Martin Waldseemüller (Latinized Martinus Ilacomylus, Ilacomilus or Hylacomylus, c. 1470 – Saint-Dié-des-Vosges 1520, March 16) was a German cartographer. He and Matthias Ringmann are credited with the first recorded usage of the word America, on the 1507 map Universalis Cosmographia in honor of the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci.
Waldseemüller was born in Wolfenweiler, then his family moved to Freiburg in Breisgau (his mother was from Radolfzell) and studied at the University of Freiburg. He died March 16, 1520, "ab intestat", then a canon of the collegiate Church of Saint-Dié (located between Nancy, Lorraine and Strasbourg, Alsace in the heart of the Vosges blue mountain range along the Rhine river valley).
On April 25, 1507, as a member of the Gymnasium Vosagense at Saint Diey (German: Sankt Diedolt) in the duchy of Lorraine (today Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France), he produced a globular world map and a large 12-panel world wall map (Universalis Cosmographia, both bearing the first use of the name "America". The globular and wall maps were accompanied by a book Cosmographiae Introductio, an introduction to cosmography. The book, first printed in the city of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, includes in its second part, a translation to Latin of the Quattuor Americi Vespuccij navigationes (Four Voyages of Americo Vespucci), 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. In the chapter nine of the first part of the Cosmographiae Introductio, written by Mat(t)hias Ringmann (died in Sélestat in the year of Our Lord 1511 at the age of 29), it is explained why the name America was proposed for the then New World, or the Fourth Part of the World:
ab Americo Inventore ...quasi Americi terram sive Americam (from Amerigo the discoverer ...as if it were the land of Americus, thus America).
In 1513 Waldseemüller appears to have had second thoughts about the name, probably due to contemporary protests about Vespucci’s role in the discovery and naming of America, or just carefully waiting for the official discovery of the whole northwestern coast of what is now called North America, as separated from East Asia. In his reworking of the Ptolemy atlas, the continent is labelled simply Terra Incognita (unknown land). Despite the revision, 1,000 copies of the world maps had since 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 wall 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 is still the only copy known to survive, and it was purchased by the Library of Congress in May 2003, after reaching an agreement in 2001. Four copies of the globular map survive in the form of "gores": printed maps that were intended to be cut out and pasted onto a ball. Only one of these lies in the Americas today, residing at the James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota.
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