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Martin Waldseemüller (Latinized Martinus Ilacomilus or Hylacomylus, c. 1470 – c. 1521/1522) was a Germanmarker cartographer. He and Matthias Ringmann are credited with the first recorded usage of the word America, on the 1507 map Universalis Cosmographia in honor of the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci.


Waldseemüller was born in Freiburgmarker in Breisgaumarker (his mother was from Radolfzellmarker) and studied at the University of Freiburg.

On April 25, 1507, working at St. Deodatus (German: Sankt Diedel) in the duchy of Lotharingia (today Saint-Dié-des-Vosgesmarker, Francemarker), he produced a globular world map and a large 12-panel world wall map (Universalis Cosmographia) bearing the first use of the name "America". The globular and wall maps were accompanied by a book Cosmographiae Introductio, an introduction to cosmography. The book includes a translation to Latin of the Quattuor Americi Vespuccij navigationes (Four Voyages of Americo Vespucci), which is apparently a letter written by Amerigo Vespucci, although some historians consider it to have been a forgery written by its supposed recipient in Italy. The Cosmographiae describes why the name America was used:
ab Americo Inventore ...quasi Americi terram sive Americam (from Amerigo the discoverer if it were the land of Americus, thus America).

In 1513 Waldseemüller appears to have had second thoughts about the name, probably due to contemporary protests about Vespucci’s role in the discovery and naming of America. In his reworking of the Ptolemy atlas, the continent is labelled simply Terra Incognita (unknown land). Despite the revision, 1,000 copies of the world maps had since been distributed, and the original suggestion took hold. While North America was still called Indies in documents for some time, it was eventually called America as well.

The wall map was lost for a long time, but a copy was found in a castle at Wolfeggmarker in southern Germany by Joseph Fischer in 1901. It is still the only copy known to survive, and it was purchased by the Library of Congressmarker in May 2003, after reaching an agreement in 2001. Four copies of the globular map survive in the form of "gores": printed maps that were intended to be cut out and pasted onto a ball. Only one of these lies in the Americas today, residing at the James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesotamarker.

Carta itineraria europae 1520

See also


  1. The Map That Named America, Library of Congress, September 2003
  2. "Library of Congress Acquires Only Known Copy of 1507 World Map Compiled by Martin Waldseemüller", Library of Congress, 2001-07-23
  • John Hessler, The Naming of America: Martin Waldseemüller's 1507 World Map and the Cosmographiae Introductio, Library of Congress, 2007 [3270]
  • David Brown, "16th-Century Mapmaker's Intriguing Knowledge", Washington Post, 2008-11-17, p. A7

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