Press contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022

February 20, 2008

1507 World Map is Subject of New Library Publication

More than 500 years after its creation, Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map—the first map to display the name "America"—continues to fascinate cartographers, historians and those interested in the nation’s founding and the mapping of the globe. Acquired by the Library of Congress in 2003 and currently on display in the Thomas Jefferson Building in a sealed, oxygen-free encasement, the map is the subject of a new book, "The Naming of America" by John W. Hessler.

Published by the Library of Congress in association with London-based fine-art published D Giles Limited, "The Naming of America" tells the story behind the map’s creation in 16th-century France and rediscovery more than 300 years later in the library of Wolfegg Castle in Germany. Of the 1,000 originally printed, it is the only known copy to survive.

Produced in 12 sheets, the 1507 map represents the continents of North and South America separated from Asia by the Pacific Ocean. The book shows the composite view and features the first sheet-by-sheet color facsimile. The book also includes a completely new translation of and commentary by Hessler to the "Cosmographiae Introductio," the seminal cartographic text by Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann that is thought to have originally accompanied the World Map. Together the 1507 map and the "Cosmographiae Introductio" occupy a crucial place in history, between the discovery of the New World by Columbus in 1492 and the birth of the scientific revolution with Copernicus in 1543.

The Waldseemüller map is the cornerstone of a new exhibition that opened in the Northwest Gallery of the Great Hall of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building on Dec. 13. "Exploring the Early Americas," featuring items from the Jay I. Kislak Collection, focuses on the history and legacies of the Americas and the impact of European contact, culture and conquest. The exhibition marks the beginning of a transformation of the Jefferson Building into an interactive experience for visitors that merges cutting-edge technology with the knowledge and inspiration embodied in the Library’s unparalleled collections and curators. The technology will allow visitors to explore "virtually" a wide array of rare items, including the 1507 map. The exhibition is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and may be viewed online at www.loc.gov/exhibits/earlyamericas/.

Hessler is a member of the Collections Management Team in the Library’s Geography and Map Division. He has published extensively on the history of mathematical and planetary cartography and is the author of several articles on the Waldseemüller map.

"The Naming of America," a 128-page hardcover book with 40 color illustrations, is available for $24.95 in the Library’s Sales Shop, Washington, D.C., 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557 or shop on the Internet at www.loc.gov/shop/. The publication can also be obtained in the U.S. from the Antique Collectors’ Club (800-252-5231, orders@antiquecc.com).

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PR 08-039
02/20/08
ISSN 0731-3527

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