Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 map portrays the New World as a separate continent, which until then was unknown to the Europeans. It was the first map, printed or manuscript, to depict clearly a separate Western Hemisphere, with the Pacific as a separate ocean. The map represented a huge leap forward in knowledge, recognizing the newly found American landmass and forever changing the European understanding of a world divided into only three parts—Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Long thought lost, the 1507 Waldseemüller world map was discovered more than a century ago in a castle in southern Germany. The map was owned by the family of Prince Johannes Waldburg-Wolfegg for more than 350 years and had rarely been made available for examination. The map survived in mint condition because its twelve individual sheets were placed in a portfolio by its original owner, Johann Schöner (1477–1547), a Nuremberg astronomer and geographer.
The original portfolio contained other cartographic treasures including the 1516 wall map by Martin Waldseemüller, known as the “Carta Marina,” and terrestrial and celestial globe gores created by Schöner, which are part of the Library’s Jay I. Kislak Collection. The Carta Marina is thought by some to be the first printed nautical map of the entire world and differs markedly from the 1507 World Map. The name “America” is omitted from the 1516 map, the size of the New World is also greatly reduced, and the Pacific Ocean disappears. Among Schöner’s globe gores included in the portfolio is the first-known set of printed celestial gores that he designed and printed in 1517. These annotated gores represent the state of astronomical knowledge in Schöner’s time and are an improvement over many of the star charts of the period.
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