What Is the Oldest Historical Chart in the United States?


Quick Answer

The Waldseemüller map, the first map to ever include the name "America" and often referred to as "America’s Birth Certificate," was a wall map drawn by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in 1507. The map is presently located in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

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Of the one thousand Waldseemüller maps that were printed, the lone remaining map sits in the Library of Congress. It is made up of 12 sections printed from woodcuts that, when assembled over four rows and three columns, is about 8 feet wide and 5 feet high. The map's official name, in English, is "The Universal Cosmography according to the Tradition of Ptolemy and the Discoveries of Amerigo Vespucci and others, including Christopher Columbus.

The map uses a Ptolemaic equal-area projection, which distorts the shapes of land area to preserve area measure. Some time after its printing in Lorraine, France (at the time a part of the Holy Roman Empire), the map went missing for nearly 400 years until it was discovered in a prince's library in southwestern Germany in 1901. In 2001, the Library of Congress purchased the map for $10 million. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, symbolically turned the map over to the Library of Congress in 2007, the map's 500 year anniversary.

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