First “America” Map

by Dave Weller

The first map ever to use the name “America” will go on display at the Library of Congress on December 13th. It was created by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in 1507, and is also the first document to show a separate Western Hemisphere and label the Pacific Ocean as its own body of water.

“America” was named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Waldseemüller read Vespucci’s letters describing his explorations and used these, in part, to create the map. The map was rediscovered in 1901 after spending 400 years lost in the library of a German castle. It is mounted in a 6-foot by 9.5-foot display case machined from a single block of aluminum.

But, experts are puzzled as to how he was able to draw the shape of South America so accurately, given what Europeans were believed to have known at the time. Why did he put a huge body of water west of South America years before it was discovered by European explorers? According to history, Vasco Nunez de Balboa did not reach the Pacific by land until 1513, and Ferdinand Magellan did not round the southern tip of the continent until 1520.

Also, why did he name the territory “America” and then stop using the name several years later?

You can read much more about this map at the following links: