Universalis Cosmographia (World map)


Waldseemüller, Martin (1470-1521)


This is probably the most famous map of America. It was acquired by Congress in 2003 by purchase of the twelve sheets bound in a portfolio along with his 1516 map, Carta Marina. They previously belonged to the Prince Walberg-Wolfegg and had been in his castle in Germany where they were discovered and described by Fr. Joseph Fischer in 1901.

The 1507 and 1516 maps are now in the Library of Congress.

The 1507 map was based on information from Amerigo Vespucci who stated in his letter to Piero Soderini in Florence that the land to the west was a New World and not Asia as Columbus claimed. The cartographic details were based in part on the Cantino Planisphere of 1502 and the Caveri Portolan of 1503-4. Those two maps were derived from Portuguese sources as well as other unidentified documents.

All the information was accumulated by a group of scholars under the patronage of René II, Duke of Lorraine, at the Gymnasium Vosagense at St. Dié in France. A member of the Gymnasium had visited Florence, Italy where Amerigo Vespucci and Soderini had studied under Amerigo's uncle. The information about the map was described in a publication called Cosmographiae Introductio. The map was drawn on a semi-cordiform projection by Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringman and printed in St. Dié.

The 1507 map has several depictions that were the first for the time:

  • It was the first printed map to use the name "America", based on Amerigo Vespucci's writings and it is therefore called "America's Baptismal Certificate".
  • It depicts the New World as a separate land mass from Asia with a huge ocean between them, although the Pacific Ocean was not officially "discovered" until 1513 by Balboa.
  • It shows a western coast of South America with mountains, even though that coast was not "discovered" until 1522 by Magellan.
  • It shows North and South America as separate land masses on the main map, but not on the inset.
  • The Gulf of Mexico is surrounded by Yucatan (shown as islands) and a peninsula connected to a mainland northwest of Isabella (Cuba). This Gulf was not officially explored and mapped until Pineda s voyage of 1519 and the publication of his map which appears in the 1524 letter from Cortes to Spanish King Charles V.
  • The mainland and peninsula northwest of Cuba have place names along both coasts even though it was not officially mapped or named (Bemini) until 1511 by Peter Martyr and not officially "discovered" and named (Florida) by Ponce de Leon in 1513. The entire mainland above the peninsula is named "Terra Ulteri Incognita" (unknown land) on this Waldseemüller map.
  • Most modern researchers agree that this peninsula represents Florida even though others have suggested something else. Other mapmakers labeled it with various names based on what they were told it was, thought it was, or wanted it to be.

Some of the labels placed on the peninsula northwest of Cuba by various mapmakers (some as late as 1530) are:

  • Asia, because Columbus and Cabot believed that they had reached Asia or portions of it called India or the Indies.
  • Cuba, because Columbus made his shipmates swear that they had reached the mainland of Asia when they were on the island of Cuba. Were they really on Florida (as shown on the 1516 map)?
  • Juana, another name for Columbus' Cuba.
  • Yucatan, because it is more to the west of Cuba (or Isabella) rather than more to the north as Florida is.
  • Paria, which is actually on the north coast of South America.
  • Mangi, which is actually eastern Cathay (or China).
  • Isabella, which was the most common name of that time for the island now known as Cuba. Cuba was actually named "Cuba" by Juan de la Cosa in 1500.
  • Zoana Mela, said to be a corruption of the name Juana (which was said to be Columbus' Cuba).
  • Terra de Cuba Asia Partis (Land of Cuba part of Asia) which was the name that Waldseemüller put there on his 1516 Carta Marina because he had been criticized after 1507 for not giving due credit to Columbus. As stated above, Columbus made his crew swear that the area was part of the mainland (of Asia). Waldseemüller also left the name America off of his 1513 and 1516 maps.
  • No actual name, either, because they did not believe it was real or denial because any information they had was secret or anyone who explored it may have been in violation of the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas. Sometimes the peninsula was completely left off of maps of the area or shown as a sort of island, as on the Ruysch map.

The 1507 Waldseemüller map is on permanent exhibit at the Library of Congress for all to see, study and appreciate. People from Florida will particularly appreciate it because it is the earliest printed map that shows the peninsula now known as Florida.


Image scanned from a reproduction in a private collection.

References: Fischer, Winsor (1886).

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