Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Birth of Americas on View

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Birth of Americas on View

Article excerpt

THE FIRST KNOWN map depicting the New World and referring to it as "America" has a new permanent home in the hemisphere it described. Recently purchased by the Library of Congress for $10 million, the map is currently on display for the first time in nearly two decades, as part of an exhibition entitled Rivers, Edens, Empires: Lewis and Clark and the Revealing of America, which coincides with the bicentennial commemoration of the Corps of Discovery, better known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803 (see Americas, Vol. 55, no. 2).

The four-and-a-half by eight-foot map, created in 1507 by cartographer Martin Waldseemuller, contains information obtained by Amerigo Vespucci from his voyages to the New World in 1501-02. Waldseemuller labeled the new territory "America" in recognition of Vespucci and other explorers' concept that a new continent had been discovered, largely in part due to the voyages of the late fifteenth century. This map supported the revolutionary idea of a New World, with an otherwise unknown landmass as a separate continent and the Pacific Ocean as a separate body of water.

An edition of one thousand copies of the large wood-cut print of the map was reportedly produced and sold. However, the Library of Congress copy is believed to be the only one to have survived. Long thought to have been lost, the map was recovered in 1901 and housed for over 350 years in the six-teenth-century Waldburg-Wolfegg castle in southern Germany. …

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