They Call the New Land America

“Look at this,” Fabri said, his robes swirling with his excitement, as he joined Michael and me at our usual table at the Hog’s Snout.  “Look what Zasius just received.  I saw it at the Frankfurt fair, but did not get a chance to study it.”

It was not a large book, but only a booklet of approximately 40 pages.  Cosmographiæ introductio…Quatuor Americi Vespucii Navigationes.  Introduction to Cosmography and an Account of the Four Voyages of Amerigo Vespucci.

“It’s the work of a Martin Waldsee-Müller,” Fabri said, as he handed me the book.  “Zasius knows him.  He attended the university here in Freiburg.  Then he was in Basel for a while, working on an edition of Ptolemy.  Now he’s at Sankt Diedolt, which they call in French, St. Die, near Strasbourg.”

Quarta orbis pars,” Michael read.  “A fourth continent.”

“Yes,” Fabri said.  “And he proposes to call it ‘America,’ the feminine form of Amerigo, for he says that Europe and Asia are named for women.  Though Amerigo himself only calls it ‘mundus novus,’ the New World.”

from the German translation of the 1st letter of Columbus

“But what of Columbus?” Michael asked.  “I read his letter of the first voyage, and I think they should name the land for him.”

But Fabri was too involved in the new acquisition to worry about Columbus.  “See,” he said, “the book is made to accompany a huge map of twelve sections engraved on wood.  It is said to cover 36 square feet.”

“Does Zasius have this map?”  I asked, for I determined to see it.

“No,” Fabri said.  “Though, of course, he wants one.  But he does have this.”  The document Fabri pulled from his satchel was only one page, about 10 by 15 inches.

“What is it?”  Michael asked.

“It’s a gore map,” I said.  “See these strips are intended to be pasted on a sphere to create a globe.”

Martin Behaim “Earth Apple”

“That’s right,” Fabri said.  “Waldsee-Müller also printed these, to bring his map to the general public.”

“It wouldn’t be very large,” I said.  “Nothing like Behaim’s earth apple.”

“No,” Fabri said, “but more accurate.”

“Look,” Michael said.  “It has America.” He grinned.  “Let’s put it together.”


Of the four surviving copies of Waldsee-Müller’s gore map, one resides in the University of Minnesota’s James Ford Bell Library The only known copy of his giant wall map is at the Library of Congress. 

Capito acknowledges The Cosmographiæ introductio of Martin Waldseemüller in facsimile, followed by the Four voyages of Amerigo Vespucci, with their translation into English.   Many thanks to Herr Google for digitizing this book.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I love how you put the historical event into your story! Great map info.

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