This new book features the first sheet-by-sheet facsimile of the 1507 World Map by Martin Waldseemüller—one of the most important maps in the history of cartography and the first map ever to display the name America. It tells the fascinating story behind the map’s creation in 16th-century France and rediscovery 300 years later in the library of Wolfegg Castle, Germany in 1901. It also includes a completely new translation and commentary to Martin Waldseemüller (ca.1470 – ca.1521) and Matthias Ringmann’s (1482 – 1511) seminal cartographic text, the Cosmographiae Introductio, which originally accompanied the World Map.
The Cosmographiae Introductio was printed in two editions in 1507 in the small village of St. Dié in North Eastern France, under the patronage of Duke René II of Lorraine. Its importance stems from the mention on its title page of two maps that appear to have originally been part of the book. One of these, described in Latin as a plano, is Martin Waldseemüller’s famous 1507 World Map. It represents the continents of the North and South America with a shape similar to those we would recognize today, separated from Asia by the Pacific Ocean. The other map, called a solido, was a printed globe gore that is thought to be the first of its kind. 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.
In his Introduction, John Hessler summarizes the current state of knowledge on Waldseemüller and his collaborators and considers answers to some of the key questions raised by the map’s representation of the New World, including “How was a small group of cartographers able to produce a view of the world so radical for its time and so close to the one we recognize today?”, and “What evidence did they have to show the existence of the Pacific Ocean when neither Vasco Nûnez de Balboa nor Ferdinand Magellan had yet reached it?”. In posing answers to these—and other—questions, Hessler affords us a glimpse into an age when accepted scientific and geographic principles fell away, spawning the birth of modernity
John W. Hessler is a staff member on the Collection Management Team of the Geography and Map Division and curator of the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Archaeology and History of the Early Americas at the Library of Congress, Washington DC, and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He is the author of more than 100 articles and books and has written extensively on archaeology, cartography and the environment. He has published extensively on the history of mathematical and planetary cartography and is the author of several well-known articles relating to the Waldseemüller Map Corpus.