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The Earliest Obtainable Waldseemüller Map of the World

Nice example of Martin Waldseemüller's modern map of the world, the earliest obtainable world map published by noted sixteenth-century cosmographer Waldseemüller. It was included in the first published collection of modern maps and made up part of the influential 1513 Strasbourg edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia.

This map is one of the earliest obtainable world maps to depict the discoveries of the earliest modern explorers including Christopher Columbus, Vasco Da Gama, Amerigo Vespucci. It draws heavily from Portuguese sources in its expanded view of India, and presciently separates Asia from America, something that would not be clarified by mapmakers until the second half of the sixteenth century. Included in the Caribbean are isabella and spagnolla, Cuba and Haiti/Dominican Republic, where the Spanish were already setting up colonies. Interestingly, Waldseemüller chose not to use the name “America” on this world map, as he did on his famous 1507 world map, the earliest map to use the name. This shows the continuing consideration Waldseemüller gave to his work.

The 1513 Strasbourg edition of Ptolemy

According to Burden, Waldseemüller likely began work on this map in ca. 1505, when he was a professor of cosmography in St.-Dié. Waldseemüller worked on the Ptolemy with Matthias Ringmann, who collated the texts, while Waldseemüller compiled the maps. However, when their patron René II died in 1508, the St.-Dié Press closed down. Ringmann died in 1511. These events stalled the project and it was only in 1513 that the Ptolemy appeared, printed by Waldseemüller’s friend Johann Schott.  

The Strasbourg edition is widely considered the most important edition of Ptolemy's Geographia. It includes 47 maps cut from woodblocks. This edition had not one but two world maps, this modern map and a map of the world as known to Ptolemy, which includes 8 windheads and other remarkable decorative embellishments. This map lacks those decorative elements and adopts a simple format in order to emphasize the rapid expansion of the known world.

The modern maps were separated from the Ptolemaic map with their own separate title page, making them the first published collection of modern maps. They were issued in a second edition published in Strasbourg in 1520. Lorent Fries copied, simplified, and reduced the Waldseemüller maps for his 1522 Ptolemy published by Grüninger; these Fries woodblocks were also used in three later editions: 1525 Strasbourg edited by Willibald Pirkheimer, 1535 Lyons edited by Michael Servetus, and 1541 Vienna (reprint of the Servetus). The innovative nature of this map and its influential maker make this an essential map for early world map collectors.

Condition Description
Upper and lower margins extended. Bottom neat line and part of the gradient lines added in facsimile.
Robert W. Karrow Jr., Mapmakers of the Sixteenth Century and Their Maps: Bio-Bibliographies of the Cartographers of Abraham Ortelius, 1570 (Chicago: Speculum Orbis Press for the Newberry Library, 1993), 577-9.
Shirley, 35.
Martin Waldseemüller Biography

Martin Waldseemüller (c. 1475-1520) was a sixteenth-century cosmographer best known for his 1507 world map in twelve sheets, the earliest surviving map to include the name “America.”  He was an influential mapmaker during his time whose work affected many of his contemporaries and successors. Waldseemüller was born near Freiburg, in what is now southwestern Germany. His family moved to Freiburg proper when he was young and he attended university in the city beginning in 1490.

Waldseemüller gathered information about the New World discoveries and geography from St.-Dié des Vosges in Lorraine, where he was a professor of cosmography under the patronage of René II, Duke of Lorraine. He was a member of an intellectual circle who produced work from the St.-Dié Press. However, the press failed when the Duke died, and Waldseemüller moved to Strasbourg.

He is best known for the 1507 map and another world projection, the Carta Marina published in 1516. He also published an edition of Ptolemy in 1513, in collaboration with Johann Schott, a friend from Freiburg and St.-Dié. Besides his innovative use of the toponym “America”, Waldseemüller was the first to create such a large printed world map, the author of the earliest known printed globe gores, the first to create a published collection of modern maps, and one of the first to create maps from ground measurements. He was knowledgeable in surveying methods and designed a quadrant and other instruments. He returned to St.-Dié late in life as canon, although he continued to return to Strasbourg for work and for carnival. He died in St.-Dié in 1520.

Waldseemuller is generally credited with having named the continent of America, based upon the then current belief that Amerigo Vespucci had been the first modern explorer to reach the continent of America in 1497, during the first of four expeditions to America which were then credited to Vespucci between 1497 and 1504. The report which described the 1497 expedition is now generally believed to be a forgery. Later in his career, Waldseemüller elected not to use the toponym for the continents, preferring to leave them unnamed. However, the name had been taken up by his contemporaries, in large part due to the influential nature of Waldseemüller’s earlier works.