Cartography of the New World – Part 3

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Here is Part 3 of the 1904 article from E.L. Stevenson on early cartography of the New World.
We have added some sub-titles (in square brackets) to make it easier to read.
Here you’ll learn about the Johannes Schöner globe and other early globes.
Further reading: Part 1 and Part 2 of “Cartography of the New World”

[Glanearus Maps]

Of no less interest than the gores to which I have just called attention are the two maps discovered recently by Professor Elter of the University of Bonn, in a work by the theologian and humanist Glareanus, a native of Switzerland ̶ maps which bear a close resemblance to two others discovered by Professor Wieser a few years ago in Munich. One of these Bonn maps bears the inscription “Coloniæ, Agrippinæ anno M.D.X.” Professor Elter refers to it as the oldest map bearing the name America, very naturally overlooking the Waldseemüller map of 1507. It gives unmistakable evidence of an acquaintance with the work of Waldseemüller ̶ indeed it is almost an exact reproduction of that map, though greatly reduced in size, and this may be seen in the form in which it is projected, in the contour of both the Old and the New World, in the legends which appear in the border as in those which appear on the lands of the west. Reference is made to the discoveries of Vespuccius, and to his Four Voyages, in which the new lands are described. The contour of the north continental region is strikingly that of the Canerio type, while that of the south is so sketched as to give evidence of an advance in knowledge over Canerio respecting the general outline; conjecture, however, seems still to guide the pen of the draughtsman in much that he has attempted to show of the world. In his writings Glareanus appears to have exhibited considerable interest in the problems of map construction, but he is not at all times inclined to give full credit for the sources of his cartographical or geographical information.

[Stobnicza Maps]

The Stobnicza maps, to which so much importance hitherto has been attached, are rude woodcuts, and are to be found in a very rare work on the subject of cosmography. They were produced in Cracow, Poland, in the year 1512. In the discovery of Professor Fischer they have been deprived of almost every claim which in the past has given them distinction. That we have in this work the oldest map in which North and South America appear as a continuous body of land can no longer be claimed for it, since the inset map of the Western Hemisphere, a part of the Waldseemüller of 1507, is clearly its original. The claim that these are the oldest maps on which the earth’s surface is represented as divided into two hemispheres falls, as does the claim for originality of projection.

[1513 Orbis Typus Universalis Map]

The ORBIS TYPUS UNIVERSALIS of the 1513 edition fo Ptolemy has received new confirmation by the recent discovery that it, together with others in that edition, is the work of Waldseemüller. While exhibiting differences in construction from other New World maps, it does present the land connection between the north and the south, leaving to conjecture, however, his belief respecting the western coast.

Nordenskiöld is inclined to the belief that the new maps of the edition of Ptolemy are not the work of Waldseemüller, and he takes from him much of the credit for ability as a cartographer which has been attributed to him. Perhaps the strongest argument supporting a claim for him as the draughtsman of those maps in the 1513 Ptolemy, though it is not the only argument, is the statement to be found in the Strassburg Ptolemy of 1522. In the advertisement of Lorenz Friess, on the verso of one hundredth leaf of that issue appears the declaration

“that these maps were originally constructed by Martin Ilacomylus (Waldseemüller) now deceased, and they have been reduced to a smaller scale than ever before.”

The maps of the 1513 edition of Ptolemy show many marks of improvement, especially in matters of detail, over the Ptolemy maps of earlier date. This may be clearly seen in the map of India, the general contour of which we find to be of the Canerio [also called Caverio] type; so striking, indeed, is the resemblance that one is immediately impelled to the conclusion that a Portuguese map was followed.

[Naming America]

It was fifty years ago that Alexander von Humboldt, in his critical studies respecting the historical development of the geographical knowledge of the New World, expressed the belief that the name America appeared in print for the first time in the 1507 edition of the Cosmographiæ. The passage is one now well known:

“And now indeed these parts have been widely explored, and another, a fourth part, of which we will presently speak more particularly, has been discovered by Americus Vespuccius; I do not see why it may not be permitted to call this fourth part after Americus, the discoverer, a man of sagacious mind, by the name Amerige, that is to say the land of Americus, or America, since both Europe and Asia have obtained their names from women.”

But on what map did that name first appear? To some of those for which the claim has been advanced I have referred. That honour, thought Humboldt, belongs to the Apianus map of the year 1520, to be found in an edition of Solinus, by Camers, of that date; also in an edition of Pomponius Mela by Valianus of 1522. It can, therefore, claim the distinction of being the oldest map known bearing the name America at the time the discovery by Humboldt was made of the origin of the name.

Apianus clearly borrowed his data from a Portuguese map, but a Portuguese map modified by the German cartographers. The projection was long considered to be somewhat new and original. And yet here, as in other maps to which I have referred, the evidence now appears to be convincing that the Waldseemüller map served as model.

Aside from the facts referred to the map exhibits certain other features which are worthy of notice. A legend on the Southern Continent records the discovery of that region in 1497, but Apianus does not distinguish clearly between Vespuccian and Columbian data, for in the legend below the date he records:

“This land, with the adjacent islands, was discovered by Columbus, a native of Genoa, at the command of the King of Castile.”

He alone of the early cartographers designates the region as the “Province of America.”

Apianus made many maps, as we are told, and appears to have preferred this particular projection.

In the course of my correspondence with Tadeux Estreicher, of Cracow, Poland, I have from him a copy of a world map which, he writes, he has recently discovered. Details concerning its history he omits. It is a rude woodcut, apparently not one of great importance, but interesting as bearing a striking resemblance to the Waldseemüller map, particularly in the contour of the western world.

Such are the maps of greatest importance produced in Germany on plane surface and from Portuguese originals, during the first quarter of the sixteenth century, and unsurpassed by those produced in any other of the European countries during the greater part of that time, in so far at least as the maps then produced are now known.

If the St. Dié influence was so marked, as I have indicated, on the maps in plano, it is found to be none the less so in a number of globes constructed during the same period, to a few of which only can reference here be made.

[Johann Schöner Globes]

Johann Schöner, who, as I have stated, was at one time the possessor of the maps discovered by Professor Fischer, was one of the most distinguished mathematicians of Germany of that period. Cartogaphy was a subject of special interest to him, and no less than five globes are known which on good authority are attributed to him. The first of these, thought to have been constructed in 1515, and to be the globe referred to in a little work of his of that date on cosmography, is preserved in the City of Weimar, and a duplicate, according to Wieser, is to be found in the city of Frankfort.

Schöner observes in his little work that the three parts of the earth Europe, Asia, and Africa are united to form one continent; that a fourth part has been discovered recently, and that it is composed of islands. And this he indicates on his globe, if we may so interpret the fact that he does not connect the land to the north and the south; that he does not leave the western coast-line with simply a meridian boundary, as in the Stobnicza, the Tross Gores, and the so-called Globus Mundus. The entire region is represented as surrounded by the sea. To the southern continent he has given the name America and to the northern Parias. He has inscribed a number of new names, and, what appears to be original with him, he represents an austral continent, which land, “Brasilia Regio’ he calls it, has given rise to many questions respecting the origin of the information he appears to have possessed at this early date. Probably he had his information from the rare German pamphlet bearing the title “Copia der newen Zytung aus Presillig landt.” The information in this little publication appears to have been originally given by a representative of the rich Welser House of Augsburg, who looked after its interests in Lisbon.

“He declares himself to have been a great friend of a captain who said that his expedition had sailed through a strait at the south of Presill, but that he had there been forced by contrary winds to return.”

The earliest account of the voyage of Magellan says that he had access to a globe on which were indicated the straits at the south of Brazil; and this may have been the Schöner globe.

In 1520, Schöner produced a globe much larger than the first, and one now much better known. It differs but little, however, from the one of 1515, save in the matter of detailed information given in the legends. And who, having seen the Waldseemüller maps, would call in question the influence of the St. Dié school of cartographers?

There are, however, globes of a somewhat different type which were produced in this period ̶ globes which do not give so much evidence of the Vosgian influence, which clearly are not the work of Schöner, but which probably were the work of German artists.

[Lenox Globe]

Of this type of Lenox Globe may first be named, thought by De Costa to be the oldest post-Columbian globe. To the contour of the western land I wish to call attention likewise to the fact that a north continental land is omitted, and that the large island off the coast of India wants a name by which to distinguish it. That the newly-discovered region was a group of islands seems to have been the opinion of the artist. He has approximately accurate the shape of South America, and to Cuba has given the general appearance we meet with in the Portuguese-German maps.

[Jagellonicus Globe]

It was but recently that Tadeus Estreicher described for the first time a globe now in the possession of the University of Cracow. This globe constitutes an important part of an old clock, being the box in which the works have been placed. Though the clock is one long in the possession of the University it was not until very recently that the copper ball was found to have engraved upon it a map of the world. So striking is the likeness to the Lenox Globe that at first sight one is inclined to call it an exact duplicate. There is, however, a difference in diameter to be noticed ̶ the Lenox having a diameter of five inches, the Jagellonicus a diameter of about three.

As for the western continental regions the difference is but slight. In nomenclature the smaller appears to be the richer, but a feature of striking interest is to be seen in the legend on the large island southeast of India. Here we read “AMERICA NOVITER REPERTA” ̶ the first time, so far as I have been able to ascertain, that America became mixed up in Asiatic affairs, and there is evidence that Waldseemüller may have been responsible for this.

In his Cosmographiæ appears this sentence (the order in which the regions are mentioned is, perhaps, not without significance):

In the sixth climatic region, toward the Antarctic, are situated the extreme parts of Africa, lately discovered, and the islands of Zanzibar, Java Minor, and Seula, and a fourth part of the world which, because Americus discovered it, it is proper to call it Amerige, that is the land of Americus, or America.

The globe gores, thought by Major to be the work of Leonardo de Vinci, because found in a collection of his papers preserved in the archives of Windsor Castle, seem to give evidence of an acquaintance with the Lenox and the Jagellonicus type. The projection is an unusual one. The large western island bears the name America, and it was thought by Major to be the oldest map sketch containing that name. Aside from the appearance of the name America at so early a date ̶ Major thought about 1514, others have placed it about 1518 ̶ it has no great significance in the history of the development of the New World cartography.


The influence of the St. Dié School of cartography is easily traceable through the cartography of the century. There is not, however, to be noticed a rigid adherence to the ideas so early expressed respecting the New World, but the form of projection employed and the general contour of the new regions laid down in the early Portuguese and Portuguese-German maps are often repeated.
In 1532, Munster shows a preference for this over the outline as it was now appearing in the Spanish maps, such as the Salviati and the Ribero; and Finæus gives evidence of being strongly influenced by that same Waldseemüller type.

In the little map of Honterus, appearing in his Rudimenta Cosmographica, 1546, and several times thereafter, we have as near an approach to an exact copy of the 1507 map as can be found in the large number of imitations. It is not surpassed by the Glareanus maps; but none, so far as I know, had, before the discovery by Professor Fischer, ventured to claim for it the distinction to which I have just referred.

The most striking features of the Lusitano-Germanic cartography, as I have attempted to show, are an indicated continental region in the west, clearly not a part of Asia, a strait between the continental land to north and that to the south connecting Oceanus Occidentalis with Oceanus Orientalis, and the southern region very early taking the name America.

[Asiatic Connection]

With the exception of the Bartholomew Columbus maps, discovered but a few years ago by Professor Wieser, and Spanish maps, rather than Portuguese, none of the early maps clearly indicate a belief in an Asiatic connection of the western lands. Quite the contrary, as I have stated. But in 1526 we meet with an interesting reversion to the idea which Columbus professed to entertain. By some of the students of that early cartography this reversion is to be attributed to the letters of Cortes, and the observations of Peter Marty, in his Enchiridion. Perhaps it was from Schöner’s Globe of 1523, and the small tract which he wrote in that year, that the idea of such an Asiatic connection was derived, which idea for many years found favour with certain cartographers. Calling attention in his tract to the Magellan voyage, and other matters pertaining to western discovery, especially to the discoveries of Columbus, and of Vespuccius, he observes, “They call it America, the fourth part of the globe. But very lately, thanks to the recent navigations accomplished in the year 1519 by Magellan… it has been ascertained that the said country was the continent of Upper India, which is a part of Asia.” The idea won favour, but it seemed to come and go with the years from this time on, as fact or fancy dictated, until the discovery of Bering put an end to the controversy. The idea should perhaps not be called Lusitanian, but I feel inclined to think a large share of the responsibility for spreading the idea rests upon German students of New World geography, though the question is yet an open one.

In a work by Franciscus Monachus, a Belgian monk, which he called “De Orbis Situ,” and which was printed in Antwerp in the year 1526, the idea of an Asiatic connection is first clearly expressed on a map. In the text Franciscus takes occasion to criticise the Ruysch map of 1508, which indicated that the north continental region is separated from the south. He further states, what he finds to be a common belief, that a sea exists between the New and the Old World ̶ that is, between America and Asia, but to this opinion he likewise raises objection.

The map, therefore, though apparently of little significance, has a certain importance by reason of this indicated Asiatic connection, by reason if its presentation to this indicated Asiatic connection, by reason of its presentation at this early date of an austral continent, and the continuous coast-line from the extreme north to the extreme south to its west coast-line extending to join Asia.

There were many maps drawn before the close of the century, which, like the Franciscus, indicate this Asiatic connection. However, by 1525 a Spanish type of map of the New World was coming into prominence, and was finding a wide acceptance. It is best represented in such maps as those of Ribero, of Agnese, and of Cabot, so far, at least, as the eastern coast-line of the New World was concerned.


I have given here but a brief review of some of the more important early maps of discovery and exploration in the New World, most of which are of the Portuguese-German type, but I trust the sketch is sufficient to give a fair understanding of the significance attaching to this cartography. With the 1538 map of Mercator I may fittingly close. It is one of the first of that great cartographer, and a copy of it is now in the possession of your own Society.

Waldseemüller applied the name America to the southern continent. Mercator gave it also to the northern. Waldseemüller evidently thought the new country a region separated from Asia, and this is an opinion also expressed by Mercator in his map. Passing over the idea of Franciscus that the new country was a part of Asia, and the Spanish idea that such connection was possible though unknown, Mercator gave the western continent a contour approaching accuracy.

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