Recent Publications | August 22, 2012

Two Renaissance World Maps are Focus of New LOC Book

The Library of Congress, in association with Levenger Press, is publishing a new scholarly book on two 16th-century maps that fundamentally changed the way the world was viewed. Scheduled for publication in October, "Seeing the World Anew: The Radical Vision of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 & 1516 World Maps" spotlights two of the Library’s cartographic treasures housed in the Geography and Map Division and reproduces them in the largest full-color formats ever authorized.

In "Seeing the World Anew," two leading authorities, both of whom have published extensively on the history of cartography, tell the stories of these maps, placing them in context of both the 16th and 21st centuries. John W. Hessler, a senior cartographic librarian at the Library of Congress and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, provides the narrative for the 1507 map. Chet Van Duzer, an Invited Research Scholar at the John Carter Brown Library and recent Kislak Fellow at the Library of Congress, provides the narrative for the 1516 map. Ralph E. Ehrenberg, chief of the Library’s Geography and Map Division, provides the book’s afterword.

The twelve sheets that comprise each map are reproduced in full color, and at 11 x 14 inches. Composites of both maps, approximately 4 feet by 2 feet long, are folded and pocketed into the book.

Both these maps disappeared after they were originally published and were lost to history until their rediscovery in 1901. The Library of Congress now owns the only extant copies.

The 1507 World Map is the first to apply the name "America" to the New World. The map depicts the Americas as "an island … surrounded on all sides by sea," to quote Waldseemüller. This rare item was housed for more than 350 years in the 16th-century castle belonging to the family of Prince Johannes Waldburg-Wolfegg at Wolfegg in southern Germany. The Library purchased the map in 2003. A climate-controlled encasement was constructed to allow the map to be on permanent display.

Waldseemüller’s 1516 map, called the "Carta marina" ("sea chart"), was equally groundbreaking, essentially discarding the ancient map models of Ptolemy for a more modern vision. The "Carta marina" is the first printed nautical chart of the world. It differs markedly from the 1507 World Map—the name "America" is omitted, the New World is said to be part of Asia (in accordance with Columbus’s theories), and the Pacific Ocean is not depicted.

The "Carta marina" came to the Library in 2004 with the donation of the Jay I. Kislak Collection of rare books, manuscripts, historic documents, maps and art of the Americas. The collection contains some of the earliest records of indigenous peoples in North America and superb objects from the discovery, contact and colonial periods, especially for Florida, the Caribbean and Mesoamerica.

The inclusion of this world treasure in the Kislak Collection allows that document to rejoin the 1507 world map. Both are on display in the Library’s exhibition titled "Exploring the Early Americas: The Jay I. Kislak Collection in the Library of Congress," on view since December 2007. It may be viewed online at

"Seeing the World Anew" will be discussed by authors Hessler and Van Duzer at the National Book Festival, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22 in the Library of Congress Pavilion on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Advance copies of the book will be sold exclusively at the National Book Festival, prior to its national release on Oct. 1. For more information about the festival, go to

"Seeing the World Anew," a 120-page hardcover book (11 x 14 inches) will be available for $85 from Levenger Press ( or 800-544-0880) and in the Library of Congress Shop, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., 20540-4985. Credit-card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 151 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at