Press contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public contact: John Hessler (202) 707-7223

March 16, 2009

"Exploring Waldseemüller's World" Symposium at Library of Congress, May 14 and 15

Free and Open to the Public, but Registration Required by April 15

The 1507 Waldseemüller Map of the World, the crown jewel of the unparalleled collection of maps and atlases at the Library of Congress, depicts many firsts: first document to use the name "America;" first map to represent the Pacific Ocean as a separate body of water; and first map to depict a separate and full Western Hemisphere. The map revealed new European thinking about the world more than 500 years ago.

On May 14 and May 15, prominent scholars will gather at the Library of Congress to examine Waldseemüller’s cartographic vision and to reflect on the philosophical and historical context of the map’s production and reception. Experts will speak on a wide range of topics, from the history of exploration and German Humanism to the mathematical and astronomical basis of early 16th-century cartography.

At the same time, the conference is also a celebratory event, marking the Library of Congress’ acquisition in 2003 of this extraordinary artifact. The Library’s purchase of the map for $10 million concluded a nearly century-long effort to bring the document into the United States. The map was uncovered and revealed to the world in 1901, when it was discovered in the library of a castle owned by the family of Prince Waldburg-Wolfegg in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

The symposium, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 14, and from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 15, will be held in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground level of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The Books and Beyond lecture from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on May 14 will be held in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by the Library’s Geography and Map Division and the Philip Lee Phillips Society, the conference is free and open to the public. Seating, however, is limited, and reservations, which are required, must be made by Wednesday, April 15.

Registrants will need to be specific by listing which days (May 14, 15 or both) they will attend and whether they will attend the Books and Beyond event on the evening of May 14. To register, e-mail specialevents@loc.gov and place the phrase ‘Waldseemüller Symposium’ in the subject line.

The sessions and speakers are listed below:

Thursday, May 14

9:30 a.m. to noon:

Introduction to conference by John Hébert, chief of the Library’s Geography and Map Division

Session 1: Waldseemüller’s World: Scholars and Scientists 1450-1550

The session examines how the transmission of texts and other information took place during Waldseemüller’s time and the place of the individual scholar within that world.

"Johannes Schöner, Astronomer"
Owen Gingerich, emeritus professor of astronomy and the history of science at Harvard University and a senior astronomer emeritus at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"Waldseemüller and the Quest for the Tropics in the Age of Exploration"
Nicolás Wey Gómez, assistant professor of Hispanic studies at Brown University

Panel discussion: moderator, Richard Kagan, professor of history at Johns Hopkins University

2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.:

Session 2: Waldseemüller’s World: Exploring the Known and Unknown

The session begins a more focused examination of Waldseemüller’s world by attempting to place the 1507 World Map within the context of exploration and the discovery of the new lands in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

"Exploration and Navigation in the Time of Waldseemüller"
Alison Sandman, assistant professor of history at James Madison University

"Visible Roads Apparent on the Surface of the Sea: Portuguese Explorations to 1500"
Rita Costa-Gomes, associate professor of history at Towson University

Panel discussion: moderator, John Hébert

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.:

Books and Beyond

Three symposium scholars will discuss their books in a program sponsored by the Library’s Center for the Book and the Geography and Map Division.

"The Naming of America: Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map and the Cosmographiae Introductio" (Library of Congress, 2008)
John Hessler, senior reference librarian at the Library of Congress

"The German Discovery of the World: Renaissance Encounters with the Strange and Marvelous" (University of Virginia Press, 2008)
Christine Johnson, assistant professor of history at Washington University in St. Louis

"The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies" (MIT Press, 2008)
Nicolás Wey Gómez, assistant professor of Hispanic studies at Brown University

Friday, May 15

9:30 a.m. to noon:

Session 3: Waldseemüller’s World: Sources and Texts

Using the first session on the transmission of texts as a general theoretical framework, speakers in this session will specifically discuss Waldseemüller’s sources, both textual and cartographic. The complexity of his sources is something that has yet to be studied in any coherent, scholarly way, and these papers will provide the basis for further research in this area.

"The World in Renaissance German Culture"
Christine Johnson, assistant professor of history at Washington University in St. Louis

"From Iberia to France: Theories Concerning Information Transmission to Saint-Die"
Peter Dickson, independent scholar

"Evidence for a Lost Map Used by Waldseemüller in his Depiction of Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean"
Chet van Duzer, independent scholar

Panel discussion: moderator, John Hessler

2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.:

Session 4: Waldseemüller’s World: Changes and Revolutions

Speakers will try to unlock the difficult historical problems associated with the creation, publication and reception of Waldseemüller’s view of the world by focusing on specific issues in German humanist culture and on the use of the map by its original owner, Johannes Schöner.

"How Johannes Schöner Read His Ptolemy: Realism, Instrumentalism and the Changing Epistemology of 16th-Century Cartography"
John Hessler, senior reference librarian at the Library of Congress

"Refining the Historical Timeline of the Naming of America with the Print Clock"
S. Blair Hedges and Jessica K. Templeton, both of Pennsylvania State University

"Renaissance Printing and the Pursuit of Knowledge"
Susan Dackerman, Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University

Panel discussion: moderator, John Hébert

4:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.:

Session 5: What Is or Was Waldseemüller’s World?

John Hébert will summarize the scholarly presentations. Speakers and moderators will discuss what comes next in Waldseemüller scholarship. John Hessler will moderate the speakers’ discussion.

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PR 09-054
03/16/09
ISSN 0731-3527

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