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Martin Waldseemüller

Martin Waldseemüller (ca. 1470 - ca. 1521/1522) was a German cartographer. He was born in Radolfzell (or according to the Catholic Encyclopedia Wolfenweiler[?], near Freiburg, with his mother originating from Radolfzell) and studied at the university in Freiburg.

In 1507, working at St. Dié[?] in Lorraine, he produced a world globe and a large world map bearing the first use of the name "America". The globe and map were accompanied by a book Cosmographiae Introductio, an introduction to cosmography[?]. The book includes a translation to Latin of the Quattuor Americi navigationes (Four Voyages of Amerigo), which is apparently a letter written by Amerigo Vespucci, although some historians consider it to have been a forgery written by its supposed recipient in Italy. The Cosmographiae describes why the name America was used: ab Americo Inventore ...quasi Americi terram sive Americam (from Amerigo the discoverer ...as if it were the land of Americus, thus America). Some hold that the Cosmographiae was written by Matthias Ringmann[?] instead, or that it was a joint effort.

In 1513 Waldseemüller appears to have had second thoughts about the name. In his reworking of the Ptolemy atlas (written with Ringmann) the continent is labelled simply Terra Incognita. However 1000 copies of the world map had been distributed and the original suggestion took hold. While North America was still called Indies in documents for some time it was eventually called America as well.

The map was lost for a long time, but a copy was found in a castle at Wolfegg[?] in southern Germany by Joseph Fischer[?] in 1901. It's still the only copy known in existence and was purchased by the Library of Congress in 2001. Two copies of the globe survive in the form of "gores" - printed maps that were intended to be cut out and pasted on to a ball.

See also naming of America.

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