A Student of History

December 4, 2007

Early Map a Mystery

Filed under: Early America — John Maass @ 4:15 pm

Great story about a mystery map of America:  “The only surviving copy of the 500-year-old map that first used the name America goes on permanent display this month at the Library of Congress, but even as it prepares for its debut, the 1507 Waldseemuller map remains a puzzle for researchers.”  This is a photo of the map under a glass case at the LOC:


Some of the questions surrounding the map:  How was he able to draw South America so accurately? Why did he put a huge ocean west of America years before European explorers discovered the Pacific? 

“The actual shape of South America is correct,” said John Hebert, chief of the geography and map division of the Library of Congress.  “The width of South America at certain key points is correct within 70 miles of accuracy.”  Given what Europeans are believed to have known about the world at the time, it should not have been possible for the mapmakers to produce it, he said.  The mapmakers say they based it on the 1,300-year-old works of the Egyptian geographer Ptolemy.


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