Rare Map Related to America's "Birth Certificate" Rediscovered
A timely discovery indeed: just days before the United States of America celebrates its 236th birthday, researchers at the Library of the University of Munich have discovered a rare map connected to America’s “birth certificate.”
Enlarge image Good timing for America's "birthday," the July 4th holiday: Two researchers working in the library of the University of Munich have discovered a previously unknown variant of the famous world map known as "America's birth certificate." (© picture alliance / dpa) The “birth certificate” is the famous 1507 map of the world printed by Martin Waldseemüller, the sixteenth-century German cartographer (1470-1522), which is the first to show the continents now known as North and South America, and the first to use the term “America.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented that priceless treasure, the only one of its kind, to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC in 2007, exactly 500 years after the map which literally changed the world was printed. At the time, she called it “a wonderful token of the particularly close ties of friendship between Germany and America.”
The newly-discovered map, a so-called globe segment map, is smaller than the 1507 chart, comprised of 12 separate sheets and measuring four by eight feet when assembled. The globe segment maps were produced in greater numbers by Waldseemüller and were more greatly disseminated. When cut and formed into a globe they showed a crescent-shaped landform separated from the three known “worlds”—Europe, Asia, and Africa—by vast oceans: America!
Enlarge image A combo photo showing North America (top), Central America (middle), and South America (bottom) as displayed by the Waldseemüller World Map on display after a map transfer ceremony at the Library of Congress on April 30, 2007. (© picture-alliance / dpa ) Four such globe segment maps were known to exist, in Minneapolis, Offenburg, and the Bavarian State Library in Munich, as well as another which sold at auction for one million dollars in 2005. But this fifth map shows some different geographical features possibly related to discoveries being made at the time.
That the map survived more than five centuries including wars and other disruptions is nothing less than miraculous. Its discovery during recent days is also something of a miracle. The age-old map had apparently been tucked between the pages of a geometry book from the same period by cataloguers in the nineteenth century who failed to appreciate its value.
Having been rediscovered, the Waldseemüller map is being made available to America—and the world—in a digital version offered by the University of Munich.
“Even in our digital age, the originals have lost none of their significance and unique fascination,” says Klaus-Rainer Brintzinger, Director of the University Library. “Treasures like the newly discovered map can only be brought to light by people who work directly with originals.”
Brintzinger added the library intended to make the map accessible to the public in digital form in time for the Fourth of July. Happy birthday, America!