BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | The map that changed the world

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8328878.stm

“Almost exactly 500 years ago, in 1507, Martin Waldseemuller and Matthias Ringmann (…) announced to their readers the astonishing news that the world did not just consist of Asia, Africa, and Europe (…). A previously unknown fourth part of the world had recently been discovered, they declared, by the Italian merchant Amerigo Vespucci, and in his honour they had decided to give it a name: America.

(…) Waldseemuller and Ringman (…) their magnum opus: a giant and revolutionary new map of the world. It’s known today as the Waldseemuller map of 1507.

The Waldseemuller map was – and still is – an astonishing sight to behold. Drawn 15 years after Columbus first sailed across the Atlantic, and measuring a remarkable 8ft wide by 4ft high, it introduced Europeans to a fundamentally new understanding of the make-up of the earth.

The map represented a remarkable number of historical firsts. In addition to giving America its name, it was also the first map to portray the New World as a separate continent – even though Columbus, Vespucci, and other early explorers would all insist until their dying day that they had reached the far-eastern limits of Asia.

The map was the first to suggest the existence of what explorer Ferdinand Magellan would later call the Pacific Ocean, a mysterious decision, in that Europeans, according to the standard history of New World discovery, aren’t supposed to have learned about the Pacific until several years later.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8328878.stm

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