“America” appears on world map in 1507. Two obscure 16th century German cartographers, Martin Waldseemüller (1470-1520) and Matthias Ringmann (1482-1511) collaborated in naming the New World “America” 513 years ago. In recognition of Vespucci’s understanding that a new continent had been uncovered, they named the continent in honor of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) who made two voyages in 1501-1502. Vespucci’s letter described a newly discovered land that stretched thousands of miles beyond the Equator to the south what is now known as South America. In 1504 or so, a copy of Vespucci’s letter, “New World,” fell into the hands of Ringmann.

Ringmann and Waldseemüller’s large world map, 4 ½ by 8 ft., was the most exciting product of that research effort. Waldseemüller’s map, printed on manuscript, depicted Vespucci’s revolutionary concept by portraying the New World as a separate continent with the Pacific Ocean 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 known as Europe, Asia, and Africa. 

The only surviving map of the first printed edition believed to consist of 1,000 copies was acquired by the United States Library of Congress in 2003.

Harvey H. Wetz

The Woodlands


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