April 29, 2013 Conference on "Re-Drawing Ptolemy: The Cartography Of Martin Waldseemüller and Mathias Ringmann," May 17-18

Accompanying Display Features All of Waldseemüller’s Works for First Time

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: John Hessler (202) 707-7223

Since the acquisition of the famous Martin Waldseemüller 1507 World Map by the Library of Congress in 2003, there has been new scholarship, not only on the 1507 map, but also on Waldseemüller’s other creations and experiments.

A Library of Congress conference on May 17 and 18 will bring together scholars who have worked to answer some of the outstanding historical questions relating to the entire Waldseemüller body of work and that of his fellow cartographer Mathias Ringmann.

An accompanying display will feature all of Waldseemüller’s cartographic creations under one roof for the first time. The works are drawn from the Library of Congress, the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota and the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.

The scholars will discuss the 1516 Carta Marina Map, the 1513 edition of Ptolemy’s “Geographia,” the 1507 Globe Gores, and the mysterious John Carter Brown-Henry Stevens World Map engraved with the name “America,” from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, May 17, in the Coolidge Auditorium in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.

In addition, an open house in the Geography and Map Division Reading Room will take place from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 18. Library staff will offer tours of the “Exploring the Early Americas” exhibition, where Waldseemüller’s works are on display.

The conference is free and open to the public. Reservations are needed; contact specialevents@loc.gov or call 202-707-1616.

The event, which is the Philip Lee Phillips Society Annual Conference, is sponsored by the Library’s Geography and Map Division, the John Carter Brown Library and the Phillips Society, which was established in 1995 as an association of collectors, geographers, historians and map enthusiasts, with a shared interest in supporting the programs and activities of the Geography and Map Division.

Conference Schedule

Friday, May 17

8:30 a.m.
Introductory Remarks
Ralph Ehrenberg, chief, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress
Roberta I. Shaffer, associate librarian for Library Services, Library of Congress
Dianne Powell, vice chair, Philip Lee Phillips Society
Susan Danforth, curator, John Carter Brown Library

Morning Session
Moderator, John Hébert, former chief, Geography and Map Division

9:00-9:30 a.m.
“Reading Waldseemüller, Writing Ptolemy: Unsolved Problems in Waldseemüller Scholarship”

John Hessler, curator of the Jay I. Kislak Collection, Library of Congress

Hessler will provide an overview of the current historiography of cartography in the time of Waldseemüller and highlight some of the unresolved and outstanding historical questions in Waldseemüller scholarship.

9:30-10:00 a.m.
“The Mystery of the Waldseemüller JCB-Stevens World Map

David Parsons, independent scholar and collector
Susan Danforth, curator, John Carter Brown Library

The JCB-Stevens World Map appears identical to the “Orbis Tupus Universalis” from the 1513 Ptolemy except that the New World carries the caption America. The mystery of the map is where it fits into the development of the 1513 Ptolemy. Is it an early proof? Or is it a post 1513 production? The talk will review the colorful history of how the map came to reside at the John Carter Brown Library and discuss research done on the map both historically and more recently.

10:00-11:00 a.m.
“Solving the Puzzle of the 1513 Rosenwald Ptolemy”

Daniel DeSimone, curator, Rare Book and Special Collections, Library of Congress
Sylvia Albro, senior paper conservator, Library of Congress
John Bertonaschi, senior book conservator, Library of Congress

Recently, the Library of Congress began conservation work on a copy of the 1513 Ptolemy “Geographia,” printed in Strasbourg by Johann Schott. Donated by Lessing J. Rosenwald in the 1940s, it is one of three copies of the 1513 edition held by the Library. It is considered one of the most important books in the Rosenwald Collection at the Library. Experts will present investigative analysis carried out by the Library team to unravel the complex history of this volume.


Afternoon Session
Moderator, Wesley Brown, scholar and collector, steering committee member of the Phillips Society

1:00-1:30 p.m.
“Nautical Cartography in the Time of Waldseemüller”

Richard Pflederer, independent scholar

The Carta Marina is one of the earliest surviving printed charts of the known world produced in the style of a sea chart. The author’s title for this map clearly states that he is portraying the world based on Portuguese navigational information. Pflederer will describe the state of European nautical cartography in the time of Waldseemüller and highlight the evolution from the earliest charts to this printed masterpiece of Waldseemüller.

1:30-2:00 p.m.
“Spit-roasts, Barbecues and Inventing Cannibals, 1492-1650”

Surekha Davies, associate professor, Connecticut State University

Davies will argue that the notion of the inhabitants of Brazil as cannibals owed more to Martin Waldseemüller, who synthesized circum-Caribbean travel writing, maps and classical scholarship, than to such travelers as Columbus, Vespucci, André Thevet or Jean de Léry. Drawings on the Carta Marina influenced publications to such an extent that cannibals came to personify the Americas as a whole.

2:00-2:30 p.m.
“Waldseemüller’s Globe Gores: Challenges and Observations”

Marguerite Ragnow, curator, James Ford Bell Library

Ragnow will trace the history of the Waldseemüller globe gores, how they might fit into existing Waldseemüller scholarship and what they might illuminate that the 1507 and 1516 depictions of North America might obscure.

2:30-3:00 p.m.
“Watching a Renaissance Cartographer at Work: The Construction of Waldseemüller’s Carta Marina of 1516”

Chet Van Duzer, research scholar, John Carter Brown Library

Van Duzer will look at the Carta Marina of 1516 to shed light on how early 16th-century cartographers created their maps. He will look at Waldseemüller’s sources, both cartographic and textual. He will reconstruct how Waldseemüller went about creating the map of 1516.

3:00-3:30 p.m.

3:30-5:00 p.m.
Thomas Jefferson Building, Room 119

Saturday, May 18

9:00 a.m.-noon
Open House

Geography and Map Division Reading Room
James Madison Building, Basement Level

Rare materials from the collections of the Geography and Map Division will be on display. Staff will offer tours of the “Exploring the Early Americas” exhibition in the Jefferson Building to view the works of Waldseemüller.


PR 13-081
ISSN 0731-3527