Library of Congress Conference Celebrates 500th Anniversary of Waldseemüller’s Carta Marina

Manuscript Page from the 1516 Carta Marina. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.
Manuscript Page from the 1516 Carta Marina. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Later this week, the Library of Congress will host a two-day conference celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1516 map, Carta Marina. Facts or Fictions: Debating the Mysteries of Early Modern Science and Cartography will take place on 6-7 October in the Coolidge Auditorium in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C. The conference agenda is not limited to Waldseemüller or his 1516 map; notable speakers include Kirsten Seaver, Chet Van Duzer and, with a major lecture, Dava Sobel. Free admission; no tickets or reservations required.

(The 1516 Carta Marina should not be confused with the Waldseemüller map most people mean: it’s his 1507 Universalis Cosmographia that names “America.” Nor should it be confused with Olaus Magnus’ Carta Marina.)

Olaus Magnus’s Sea Monsters

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Olaus Magnus, Carta Marina, 1539. Detail. James Ford Bell Library.

Speaking of map monsters, here’s a piece in the Public Domain Review from 2014 that I only encountered this month. It’s a look at the sea serpents found in Olaus Magnus’s 1539 Carta Marina: “The northern seas of the marine and terrestrial map teem with fantastic sea monsters either drawn or approved by Olaus,” writes the author—none other than Joseph Nigg, who literally wrote the book on the Carta Marina’s sea monsters. [WMS]

Previously: Sea Monsters and the Carta Marina.

VOA on the Waldseemüller Map

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Earlier this month Voice of America had a short, introductory piece on Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 map of the world. Because it’s the first time the word “America” appears on a map, it’s become known as “America’s birth certificate.” It’s for that reason that the Library of Congress spent $10 million to acquire the last known copy of the map. The story of the map, however, is much more interesting than that: it’s an amalgam of classical knowledge with more recent discoveries, a curious document that tries to bridge two different ways of thinking about the world. [WMS]

Several books about the map have been published. I haven’t yet seen The Naming of America: Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map and the Cosmographiae Introductio by John W. Hessler (Giles, 2008) or Putting “America” on the Map by Seymour I. Schwartz (Prometheus, 2007), but I have read and reviewed The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester (Free Press, 2009), which wraps the map in considerable historical context (buy the book at Amazon or iBooks).

Previously: Digital Preservation and Waldseemüller’s 1507 Map; Review: The Fourth Part of the World.

The Vatican’s Gallery of Maps

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Photo by Joaquim Alves Gaspar (Wikimedia Commons).

Aleteia takes a look at the Vatican’s amazing Gallery of Maps, which has recently completed a four-year restoration.

The Gallery of the Geographical Maps was a papal tour de force for its size, scope, speed and style. At 120 meters it is longer than a football field, yet the magnificent frescoes articulate the space with an elegant rhythm. The hall itself was designed by Ottaviano Mascherino for Pope Gregory XIII who wanted to link his new astronomical observatory, “The Tower of the Winds,” with the apostolic palace, so his guests would walk amidst terrestrial maps before climbing to observe the heavens.

[Dave Smith]

The Correspondence of Abraham Ortelius

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Abraham Ortelius, Typus Orbis Terrarum, 1570. Library of Congress.

A catalogue of the correspondence of Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598), the Flemish cartographer responsible for the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, is now available. Ortelius’ letters are scattered about the world in various collections; the catalogue is just that, a catalogue, not a digital archive—where digital copies do exist there are links to them, but otherwise in-person library research is still required. (The principal researcher, Joost Depuydt, recently published an article on Ortelius’ correspondence in Imago Mundi.) [via]

The Hunt-Lenox Globe

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The Hunt-Lenox Globe, a five-inch engraved copper globe dating from the early 1500s, is one of the earliest surviving globes, one of the earliest depictions of the New World and one of only two places where the phrase hic sunt dracones (“here be dragons”) can be found. It’s held by the New York Public Library, who are justly proud of it. They’ve received a grant to produce a 3D scan of the globe; once that’s finished, the 3D model will be available online. In the meantime, here are some other images of the Hunt-Lenox Globe from the NYPL. [via]

Early Maps of London

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Google Maps Mania has a post on the earliest maps of London. First, the Copperplate Map (ca. 1550s) of which no prints survive: only three copper printing plates, out of 15, are known to exist, two of which are held by the Museum of London. On the other hand, the Agas Map (above), which appears to be a close copy of the Copperplate, is available in an online interactive version.

Civitates Orbis Terrarum

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Hyperallergic has a review of Cities of the World (Taschen, November 2015), a reprint of colour plates from Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, which appeared in six volumes between 1572 and 1617. From Taschen: “Featuring plans, bird’s-eye views, and maps for all major cities in Europe, plus important urban centers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, this masterwork in urban mapping gives us a comprehensive view of city life at the turn of the 17th century.” Maps from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum can also be viewed online here and here. [via] Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)

The World on an Egg, circa 1504

In an article published this week in the Washington Map Society‘s journal, The Portolan, map collector Stefaan Missinne has announced the discovery of a small, engraved globe that he says is the first to depict the New World. From the WMS’s press release:

The previously-unknown globe, which is about the size of a grapefruit, was made from the lower halves of two ostrich eggs, and dates from the very early 1500s. Until now, it was thought that the oldest globe to show the New World was the “Lenox Globe” at the New York Public Library, but the author presents evidence that this Renaissance ostrich egg globe was actually used to cast the copper Lenox globe, putting its date c. 1504. The globe reflects the knowledge gleaned by Christopher Columbus and other very early European explorers including Amerigo Vespucci after whom America was named.

Ostrich egg globe
The Portolan (Washington Map Society)

The Lenox Globe—also known as the Hunt-Lenox Globe—was cast in 1510; interestingly, prior to this announcement, it was the only map or globe to contain the phrase hic sunt draconeshere be dragons. This globe has the phrase as well. In the Washington Post coverage, two map experts—John Hessler and Chet Van Duzer—are quoted expressing a certain amount of skepticism (especially about the purported da Vinci connection). I also suspect caution is warranted here: the history of antique maps contains several examples of groundshaking discoveries that turn out to be dubious at best.

Waldseemüller Globe Gore Found

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During The Map Room’s existence I frequently reported on Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 map of the world, notable because it was the first with the name “America” on it. Dubbed, as a result, “America’s birth certificate,” the last known copy of the large, 12-section map is now on display at the Library of Congress, which paid $10 million for it.

But Waldseemüller also produced small gores, which are used to construct globes; these ones would have been about four inches across. Four of these gores were known to exist, but yesterday Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München announced that they had accidently turned up a fifth copy in their library collection. It differs from the other gores; they believe it to be from a later edition. It can be viewed online here. BBC News coverage. Thanks to Drew for the tip.

If you’re interested in the Waldseemüller map, you’ll want to read The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester. I reviewed it in December 2009.

Does a Map Reveal Roanoke’s Fate?

A patch on a 16th-century map may suggest what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke. The map in question is the 1585 Virginea Pars map by John White. Based on the patch, which hides a symbol indicating a fort, researchers argue that the settlers may have moved westward and inland. AP coverage: ArtDaily, CBC, Washington Post. Via io9.