WALDSEEMULLER Martin, Tabula Moderna Italie, 1513
Tabula Moderna Italie
Ulm: Strassbourg, 1513
Woodcut on black
Paper size: 17 1/2" x 23 1/4"
Martin Walseemüller and his collaborator, Matthias Ringmann, are credited with the first recorded usage of the word America to name the New World in honour of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.
He was born about 1475, most probably in the village of Wolfenweiler near Freiburg im Breisgau (southern Germany). He studied at the University of Freiburg where he met Johann Scott, the future printer of Waldseemüller’s edition of Ptolemy and Matthias Ringman, a poet who wrote Waldseemüller’s texts. Gregor Reisch was their tutor. He was noted for a philosophical work, Margaretha Philosophica (1503), a widely read book of which included a world map in Ptolemaic form. He undoubtedly aroused the students’ interest in cosmography.
At the beginning of the 16th century, Walseemüller moved to St.Dié, in the Vosges. He Hellenized his name to Ilacomilus and worked on an edition of Ptolemy. He learned the printing trade in Basle and became professor of cosmography under the patronage of René II, Duke of Lorraine.
Together with a group of scholars, among them were Nicholas Lud and Matthias Ringmann, they installed a printing press in St. Dié. The first book appeared in 1507: Cosmographiae introductio … Few books have generated as much interest and speculation as this book because it contained the suggestion that the new continent is named America in honour of Amerigo Vespucci, whose letters about his American “discoveries” form a large part of the book. Great interest was also attached to the two maps mentioned on the title page as constituting part of the Cosmographiae introductio: a large 12-panel wall map of the world and a set of globe gores. The map and globe were notable for showing the New World as a continent separate from Asia and for naming the southern landmass America.
Ringmann wrote the text of the Cosmographiae introductio in which he used the name ‘America’. He died in 1511, and by then Waldseemüller was having doubts about the name they had coined.
In 1511 Walseemüller published the Carta Itineraria Europae, a road map of Europe that showed essential trade routes as well as pilgrim routes from central Europe to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It was the first printed wall map of Europe.
After Ringmann’s death, Waldseemüller concentrated on the new version of Ptolemy’s Geographia. The new edition was finally printed in 1513 by Johannes Scott in Strasbourg and is now regarded as the most important edition. Waldseemüller included twenty modern maps in the new Geographia as a separate appendix.
The 1507 wall map was lost for a long time, but a copy was found in Schloss Wolfegg in southern Germany by Joseph Fischer in 1901. It is the only known copy and was purchased by the United States Library of Congress in May 2003.