Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Anna's new desk and the Waldseemüller map

We gave Anna a new desk, complete with hutch bookshelf and chair, for her birthday. It's already getting lots of use.

(It's the fruit of the first time I've enjoyed a visit to yIKesEA ever: we were in and out in 10 minutes, thanks to checking the product availability section of their website before we arrived, avoiding the display floor area entirely, heading straight to the correct warehouse shelves to pick and then pay for the goods before leaving immediately. "Do not pass GO, do not collect $200": But we did get to enjoy a couple's night out together afterwards with the time we'd saved.)

This evening we had a family DVD night and watched the first episode of The Map Makers series, on the Waldseemüller Map, now named after its cartographer, Martin Waldseemüller. Originally called the Universalis Cosmographica, it was the first map to illustrate a fourth continent with an ocean separating it from Asia. Its publication was the first time the name "America" was used in printed form. 1000 copies of the map were produced in 1507, but there is now only one extant copy known. Found in 1901 and purchased in 2003 from a German prince's family library for a cool US$10 million, the Waldseemüller Map now resides in the US Library of Congress.

[Image source: http://www.uhmc.sunysb.edu/surgery/waldseemuller-loc-big.jpg]

An accompanying book, the Cosmographiae Introductio, written by Waldseemüller's co-worker Matthias Ringmann, states that the fourth continent has been named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci:

"from Amerigo the discoverer ... as if it were the land of Americus, thus America"

"There is a fourth quarter of the world which Amerigo Vespucci has discovered and which for this reason we can call 'America' or the land of Americo. We do not see why the name of the man of genius, Amerigo, who has discovered them, should not be given to these lands, as Europa and Asia have adopted the names of women."

This last part shows why America wasn't named Amerigo: Waldseemüller and Ringmann feminised the explorer's name in line with the names of the three previously known continents, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Amerigo Vespucci originally worked with Christopher Columbus, who discovered the West Indies, islands off the coast of the American continents. Columbus thought he had reached the eastern expanses of Asia. Vespucci later sailed in his own ship, reporting in letters his discoveries of a continent-sized land mass which he determined and demonstrated not to be the same Asia as earlier described by Claudius Ptolemy and Marco Polo. Vespucci's letters indicate he realised the true nature of the newly-discovered lands, but they may not even have been written by Vespucci himself. Some were possibly partially or even wholly fabricated by their publishers. After Vespucci's death, his name was besmirched by Columbus's supporters, who wanted Columbus proclaimed as the discoverer of the newly-identified continent. However, the name "America" stuck.

This is Anna's take on the episode, which she drew/wrote on her desk's magnetic whiteboard immediately after watching it.

"CC [Captain Columbus] discovered islands that were part of America but didn't really discover America.
FOCC [Friend of Captain Columbus] discovered America for real unlike CC but didn't get the credit he deserved."


Mrs. Edwards said...

I've never heard of this show. Sounds intriguing!
Anna's desk looks nice. She really is growing up on you.

Sharon said...

We borrowed the DVD thru Netflix, so you can probably get it. There are three episodes, so two more to go, one on the projection-style map and one on D-day invasion maps. A great way to combine geography with history.

All our kids are getting so big. I know. I am only now just beginning to get used to all the kids being off at school, but when Joshua turned 10 I was shocked to realise I was the mother of someone in double figures!