Martin Waldseemuller (1470-1518)

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Waldseemuller was born in Radolfzell, a village on what is now the Swiss shore of Lake Constance, studied for the church at Freiburg and eventually settled in St Die at the Court of the Duke of Lorraine, at that time a noted patron of the arts. There, in the company of likeminded savants, he devoted himself to a study of cartography and cosmography, the outcome of which was a world map on 12 sheets, now famous as the map on which the name 'America' appears for the first time.

Suggested by Waldseemuuller in honour of Amerigo Vespucci (latinised: Americus Vesputius) whom he regarded, quite inexplicably, as the discoverer of the New World, the new name became generally accepted by geographers before the error could be rectified, and its use was endorsed by Mercator on his world map printed in 1538. Although only one copy is now known of Waldseemuller's map and of the later Carta Marina (1516) they were extensively copied in various forms by other cartographers of the day. Waldseemuller is best known for his preparation from about 1507 onwards of the maps for an issue of Ptolemy's Geographia, now regarded as the most important edition of that work.

Published by other hands in Strassburg in 1513, it included 20 'modern' maps and passed through a number of editions which are noted below. It remained the most authoritative work of its time until the issue of Munster's Geographia in 1540 and Cosmographia in 1544, World Map (12 sheets) 

1513 Ptolemy's Geographia Strassburg: 47 woodcut maps published by Jacobus Eszler and Georgius Ubelin (large folio)
1520 Strassburg: re-issued
1522 Strassburg: 50 woodcut maps, reduced in size, revised by Laurent Fries (Laurentius Frisius) and included the earliest map showing the name 'America' which is likely to be available to collectors
1525 Strassburg: re-issue of 1522 maps
1535 Lyon: re-issue of 1522 maps, edited by Michael Servetus who was subsequently tried for heresy and burned at the stake in 1553, ostensibly because of derogatory comments in the atlas about the Holy Land - the fact that the notes in question had not even been written by Servetus, but were copied from earlier editions, left his Calvinist persecutors unmoved
1541 Vienne (Dauphine'): re-issue of the Lyon edition - the offensive comments about the Holy Land have been deleted
1516 Carta Marina: World Map on 12 sheets

Martin Waldseemuller

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