[AMERICA] Tabula Terre Nove

[AMERICA] Tabula Terre Nove

Johann Schott
Size : 62 x 43,5 cm
Color : Coloris original
Condition : Restoration in the corners and at the centre fold.
Technique : Woodcut
Reference : 439-27

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The first map exclusively dedicated to America in exceptionally rare contemporary colours.

This map, also widely known as the "Admiral's Map" in reference to Christopher Columbus, comes from the 1513 edition of Ptolemy's Geographiae by Martin Waldseemüller. It is one of the oldest maps available of the region.

Renaming America

In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller produced a large twelve-sheet map of the world, on which he included the name America and a portrait of Amerigo Vespucci for the first time. At the time, there was uncertainty as to whether Christopher Columbus or Amerigo Vespucci was the first to discover the New World.

Made in 1513, this map shows how Waldseemüller attempts to rectify his error and attribute the discovery to Columbus. Firstly, there is no longer any mention of America on this map, unlike on the planisphere, and secondly, he writes the following explanation on the South American continent: "this land and the adjacent islands were discovered by Columbus the Genoese, commissioned by the King of Castile". In his introduction Waldseemüller refers to the "Admiral" as his source of information for the mapping of the New World. It is generally assumed that he is referring to Christopher Columbus, and therefore the term "Admiral's map" is often used to refer to this map.

Despite his attempt to correct his error, it had already become embedded in the European vernacular.

The geography of the American continent

Some twenty places are identified on the North American coastline, drawn mainly from Portuguese sources, including Cantino's portulan (1502) and Caveri's world map c.1505. Among these names, a river named Caninor, could possibly be the St. Lawrence River.

Most of the islands of the West Indies are represented, including Isaballa (Cuba) named after the Spanish queen, Iamaiqua (Jamaica), Spagnolla (Hispaniola), Ia. onzes mil virgines (the Virgin Islands) or Marigalana (Marie-Galante). Cuba has the 'hook' in the south-west that is characteristic of maps of the time.

The representation of the coasts of Central and North America remains shrouded in mystery. In particular, the peninsula northwest of Isabella is not satisfactorily determined. While Florida seems the obvious (and most commonly accepted) answer, it was not officially discovered until 1513 by Ponce de León. Another hypothesis is that it is Asia: other maps of the time, such as Ruysch's planisphere, explicitly merge the coasts of North America with the Asian continent. Waldseemüller himself shows the continents as separate in his 1507 planisphere, but as joined in his 1516 map, in which North America is shown as Terra de Cuba Asie Partis (Land of Cuba, part of Asia), following Columbus' conviction.

On the Brazilian coast, the mention Abbatia omnium Sanctorum (Abbey of all the saints) includes a transcription error: A Bahia de Todos Santos became La Badia de Todos Santos, i.e. a bay was transformed into an abbey. The same error is found in Ruysch's planisphere.

The 1513 edition of Ptolemy's Geographia

Ptolemy's 1513 Geographiae is considered to be the most important edition (Stevens), and is the first modern atlas (World encompassed no. 56). For the first time, the 27 maps of Ptolemy are supplemented by the 20 maps of Martin Waldseemüller allowing for an easy comparison between old and new maps.

Historical context: René d'Anjou, Peer of France, King of Naples, titular King of Sicily and Jerusalem was passionate about the Orient and interested in the Arabic alphabet. His grandson, Duke René II of Lorraine, had a great interest in literature, arts and sciences, including geography. He created in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges together with Vautrin Lud, an ecclesiastical school under the protection of the duchy of Lorraine and the Vatican. Nicolas Lud, nephew of Vautrin and secretary of the duke, hosted the printing house which worked for the propagation of scientific works (geometry, geography, music...). Around 1507, he brought Mathias Ringmann, an Alsatian university professor who had published in Strasbourg in 1505 the account of Vespucci's travels (De ora Antartica) to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. They were soon joined by Martin Waldseemüller, a cartographer, draughtsman and surveyor trained in Freiburg and introduced to printing in Basel by his uncle. Together with Jean Basin, a Latinist, these men formed the Gymnase Vosgien. In 1507, they published a large map of the world, renowned for displaying the name of America for the first time on a map.

They thought of a new edition of Ptolemy's Geography that would take into account the new discoveries. Waldsemüller had a copy of Ptolemy lent to him by the Dominicans in Basel from the Cardinal of Ragusa, John Stojkovic. Ringmann went to Italy to visit the Italian philosopher and humanist Jean-François Pico della Mirandola, who lent him another manuscript of Ptolemy. René II of Lorraine provided Waldseemüller with recent nautical charts that indicated the new discoveries. Unfortunately, the duke died in 1508, which led to the bankruptcy of the printing house. In 1511 Ringmann also died. An "agreement" with the Strasbourg lawyers Jacob Aesler and Georg Übelin, who claimed authorship of the work and tried to remove the traces of their predecessors, allowed Johann Schott to print the Geography in Strasbourg in 1513. However, the edition reflects the concerns of the members of the Vosges Gymnasium.


Martin Waldseemüller (c. 1470-1520) was a German cartographer and humanist geographer who made significant contributions to the field of cartography during the Renaissance. He is best known for creating the first map to use the name "America" to refer to the New World.

Waldseemüller was born in Wolfenweiler, a small village in the region of Breisgau, in what is now modern-day Germany. Not much is known about his early life and education, but it is believed that he received a solid humanist education, which included studying Latin and classical texts.

In 1507, Waldseemüller and his colleague Matthias Ringmann produced a groundbreaking map titled "Universalis Cosmographia." This map was part of a larger work called the "Gotha Manuscript," which aimed to provide a comprehensive description of the world's geography. The map depicted the world in a new and more accurate manner, incorporating information from recent voyages of discovery.

Most notably, Waldseemüller chose to honor the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci by naming the newly discovered lands in the western hemisphere "America" on his map. This decision was based on Vespucci's accounts of his voyages, which suggested that the lands were part of a separate continent and not connected to Asia, as previously believed.

Waldseemüller's map gained significant attention and influence, spreading rapidly throughout Europe and becoming one of the most influential maps of the time. It played a crucial role in popularizing the name "America" and establishing it as the accepted name for the New World.

In addition to his cartographic work, Waldseemüller was also involved in the printing and publishing industry. He worked as a writer and editor for the prominent Strasbourg-based publishing house of Johannes Grüninger. During this time, he contributed to the publication of several works on geography and cosmography, further solidifying his reputation as a knowledgeable and respected figure in the field.

Unfortunately, Waldseemüller's life was cut short, and not much is known about his later years. He died around 1520, leaving behind a significant legacy in the realm of cartography. His contributions, particularly the naming of America, had a profound and lasting impact on the way the world was perceived and represented in maps, shaping the course of exploration and geographical understanding in the centuries that followed.