New Lands: The Americas Appear

Africa and the Red Sea Asia and Japan The New Lands

North America
To the east of Japan, at 280 degrees longitude, a scale of latitude runs from the top to the bottom of the tenth gore.

In the northern hemisphere an unnamed land with a shape something like an upright bear protrudes to the east from this scale, its western portion hidden by the scale. This land, which stretches from sixteen degrees north to fifty-seven degrees north and the islands to the east of it probably reflects Waldseemüller's knowledge of the English voyages of John Cabot (1497 and 1498, landing places unknown) and the Portuguese voyages of Gaspar and Miguel Corte-Real to Labrador and Newfoundland in 1501. This unnamed land seems to be almost as large as a continent.

The astonishing feature of Waldseemüller’s globe is the huge land still further east, spanning the right-hand three gores of the globe, from 15 degrees north latitude to over 40 degrees south latitude. On the west it is at 290 degrees; on the east more than 340 degrees. The large island is named "America."

Martin Waldseemüller chose the name for his two maps of 1507 to honor Amerigo Vespucci, whose writings about his voyages to America between 1497 and 1504 were popular reading in Europe.

The modern viewer identifies this land quickly as South America. But how did Waldseemüller — six years before Vasco Núñez de Balboa sighted the Pacific Ocean on 25 September 1513 and twelve years before Ferdinand Magellan made his circumnavigation of the globe in 1519-22 — make such an accurate representation of South America? And how was it that he depicted what appeared to be something of both North and South America?

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The Globe

East 3 gores detail
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Amercia detail

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