Tipus Orbis Universalis iuxta Ptolemei Cosmographi Traditionem et Americi Vespucii Aliorque Lustrationes a Petro Apiano Leysnico Elucbrat An. Do. MDXX
By: Petrus Apianus
Date: 1520 (dated) Antwerp
Dimensions: 11.5 x 16.5 inches (29.2 x 42 cm)
This rare map by Peter Apian is one of the earliest obtainable maps of the world which refers to the North American continent as America, with its lengthy title paying tribute to the discoveries of the early explorer Amerigo Vespucci. In this early map the Americas are depicted as separate continents. Rising out of the sea and stretching from top to bottom, the New World here is completely surrounded by water.
Much of the map seems remarkably modern, with Europe, Africa and Asia easily identifiable, and the map clearly depicts a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The extent to which early explorations had already scientifically charted and defined parts of the world, and the extent to which information gleaned from those explorations was quickly conveyed to academics, geographers and mapmakers is all revealed in this map.
Until the early 20th century, it had been believed that Apian’s map was the first to use the label America, as well as the earliest to utilize a truncated cordiform (heart shaped) projection. However, in 1901 a Jesuit professor of history and geography in Austria discovered the Waldseemüller- Ringman map in Germany while searching for another.
Thus it was discovered that the origins of the Apian map came from the grand work dating to 1507 of cartographer Martin Waldseemüller and Alsation scholar and poet, Matthias Ringman. The map was compiled following the study by them of a letter originally penned by Vespucci himself, and embellished by its Venetian publishers, which had come into the possession of Ringman in 1502. Following their long study of the letter, Waldseemüller and Ringman came to the conclusion that the land explored by Vespucci was not Asia, that it was in fact a new fourth part of the world, and they determined to create a map to introduce Europe to the idea of this four-part world. Ringman is thought to have first coined the term 'America' when planning the map. Their project was financed by René II, Duke of Lorraine, and carried out in a small town in the mountains just south of Strasbourg.
The map was to be printed from carefully carved wood blocks on twelve separate sheets, which, when pasted together, would measure 4.5 by 8 feet. It is thought to have been the largest map of its time. By April 1507, printing of the map had begun, and it was reported that in all, one thousand copies of it were issued, of which only one copy is known to have survived, now residing at the Library of Congress.
Peter Apian, also known by his Latin name Petrus Apianus, was a professor of mathematics who was known to contemporaries as a great astronomer. His expertise in these fields, combined with his interest in geography, led him to cartography and the establishment of his own printing press in Landshut, where he published his textbook Cosmographicus Liber in 1524.
The quest for geographical knowledge in 16th century Europe, motivated primarily by desired increase of international trade, resulted in European trading nations developing centers for cartographers and the printing of maps, with Germany being one of the leading map centers of the day.