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Putting "America" on the Map: The Story of the Most Important Graphic Document in the History of the United States
by:Seymour I. Schwartz
In 1507, a German cartographer working in Saint Die, in the Duchy of Lorraine, created a world map that, for the first time, included the continental landmasses in the Western Hemisphere, discovered within the 15 previous years. He inserted the name "America" on the southern continent, honoring Amerigo Vespucci, who had erroneously been credited with...
In 1507, a German cartographer working in Saint Die, in the Duchy of Lorraine, created a world map that, for the first time, included the continental landmasses in the Western Hemisphere, discovered within the 15 previous years. He inserted the name "America" on the southern continent, honoring Amerigo Vespucci, who had erroneously been credited with setting foot on South American soil before Christopher Columbus. With the aid of the recently invented printing press, the name "America" became the accepted designation of continental land in the New World. Over the centuries there has been a heated controversy concerning the naming of America. The map, which was considered to be the "Holy Grail" of American cartography, was lost for four centuries before it was found in 1901 in a German castle. After many attempts to bring the map to the land that it named, it was finally purchased by the Library of Congress for the astounding sum of $10 million dollars--the largest amount the library ever paid for a single acquisition. In a colorful narrative that reads like a good mystery, Dr. Seymour I. Schwartz brings to life the amazing history of America's "baptismal certificate." Since its creation the Waldseemüller World Map of 1507 has been surrounded by many intrigues and four major controversies. How did America come to be assigned that name and was it an appropriate choice? How can the revolutionary geographic representations depicted on the map be explained in the light of the fact that they preceded the known discoveries? What is the actual date that can be ascribed to the map now in the possession of the Library of Congress? Is the Waldseemüller World Map of 1507 the first to depict continental land in the New World and the first to bear the name "America"? Schwartz's compelling story, which includes many amazing twists and turns, also features cameo appearances by Alexander von Humboldt, Washington Irving, Frederic Chopin, George Sand, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ogden Nash, J. Pierpont Morgan, Paul Mellon, and German Chancellors Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schroeder.
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