Library’s Sales Shop, Washington, D.C., 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557 or shop on the Internet at www.loc.gov/shop/. The publication can also be obtained in the U.S. from the Antique Collectors’ Club (800-252-5231, [email protected]).