ShareThis Page
Oldest map to use word ‘America’ up for sale |

Oldest map to use word ‘America’ up for sale

The Associated Press
| Wednesday, November 8, 2017 1:00 a.m
A world map in the form of a set of gores for a terrestrial globe, from 1507 by cartographer Martin Waldseemueller is displayed at Christie's auction rooms in London, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017.

LONDON — Christie’s auction house said Tuesday it has discovered a previously unknown copy of a 510-year-old map dubbed “America’s birth certificate” because it gave the New World its name.

Julian Wilson, a senior specialist in Christie’s books department, said the two-dimensional globe created in 1507 by pioneering German cartographer Martin Waldseemueller is “the earliest piece of writing that uses the word America.”

Waldseemueller decided to name the landmass after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who helped show that lands being explored by Europeans in the 15th and 16th centuries were not — as Christopher Columbus initially surmised — part of Asia.

A wall-map version of the same chart by Waldseemueller, purchased by the Library of Congress for $10 million in 2003, has been called “America’s birth certificate,” and Wilson said the name equally applies to this version.

“This is the first time that America is on the map, in more ways than one,” he said.

Christie’s plans to offer the map for sale on Dec. 13 in London, and set the price it is estimated to fetch at between $788,000 and $1.2 million. Four other copies of the map exist in museums and private collections, but this one was previously unknown.

The map is the oldest-known printed globe, designed to be cut out and pasted around a wooden ball. It is also the first map to show North and South America as separate continents and to depict a distinct Pacific Ocean, which no European had then seen.

Wilson said the map is remarkably accurate. Waldseemueller was one of a group of cartographers based in Saint-Die, France that charted discoveries made by Spanish and Portuguese explorers and had access to the newest and most detailed information.

He said the map has “some quirks,” including “a very large Sri Lanka and a very small India.” Japan is placed in the mid-Pacific and Australia is missing.

“But the major geo-political features of the globe that we would recognize today are for the first time visible on this piece of paper,” Wilson said.

The map is being sold by the family of British paper restorer Arthur Drescher. He died in 1986, but relatives only recently found it among his papers and took it to the auction house to be appraised.

Wilson said “it completely freaked me out” when a man walked in off the street with the document.

“My legs almost gave way,” he said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime discovery moment. I thought, I’m probably looking at the find of my career.”

Categories: World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.