The Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress and the Galileo Museum in Florence, Italy, today unveiled a multi-media interactive website that celebrates the life and times of 16th-century cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, who created the 1507 World Map, which is the first document to use the name “America,” represent the Pacific Ocean and depict a separate and full Western Hemisphere.
The website, “A Land Beyond the Stars,” brings the map’s wealth of historical, technical, scientific and geographic data to a broader public.
More than 11 hours of interactive videos explain the sciences of cartography and astronomy and the state of navigational and geographic knowledge during the time of Waldseemüller.
The Galileo Museum, in collaboration with the Library of Congress, created the online multimedia presentation. Ente Cassa di Risparmio, a foundation in Florence, sponsored the project.
The website was launched today during the Library’s cartography conference, “Facts or Fictions: Debating the Mysteries of Early Modern Science and Cartography—A Celebration of the 500th Anniversary of Waldseemüller’s 1516 Carta Marina,” in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C.
The 1507 map grew out of an ambitious project by cartographers in St. Dié, near Strasbourg, France, to document and update new geographic knowledge derived from the discoveries of the late 15th and the first years of the 16th centuries. Waldseemüller’s world map was the most exciting product of that effort, and included data gathered during Amerigo Vespucci’s voyages of 1501–1502 to the New World. Waldseemüller christened the new lands “America” in recognition of Vespucci’s understanding that a new continent had been uncovered, as a result of the voyages of Columbus and other explorers in the late 15th century.
The 1507 map is the crown jewel of the unparalleled collections of maps and atlases in the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress. It is the only known surviving copy of the first printed edition of the map, which, some scholars believe, consisted of 1,000 copies. In 2003, the Library purchased Waldseemüller’s 1507 map from Prince Waldburg-Wolfegg in Baden-Württenberg, Germany, whose family owned it—and Waldseemüller’s 1516 Carta Marina, a nautical map of the entire world—for many centuries. Jay I. Kislak, a member of the Library’s James Madison Council, a private-sector advisory group, purchased the Carta Marina and donated it to the Library in 2014.
“A Land Beyond the Stars” website was developed with materials from the Library of Congress and other libraries around the world. The name of the website stems from Waldseemüller’s use of a passage from Roman poet Virgil. The quotation can be found in the upper left corner of the 1507 map.
The Library of Congress has the largest and most comprehensive collection of maps and atlases in the world, more than 5.5 million cartographic items that date from the 14th century to the present time.