Martin Waldseemüller

Martin Waldseemüller (Latinized Martinus Ilacomilus or Hylacomylus, c. 1470 – c. 1521/1522) was a German cartographer. He and Matthias Ringmann are credited with naming America.


Waldseemüller was born in Freiburg im Breisgau (his mother was from Radolfzell) 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-Vosges, France), 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 navigationes (Four Voyages of Amerigo), 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 Wolfegg 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 Congress 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 Minnesota.

See also


  • John Hessler, The Naming of America: Martin Waldseemüller's 1507 World Map and the Cosmographiae Introductio, Library of Congress, 2007

External links

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