New Website on Martin Waldseemüller

The Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress and the Galileo Museum in Florence, Italy, today unveiled a multi-media interactive website that celebrates the life and times of 16th-century cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, who created the 1507 World Map, which is the first document to use the name “America,” represent the Pacific Ocean and depict a separate and full Western Hemisphere.

1507 Waldseemüller map. Geography and Map Division.

1507 Waldseemüller map. Geography and Map Division.

The website, “A Land Beyond the Stars,” brings the map’s wealth of historical, technical, scientific and geographic data to a broader public. Interactive videos explain the sciences of cartography and astronomy and the state of navigational and geographic knowledge during the time of Waldseemüller. Developed with materials from the Library of Congress and other libraries around the world, the name of the website stems from Waldseemüller’s use of a passage from Roman poet Virgil, which can be found in the upper left corner of the 1507 map.

The 1507 map is the crown jewel of the unparalleled collections of maps and atlases in the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress. It is the only known surviving copy of the first printed edition of the map, which, some scholars believe, consisted of 1,000 copies. In 2003, the Library purchased Waldseemüller’s 1507 map from Prince Waldburg-Wolfegg in Baden-Württenberg, Germany, whose family owned it—and Waldseemüller’s 1516 Carta Marina, a nautical map of the entire world—for many centuries. Jay I. Kislak, a member of the Library’s James Madison Council, a private-sector advisory group, purchased the Carta Marina and donated it to the Library in 2014.

In 1507, cartographers in St. Dié, near Strasbourg, France, undertook an ambitious project to document and update new geographic knowledge derived from the discoveries of the late 15th and the first years of the 16th centuries. Waldseemüller’s world map was the most exciting product of that effort and included data gathered during Amerigo Vespucci’s voyages of 1501–1502 to the New World. Waldseemüller christened the new lands “America” in recognition of Vespucci’s understanding that a new continent had been uncovered, as a result of the voyages of Columbus and other explorers in the late 15th century.

The Galileo Museum, in collaboration with the Library of Congress, created the online multimedia presentation. Ente Cassa di Risparmio, a foundation in Florence, sponsored the project.

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