THE Swiss-born Martin Waldseemüller (c.1470-1518) quit his studies in the Church to find employment in cosmography and cartography with the duke of Lorraine, a patron of the arts. In 1507 Waldseemüller published a globe, a large world map “Universalis Cosmographia,”— and the accompanying book Cosmographiae Introductio (Strasbourg, 1507).
Although “Universalis Cosmographia”— continues Columbus’s underestimation of the distance between Europe and Asia, it is the first map to show the New World comprised of two continents. The continental land masses represented on “Universalis Cosmographia”— are extremely narrow; a strait separates the northern and southern continents and empties into a narrow Pacific Ocean. The sea lying to the north of the northern continent suggests an open passage from Europe to Asia.
In “Universalis Cosmographia,”— Waldseemüller designates the southern land mass “America”——the first appearance of the name “America”— on a map. In his book Cosmographiae Introductio he offers a justification for his proposal to name the New World “America”— after Amerigo Vespucci. Waldseemüller later acknowledged the primacy of Columbus’s discovery of the new lands and dropped the name “America”— from his maps. By then, however, it was too late—“America”— was here to stay.
Waldseemüller’s map and book, along with his 1513 edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia, were very influential and widely copied. Although nearly 1,000 copies of “Universalis Cosmographia”— were printed, only one copy of that map and one copy of Waldseemüller’s 1516 world map “Carta Marina,”— which dropped the name “America,”— exist today.
The copy of Cosmographiae Introductio in the exhibit was published in 1509. The only known copy of the first edition, published in 1507, is in the New York Public Library. Also on display is a reproduction of one of two known copies of Waldseemüller’s 1507 “Gored Global Map of the World.”— This two-dimensional map was designed to be formed into a globe.