1.1 Introduction

This book is devoted to an imposing world map, printed on twelve sheets and rich in detail, that was designed by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in 1516, whose only surviving exemplar is in the Jay I. Kislak Collection at the Library of Congress. This map, the Carta marina, has tended to live in the shadow of Waldseemüller’s earlier world map, that printed in 1507, which is famous for being the first to apply the name “America” to the New World. The Carta marina lacks some of the striking audacity of the 1507 map, on which the cartographer not only debuts a new name for the newly discovered lands in the west, but also represents all 360 degrees of longitude at a time when the interior and the western reaches of the New World were unknown, and the vastness of the Pacific was still undiscovered by Europeans. On the Carta marina, by contrast, he more prudently omits as unknown everything between the eastern coast of the New World and the eastern coast of mainland Asia. Yet the Carta marina is the fruit of a cartographic boldness that is equally impressive: a willingness to discard almost all of the research done for the earlier map, and undertake the laborious creation of an entirely new detailed and monumental image of the world based on a new philosophy and a new projection, and using new sources. The map is a remarkable testament both to the cartographer’s determination to show the true form of the world and to the dynamism of early sixteenth-century cartography.

One of the many differences between the 1507 and 1516 maps is that there is a larger number of long legends on the latter. In the long text block in the lower left corner of the map (see Legend 9.3), Waldseemüller lists many of the sources that he used in creating the map, which are also the sources of many of the long legends. He clearly viewed the textual element of his map as very important, and yet in the more than one hundred years since the rediscovery of the Carta marina, few of the legends have been transcribed and translated, they have never been studied together, and their correlations with the sources that Waldseemüller lists on the map have not been explored.Footnote 1 Thus an essential aspect of this important map, and of Waldseemüller’s effort to convey information to the map’s viewers, has remained uninvestigated.

We know little about Waldseemüller, and the general lack of scholarly attention devoted to the Carta marina represents not only a failure to address one of the masterpieces of the most important cartographer of the early sixteenth century, but also a lost opportunity to study the development of his cartographic thought, and thus add to our knowledge of the man. By examining how he used his sources, we can gain insight into Waldseemüller’s methods and character, and by seeing how his cartographic thought evolved, we can come to appreciate his intellectual openness and flexibility.

In this introduction I offer a detailed discussion of the Carta marina, focusing on a comparison of that map with the 1507, and also with the maps in Waldseemüller’s edition of Ptolemy’s Geography published in 1513, in the interest of revealing all that the later map can tell us about the development of Waldseemüller’s thought. Following this general discussion of the map comes a transcription, translation, and study of all of the long legends on the Carta marina, with particular attention devoted to the determination of their sources. My hope is that the book will be of use not only to readers with a direct interest in Waldseemüller, but also more broadly to any scholar working on early sixteenth-century cartography, and to anyone interested in seeing how an experienced cartographer of that period went about constructing a new image of the world.

This book is accompanied by Electronic Supplementary Material, available from the page for this book on www.springer.com. These materials include high-resolution images of each sheet of the Carta marina and a high-resolution image of the whole map. In the book itself there is an illustration of each sheet of the map at the beginning of the section about the texts on that sheet, but the high-resolution online images of the sheets will allow the reader to zoom in and better see the details being discussed.

The ESM also includes an index PDF of the whole map that indicates with a number the location of each of the long texts on the map that are transcribed, translated, and studied below. This PDF is searchable, so that if the reader is having difficulty determining where exactly Legend 8.7 is located, a search in the PDF for “8.7” will find it.

1.2 Martin Waldseemüller and His Works

Martin Waldseemüller was born between 1470 and 1475, either in Freiburg or the nearby village of Wolfenweiler, and studied at the University of Freiburg: he is registered as a student there in 1490. In about 1505 he moved to the town of Saint-Dié in the Vosges Mountains not far from Strasbourg, and in 1513 he became a canon of the collegiate church there, though at the time he was living in Strasbourg. Aside from that stay in Strasbourg, he spent his adult life in Saint-Dié,Footnote 2 and died there in 1520.Footnote 3

In Saint-Dié, Waldseemüller worked with a small group of humanists who sometimes called themselves the Gymnasium Vosagense. There is no evidence that this group was involved in teaching, and it seems only to have been an association of scholars. The group was led by Gualtier Ludd, secretary to Duke René II of Lorraine, and the owner of a small press in Saint-DiéFootnote 4; the other members that we know of were Gualtier’s cousin Nicholas Ludd, Matthias Ringmann, and Johannes Basinus Sendacurius.Footnote 5

It is by following Waldseemüller’s development as a cartographer through his works that we can learn the most about him. Those works are as followsFootnote 6:

  1. 1.

    In 1507, Waldseemüller, in close collaboration with Matthias Ringmann, published three works that were designed to accompany each other. The first was a short book, the Cosmographie introductio, printed in Saint-Dié, no doubt on Ludd’s press, which is an introduction to geography followed by a Latin translation of Amerigo Vespucci’s account of his four voyages.Footnote 7 The second was a set of woodcut gores for a terrestrial globe with a diameter of 12 cm (4.5 inches); the printer is not specified.Footnote 8 And the third was the 1507 world map, printed on twelve sheets, each approximately 45.5 × 62 cm (about 18 × 24.4 inches), which were designed to be assembled into a wall map measuring 128 × 233 cm (50.4 × 91.7 inches).Footnote 9 The map is titled Universalis Cosmographia Secundum Ptholomaei Traditionem et Americi Vespucii Alioru[m]que Lustrationes (A map of the whole world according to the tradition of Ptolemy and the explorations of Amerigo Vespucci and others). This map is the first to apply the name “America” to the New World, a name that Waldseemüller and Ringmann proposed in the Cosmographiae introductio. The printer of the map is not indicated. It survives in just one exemplar, which was owned by the astronomer, mathematician, and globemaker Johann Schöner (1477–1547) and preserved by him in a codex now called the Schöner Sammelband.Footnote 10 The codex was discovered in 1901 by Joseph Fischer in Wolfegg Castle in Baden-Württemberg, Germany; in 2003, the Library of Congress completed its acquisition of the map.Footnote 11 Elsewhere I have shown that the 1507 map, not only in terms of overall design and projection but also with regard to its long descriptive texts—but not with regard to its place names—is based closely on the large world map by Henricus Martellus at Yale, which was made c. 1491—or rather, not on the specific map at Yale, but on another, similar large map by Martellus that is now lost.Footnote 12

  2. 2.

    In 1511, Waldseemüller produced a wall map of Europe on four sheets that measured 141 × 107 cm (about 56 × 42 inches). This map, the Carta Itineraria Europae,Footnote 13 is the first printed wall map of the continent, and the first map of Europe to show (as its name suggests) the most important trade routes. No copies of the 1511 printing survive, but one exemplar of the 1520 printing is extant.Footnote 14 The map was accompanied by a short book written by Ringmann that supplies a more detailed description of the regions of Europe than there is room for on the map, titled Instructio manuductionem prestans in cartam itinerariam Martini Hilacomili (Strasbourg: Grüninger, 1511).Footnote 15

  3. 3.

    In 1513 a new edition of Ptolemy’s Geography, on which Waldseemüller together with Matthias Ringmann and other colleagues had begun work in 1505, but which suffered various delays, was printed by Johann Schott in Strasbourg.Footnote 16 In addition to the standard twenty-seven Ptolemaic maps, this edition has a very full collection of tabulae modernae or modern maps based on more recent data, all but one based on information from nautical charts. This was the most important edition of Ptolemy published in the sixteenth century.Footnote 17

  4. 4.

    In 1516, Waldseemüller published the Carta marina, which like the 1507 map is printed on twelve sheets, each approximately 45.5 × 62 cm (about 18 × 24.4 inches), which were designed to be assembled into a wall map measuring 128 × 233 cm (50.4 × 91.7 inches).Footnote 18 The printer of the map is not specified. Also like the 1507 map, the Carta marina survives in just one copy, which was owned by Johann Schöner (1477–1547), and which was preserved together with a copy of the 1507 map in the Schöner Sammelband.Footnote 19 Following the Library of Congress’s purchase of the 1507 map, the collector Jay I. Kislak bought the Sammelband, minus the 1507 map and a star chart by Albrecht Dürer. He has donated much of his large collection of Americana, including the Sammelband with the Carta marina, to the Library of Congress, where the map now resides.Footnote 20 In a separate transaction in 2016 the Library of Congress acquired the Dürer star chart that had been in the Sammelband, and thus now owns all of the elements that originally comprised the Sammelband.

Towards the end of his life Waldseemüller was working on books titled Itineraria and Chronica mundi, which had been promised to the publisher Johann Grüninger, but were never completed or printed.Footnote 21 The brief references to these works have given rise to claims that some of the maps in the 1522 edition of Ptolemy’s Geography published by Grüninger were made by Waldseemüller and intended for one of these books, but this is unlikely to be true, as Waldseemüller had been moving away from Ptolemy for some years before his death. It has been plausibly argued, however, that Waldseemüller’s notes for these books were used by Lorenz Fries in writing his Uslegung der mercarthen oder Charta Marina, the booklet that accompanied Fries’s 1525 edition of Waldseemüller’s Carta marina, and was published by Grüninger in Strasbourg.Footnote 22

In addition, the Uslegung contains a map showing the route that Alvise Cadamosto took on his voyage to Madeira and the Canary Islands in 1455,Footnote 23 and it is very likely that Waldseemüller made this map for either the Chronica mundi or the Itineraria.Footnote 24 Further, a copy of Francanzio de Montalboddo’s Itinerarium Portugallensium (Milan, 1508) in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna (signature 394.092-C.Kar) has a set of six maps that have been added to the book, a world map and five maps of the coast of West Africa that illustrate the voyages of Cadamosto (1455/56) and Pedro de Sintra (1463). One of these maps is very similar to (but not identical with) that in the 1525 Uslegung, and it seems likely that they were produced as part of the preparations for the Chronica mundi or Itineraria, either by Waldseemüller or by a closely affiliated cartographer.Footnote 25 But some passages in the Uslegung and these maps are all that we have of Waldseemüller’s final projects.

1.3 Comparing and Contrasting the 1507 and 1516 Maps

As mentioned above, Waldseemüller’s Carta marina, like his 1507 map, is printed on twelve sheets that were designed to be assembled into a wall map measuring 128 × 233 cm (50.4 × 91.7 inches). But while they share these physical characteristics, in most other respects the two maps are very different, and the differences are reflected in their titles. The title of the 1507 map, as mentioned above, is Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii alioru[m]que lustrationes (“A map of the whole world according to the tradition of Ptolemy and the explorations of Amerigo Vespucci and others). Waldseemüller’s use of both Ptolemy and Vespucci as sources—of both ancient and modern authorities—is indicated in the portraits of them at the top of the 1507 map.

But the title of the 1516 map indicates a radical repudiation of ancient authorities:

Carta marina navigatoria portugallen[siorum] navigationes atque totius cogniti orbis terre marisque formam naturamque situs et terminos nostri[s] temporibus recognitos et ab antiquorum traditione differentes eciam quorum vetusti non meminuerunt autores, hec generaliter indicat.

A nautical chart that comprehensively shows the Portuguese voyages and the shape and nature of the whole known world, both land and sea, its regions, and its limits as they have been determined in our times, and how they differ from the tradition of the ancients, and also areas not mentioned by the ancients.

The change from Waldseemüller’s following Ptolemy to repudiating him is dramatic, and illustrates a dichotomy of Renaissance culture: on the one hand, admiration for the methods of enquiry and systems of knowledge of the ancients, and on the other, recognition that new investigations or explorations could produce results superior to those of the ancients—for example, the discovery that the equatorial Torrid Zone, which various classical authors held to be uninhabitable and uncrossable, was a myth.Footnote 26 In a long introductory text in the lower left corner of the Carta marina, Waldseemüller discusses his earlier map (certainly the 1507 map),Footnote 27 and his reasons for creating a new one. He concedes that a map with ancient place names, like his earlier map, is of limited utility, since it is difficult to recognize modern places according to their ancient names, and also remarks that recent explorers have detected various errors in the geographical writings of the ancients, particularly in Ptolemy’s Geography. He then writesFootnote 28:

Quibus ipse permotus communi eruditorum utilitati studens hunc secundarium totius orbis typum primo adieci, ut sicut illic veterum constetit auctorum totius orbis terra marique descriptio, sic reluceat hic non noua solum ac presens totius orbis facies, sed cum hoc mediorum temporum indita rebus mortalibus consueta et naturalis permutatio pateat ut unico habeas (si ita dici iubet) contuitu quid, quales, quomodo res caduce nunc fiunt, qualesque priscis fuerint temporibus et quales aliquin future a nobis nullatenus dubitari possint. Hanc igitur iuxta Neotericorum traditionem totius orbis spetiem & descriptionem Chartam placuit appellare marinam, eo que in maris descriptionibus vulgarem fuerimus & approbatissimam nauticarum tabularum notificationes insequuti, sumus insuper in mediterranea Asie atque Aphrice descriptione Ne[o]tericorum itinerarios, particulares tabulas, chorographias, & quorundam recensiorum [for recentiorum] lustratorum relationes plerumque imitati….

Moved by these considerations, and in the interest of the common utility of scholars, I have added this second image of the world to my first, so that just as in the first the image of the whold world, land and sea, agreed with that of the ancient authors, so in this one, not only may the new and present face of the world shine forth, but together with that, the customary and natural change introduced into worldly affairs in the intervening times, so that you can see (if I may say so) at a single glance why, of what kind, and how transitory things have come to be now, what they were like in former times, and how they will be in the future, without a doubt. Therefore, it seemed good to call this image and description of the whole world, made in accordance with the tradition of modern authors, a Carta marina, and for that reason, as far as the depiction of the oceans, I have followed the commonly used and the most approved nautical charts and their indications, while in the depiction of the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa I have made ample use of recent authors’ travel narratives, regional maps, descriptions of countries, and the accounts of some recent explorers….

Though his 1507 map shows the New World, Waldseemüller here describes his earlier work as an image of the earth according to the ancients, no doubt to increase the attractiveness of his new map, which is based on the most recent information available.

Together with this change in his thought about what a world map should be came a closely related change in cartographic models. His 1507 map is based on Ptolemy’s Geography—not only on Ptolemy’s geographical data regarding the locations of cities and other features in Europe, Africa and Asia, but also on his system for representing geographical space, using a grid of latitude and longitude. More specifically, Waldseemüller used as the model for his 1507 map a large world map of c. 1491 by Henricus Martellus Germanus (Fig. 1.1).Footnote 29 Martellus’s map uses the Ptolemaic grid of latitude and longitude, and is laid out using a modification of Ptolemy’s second projection. Waldseemüller followed Martellus closely (Fig. 1.2), and used the same projection, has similar decorative wind-heads in the border of the map, arranged things so that Japan is at the eastern or right-hand edge of the map as it is on Martellus’s, and borrowed many descriptive texts from Martellus.Footnote 30 Waldseemüller of course added the New World, often used different sources for place names, and depicted southern Africa very differently, but in other respects he made heavy use of Martellus, particularly for the outlines of Asia and for his long descriptive texts.

Fig. 1.1
figure 1

courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

World map made by Henricus Martellus c. 1491. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Art Store 1980.157. Image by Lazarus Project/MegaVision/RIT/EMEL,

Fig. 1.2
figure 2

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Martin Waldseemüller’s world map of 1507. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, G3200 1507 .W3.

In his Carta marina Waldseemüller abandoned the Ptolemaic model, and instead adopted the model of nautical charts or portolan charts.Footnote 31 The origin of nautical charts is unclear, but the earliest surviving examples date to the late thirteenth century. In essence they are practical tools for navigation, usually hand-drawn on parchment, with the emphasis on coastal features and place names; rather than being marked with latitude and longitude, they have a system of rhumb lines that radiate out in the standard compass directions (or directions of the traditional winds) from points organized in one or two large circles. In addition to the relatively plain nautical charts used for navigation, others were elaborately decorated with cities, kings, animals, flags, and compass roses, and had descriptive texts added to them. This was the type of map that Waldseemüller chose as the model for his 1516 map, and in fact we know the specific map he used: the nautical chart by Nicolo de Caverio of Genoa, made c. 1503 (Fig. 1.3).Footnote 32 We know this because of the close similarities of place names between Caverio’s chart and Waldseemüller’s Carta marina,Footnote 33 and the striking similarities of layout between the two maps (Fig. 1.4), including the area of the world depicted and the locations of the nodes of the systems of rhumb lines.

Fig. 1.3
figure 3

Courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France

Nautical chart by Nicolo de Caverio, c. 1503 (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Cartes et plans, SH archives 1).

Fig. 1.4
figure 4

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Martin Waldseemüller’s Carta marina of 1516. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, G1015 .S43 1517 Vault.

What caused Waldseemüller to abandon the Ptolemaic model and projection he had used in his 1507 map and adopt a nautical chart model—and to abandon the bold idea he had implemented in his 1507 map of depicting the whole circumference of the earth?Footnote 34 The former question is particularly intriguing, as we know that Waldseemüller had access to the Caverio map when he made his 1507 map.Footnote 35 Yet he still chose to use Ptolemy’s system of cartography rather than the nautical chart system, and also to use Ptolemy’s information for the shape of North Africa, for example, while the shape of that same region is markedly different (and more accurate) on Caverio’s chart. Evidently at some point between 1507 and 1516, perhaps while he was involved in the production of the 1513 edition of Ptolemy’s Geography, he became convinced of the superiority of the more recent geographical data available in nautical charts. I will explore this question, and the development of Waldseemüller’s cartographic thought, in more detail below, but certainly one factor in his decision to follow the nautical chart model was that the best data available was already in that format.

With regard to the latter question, namely why Waldseemüller chose not to depict the whole circumference of the earth in his Carta marina, although Waldseemüller clearly decided to be less venturous in depicting little-known regions, the answer cannot be simply that he did not have good data about the parts of the world he does not depict on the Carta marina. One notable difference between Caverio’s map and the Carta marina is that Waldseemüller depicts less of the eastern part of the world than his model: Caverio shows substantial portions of the northeastern coast of continental Asia and of the ocean we now call the Pacific that Waldseemüller chose not to copy (compare Figs. 1.3 and 1.4). Waldseemüller had reasonably good information about the location of Japan from reading Marco Polo’s account of his travels, who placed Japan 1500 miles east of mainland China,Footnote 36 and Waldseemüller depicted it on his 1507 map, but not on his Carta marina. The answer seems to be that Waldseemüller designed the Carta marina to be more practical than his 1507 map: it shows only the parts of the world where Europeans had traveled, and where trade was known to occur, and it shows those parts using a fundamentally practical cartographic format, one developed for use on ships.

In addition to omitting some 128 degrees of longitude from the Carta marina, Waldseemüller depicts much less of the northern polar regions: his 1507 map runs all the way to the North Pole, but the Carta marina only to a bit more than 70° N. The Carta marina does include several more degrees of latitude in the southern ocean than the 1507 map, but overall, Waldseemüller’s exclusion of large parts of the earth’s surface from the Carta marina, together with the Carta marina being almost exactly the same physical size as the 1507 map, and its border being much narrower, meant that Waldseemüller was able to show far more detail, including both texts and images, in the areas that he does depict than he could on the 1507 map. In comparison with the 1507 map, the Carta marina offers a “zoomed in” view of the known parts of the world. Thus, for example, in Arabia on sheet 6 of the 1507 map, there is room only for place names from Ptolemy and indications of mountains and rivers, but on the Carta marina there are images of Mecca and Medina as well as long legends describing the cities and features of the region (see Legends 7.6, 7.8, and 7.9).

One of the most striking differences between Waldseemüller’s Carta marina and its principal model, the Caverio chart, is in the interiors of the continents, particularly in Africa and Asia. On Caverio’s chart the emphasis (as is common on nautical charts) is on the coastlines, and he provides very few geographical details of the interior. In Africa there are images of two mountain ranges, three cities and three animals, some banners indicating the names of regions, and a decorative circular world map in place of a compass rose. Asia is largely empty, aside from some compass roses and a few banners with place names. The situation on the Carta marina is entirely different: both Africa and Asia are full of rivers, mountains, images of cities, sovereigns, peoples and animals, as well as descriptive texts. Waldseemüller also takes advantage of the open spaces in the unknown interior of South America and in the southern ocean to supply long texts, one the long introduction to the map quoted from earlier, another describing South America, and in the southeastern corner of the map (Legend 12.11), a list of the sources and prices of the spices in the great trading center of Calicut (now Kozhikode, India).

The abundance of geographical information and texts on the Carta marina should be considered from a few different perspectives. First, the advent of printed maps represented a great democratization of cartography, so that the information in a very expensive manuscript map like Caverio’s could be made available to many people through the printing press at a much lower cost.Footnote 37 What Waldseemüller chose to democratize, however, was not just Caverio’s chart, but a richer, more detailed, and more edifying version of the chart, with many more decorative elements and much more textual information. A number of manuscript nautical charts have a similar high level of expensive optional elements, including images and descriptive texts, such as the Catalan Atlas of 1375Footnote 38 and Mecia de Viladestes’s nautical chart of 1413,Footnote 39 but Waldseemüller’s Carta marina is the first large printed nautical chart, and it matches or exceeds these particularly elaborate nautical charts in the amount of information it offers.

It is also possible that the large amount of text on the Carta marina, particularly the long introduction in the lower left corner, was intended to render a booklet to accompany the map unnecessary: Waldseemüller and his colleague Matthias Ringmann had accompanied the 1507 world map with the booklet titled Cosmographiae introductio, and the 1511 wall map of Europe with the booklet Instructio manuductionem prestans in cartam itinerariam Martini Hilacomili.Footnote 40 We cannot be certain about this surmise, however, as Lorenz Fries’s later German-language version of the Carta marina was accompanied by a booklet titled Uslegung der mercarthen oder Charta marina (Explanation of the Sea Map or Carta marina), which was probably written in part from Waldseemüller’s notes for his unfinished Chronica mundi or Itineraria.Footnote 41

1.4 Waldseemüller’s Textual Sources on the Carta Marina

Waldseemüller’s 1507 map, like his Carta marina, has a large number of descriptive texts, particularly in Africa and Asia, but one of the most remarkable things about the texts on the Carta marina is that the overwhelming majority of them are different from the ones on the earlier map. Waldseemüller abandoned not only his earlier cartographic model (i.e. Ptolemy, by way of Martellus), but also most of his earlier textual sources, in order to create an entirely new and modern image of the world. This must have been exciting but also time-consuming, carefully studying various texts looking for just the right passages to explain different regions or cities or peoples, and also for clues about the relative locations of those places.

Waldseemüller lists his textual sources in the long legend in the lower left corner of the map (Legend 9.3); here follows the list, rearranged chronologically by the dates of the authors:

  • Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, or John of Plano Carpini (c. 1182–1252), who as papal legate traveled via a northern route to the Great Khan in China, by way of Russia and Mongolia. Manuscripts of Carpini’s travel narrative, which exists in two redactions, and are titled either Ystoria Mongalorum or Liber Tartarorum, are rare, and the whole of the Historia Mongalorum was not published until the nineteenth century.Footnote 42 Waldseemüller almost certainly consulted his travel narrative via the excerpts that Vincent of Beauvais (c. 1190–c. 1264) incorporated into Book 32 of his Speculum historiale, which exists in many manuscript copies and was first printed in 1473.Footnote 43

  • Friar Ascelinus, who was part of a group of Dominicans who visited the encampment of the Mongol prince Baiju in 1247. Simon of Saint Quentin, who traveled with Ascelinus, wrote an account of this mission,Footnote 44 and excerpts of his narrative (like the excerpts from Plano Carpini’s account) were included in Book 32 of Beauvais’s Speculum historiale.Footnote 45

  • Marco Polo (c. 1254–1324), the famous Venetian traveler who spent twenty-four years in the East, and whose account of his travels includes descriptions of places in the Middle East, Central Asia, China, and the Indian Ocean. Marco Polo’s text exists in many manuscripts, translations, and editions; the first Latin edition was printed by Gheraert Leeu in approximately 1484.Footnote 46 Waldseemüller made heavy use of Marco Polo in his 1507 map, mostly through borrowings from a large world map by Henricus Martellus. He makes dramatically less use of the Venetian author’s work in his Carta marina: instead of copying descriptive texts from Martellus’s map, Waldseemüller searched out his own descriptive texts in a variety of geographical texts and travel narratives.

  • Odorico of Pordenone (c. 1286–1331), an Italian missionary and diplomat who traveled from Venice across the Middle East to India, visited some islands in the Indian Ocean, and spent three years in China. His account of his journey was first published in Pesaro in 1513, under the title Odorichus de rebus incognitis (Odoric on Unknown Things) (despite the Latin title, the text is in Italian),Footnote 47 but was also available in manuscripts.Footnote 48

  • Pierre d’Ailly (1351–1420), a French cardinal, theologian and cosmographer whose Imago mundi (Image of the World) is well known for having influenced Christopher Columbus’s geographical thought, specifically his conception of the width of the AtlanticFootnote 49: Columbus owned a copy of the book which he heavily annotated.Footnote 50 The work survives in several manuscripts,Footnote 51 and it was first published c. 1480–1483.Footnote 52

  • Alvise Cadamosto (c. 1432–1483), a Venetian merchant and navigator who explored the western coast of Africa for Portugal in 1455 and 1456.Footnote 53 Cadamosto’s Navigazioni were first published as Chaps. 1–47 of Paesi novamente retrovati (Newly Discovered Countries), an important collection of travel narratives first published in 1507 that was quickly translated into Latin and German.Footnote 54 The Paesi was in fact the second most frequently printed early account of the discoveries in the New World, after Vespucci’s Mundus novus.Footnote 55 The interest of Waldseemüller or his associates in the voyage of Cadamosto is indicated by the existence of proof sheets of maps from Waldseemüller’s workshop that show the course Cadamosto took down the coast of Africa.Footnote 56

  • Caspar the Jew of India, also called Gaspar de Gama (1444–c. 1510–1520), a Jewish merchant who met Vasco da Gama in India and acted as an interpreter for da Gama and other Portuguese navigators.Footnote 57 Material from Caspar was transmitted in a letter by Girolamo Sernigi included in Paesi novamente retrovati, Chaps. 60–62.Footnote 58 This book was among Waldseemüller’s most important sources, but Caspar is not identified by name in those passages, and Waldseemüller seems not to have made use of those chapters, as he had a superior version of Caspar’s account. In the text block on sheet 9 of the Carta marina (see Legend 9.3) Waldseemüller says that he had access to a travel narrative by Caspar that was sent to the King of Portugal, but that document does not appear to have survived.

  • Francisco de Almeida (c. 1450–1510),Footnote 59 a Portuguese nobleman, soldier and explorer who was essential in the establishment of Portuguese power in the Indian Ocean.Footnote 60 On Almeida’s voyage of 1505 from Portugal to India, one of the passengers was Balthasar Springer, or Sprenger, the representative of a trading company in Augsburg, Germany. Springer wrote an account of the voyage, which is the work that Waldseemüller is really citing.Footnote 61 The first edition of Springer’s narrative, which was published in German in 1509,Footnote 62 was illustrated by Hans Burgkmair.Footnote 63 Waldseemüller made relatively little use of it, just for some toponyms in India and an image of an Indian man and an African man.

  • Christopher Columbus (1451–1506), the famous Genoese explorer. Peter Martyr d’Anghiera began writing an account of the discovery of the New World in 1494,Footnote 64 and in 1504 some chapters from his work that give an account of Columbus’s first three voyages were translated into Italian and published in the now very rare Libretto de tutta la nauigatione de Re de Spagna de le isole et terreni nouamente trouatiFootnote 65; this material was incorporated into the Paesi novamente retrovati a few years later in 1507 (Chaps. 84–108), which is where Waldseemüller may have found it.

  • Pedro Álvares Cabral (c. 1467–c. 1520), the Portuguese explorer who in 1500–1501 discovered Brazil, sailed on to India, and then returned to Portugal.Footnote 66 One of the earliest and most complete accounts of Cabral’s voyage was written by an unnamed member of the fleet and is known as the “Anonymous Narrative”; it was published in the Paesi novamente retrovati, Chaps. 63–83.Footnote 67

  • Ludovico de Varthema (c. 1470–1517), an Italian adventurer and keen observer who wrote an account of his travels to Egypt, the Middle East, India and the islands of the Indian Ocean, though there is some dispute about whether in fact he traveled anywhere east of Cairo.Footnote 68 His narrative was published soon after his return to Europe in 1508, first in Italian (1510), then in Latin (1511), and then in an illustrated edition in German (1515).Footnote 69

  • Joseph the Indian, or Priest Joseph (fl. 1490–1518), a Christian priest from Cranganore, India, who shipped with Cabral on his return to Portugal so that he could visit Rome and Jerusalem. During the voyage, and also during his stay in Portugal, he supplied detailed information about southwestern India that may have been published in 1505, and was certainly printed in 1507 as the final chapters of the Paesi novamente retrovati.Footnote 70

For Waldseemüller, the majority of these sources were recent: Varthema’s book, of which Waldseemüller made heavy use, was printed just a few years before Waldseemüller created the Carta marina. A number of the other sources he cites were published in the Paesi novamente retrovati in 1507, about a decade before he made the Carta marina.

There are a couple of interesting omissions from Waldseemüller’s list. The first is the Travels of Sir John Mandeville,Footnote 71 who claimed to have traveled widely in Asia and Africa. The book was written in the fourteenth century and circulated very widely both in manuscript and print, with incunable editions in ten different languages,Footnote 72 including multiple editions published in Strasbourg (near Waldseemüller) with woodcut illustrations.Footnote 73 The second is the narrative of the travels of Arnold von Harff to the Holy Land, Egypt, and the Indian Ocean in 1496–1499. The work was not published until 1860,Footnote 74 but circulated in manuscript, a number of which were illustrated.Footnote 75 Given Waldseemüller’s wide knowledge of recent travel literature, it is difficult to imagine that he was not familiar with von Harff’s book, and in fact it would be at least somewhat ironic, as his 1507 map has data that also appears in von Harff, probably by way of a map by Martellus.Footnote 76 Despite the extravagance of Mandeville’s narrative, he was accepted as an authority by some other Renaissance cartographers and geographers,Footnote 77 but it seems likely that Waldseemüller chose not to use Mandeville and von Harff because he considered them unreliable.

If we look at Waldseemüller’s list again in the light of his 1507 map, one of the authors included in this list and another who is omitted from it are surprising. The 1507 map proclaims Amerigo Vespucci as the discoverer of the New World: Vespucci’s portrait is at the top of the map, and the southern part of the New World bears the name “America,” which Waldseemüller and Ringmann created from “Amerigo.”Footnote 78 Moreover, their book Cosmographiae introductio includes Vespucci’s accounts of his four voyages. So it is surprising that Waldseemüller does not include Vespucci in his list of sources for the Carta marina, but does include Columbus.Footnote 79 Indeed, the Carta marina makes it clear that Waldseemüller had realized, probably through the account of Columbus’s 1492 voyage in the Paesi novamente retrovati, the precedence of Columbus as discoverer: the name “America” does not appear on the map, and a legend in the South Atlantic explicitly names Columbus as the first discoverer of the New World, Cabral as the second, and Vespucci as the third (Legend 10.2).

Thus in making his Carta marina Waldseemüller not only abandoned the Ptolemaic cartographic model in favor of the nautical chart model; he also abandoned Vespucci as principal discoverer of the New World in favor of Columbus. The fact that the two figureheads, Ptolemy and Vespucci, displayed so prominently at the top of the 1507 map, had both fallen by the wayside in 1516 is a powerful testament to the rapid development of Waldseemüller’s cartographic thought and his willingness to change his ideas in light of new information, as well as to the dynamism of early sixteenth-century cartography in general. Waldseemüller’s willingness to discard all of the work he had invested in the 1507 map is all the more impressive given that the map was evidently well received.Footnote 80 It was not the demands of customers, but rather his own determination to find the best method for representing the world that led him to undertake the creation of an entirely new world map in the Carta marina.

In addition to recognizing Columbus’s primacy as discoverer of the New World, in the Carta marina Waldseemüller adopted a Columbian conception of the New World. This can be seen particularly clearly in the different indications of what is west of the New World on the two maps. One of the most striking and oft-discussed aspects of Waldseemüller’s 1507 map is his depiction of an ocean west of the New World before the European discovery of the Pacific by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa in September 1513. He also explicitly stated in the Cosmographiae introductio that the New World was an island.Footnote 81 This depiction and statement have generated claims of an earlier, pre-Balboa discovery of the Pacific by a European voyage of which no other record survives. But there is a much simpler explanation for Waldseemüller’s depiction. Marco Polo had said that Japan was 1500 miles east of mainland AsiaFootnote 82; Polo clearly stated that Japan was an island; so there must be water east of Japan, and thus between Japan and the New World. Quite probably on the basis of this reasoning, Waldseemüller shows water separating the New World from Asia on the 1507 map: they are two distinct regions.

Columbus had been seeking a route to Asia by sailing west, and during all four of his voyages and to the end of his life believed that he had been in Asia, albeit in some previously unknown outlying reaches of the continent.Footnote 83 This is the view of the New World that Waldseemüller adopts in the Carta marina. It is particularly clear in the legend on North America, on sheet 1, which reads TERRA DE CVBA ∙ ASIE PARTIS, “The land of Cuba, part of Asia” (Legend 1.1)Footnote 84 Other evidence for this view is in the legend on sheet 5 describing Hispaniola in the Caribbean, which begins Spagnolla que et Offira dicitur, “Hispaniola, which is also called Ophir” (Legend 5.1)—identifying the island with the region mentioned in the Bible from which gold and other riches were brought to King Solomon.Footnote 85 Columbus had shown great interest in the location of Ophir, and had himself asserted that Hispaniola was to be identified with that region.Footnote 86 Thus in the Carta marina Waldseemüller has adopted a Columbian view of the New World. His decisions to show less of the ocean east of Asia than Caverio on his chart, and to exclude Japan, should be seen as part of this same new perspective.

In attempting to update his information about and depiction of the New World in the Carta marina, Waldseemüller inadvertently took a step backwards, since Columbus’s belief that the New World was Asia was incorrect.Footnote 87 But in other parts of the map, particularly in Asia and the Indian Ocean, the updating is breathtaking, and in examining the changes one appreciates Waldseemüller’s assertion that the 1507 map shows the world according to old authors, while the Carta marina depicts the world according to the very latest information.

On the 1507 map, in western Asia Waldseemüller follows Ptolemy, while in eastern Asia—which was unknown to Ptolemy—he follows Marco Polo. Thus in western Asia his source was more than a thousand years old, while in eastern Asia it was some two hundred years old. On the 1516 Carta marina, Waldseemüller uses information from John of Plano Carpini, Simon of Saint Quentin, and an unidentified source to describe Russia (the upper left part of sheet 3), using medieval names of Grand Duke’s domain (Russia) and the Principality of Moscow (Moscovia Regalis); the inhabitants are said to follow the “Greek Rite,” meaning that they belong to the Orthodox Church (see Legends 3.2 and 3.3). The contrast with the 1507 map is stark: there the information comes from Ptolemy, who wrote long before the East-West Schism of 1054 and the founding of Moscow in 1147. In addition to much of the information being more recent on the 1516 map, it is far more detailed, with particulars about the religion and political relationships of the inhabitants and sovereigns.

In the Middle East on the 1507 map, Persia is merely a collection of place names from Ptolemy, while on the Carta marina, in addition to there being modern names for the cities, there is a legend describing the region that mixes information from Marco Polo and a recent account from Varthema (see Legend 3.35):

persia prouincia nobilis destructa multum per tartaros sed nunc sub ditione victoriosssimi [sic] regis Sophi reparata est enim diuisa in octo regna sunt Macometani et homines fallaces

The noble country of Persia was largely destroyed by the Tartars, but now, under the control of the unstoppable king Sophi, it has been restored and divided into eight realms. The people are followers of Mohammed and are deceitful.

“Sophi” is Shah Isma’il es-Sufi (1487–1524), the founder of the Safavid dynasty, who gained control over Persia and Khorasan (now Iran and adjoining territories to the east) around the year 1500.Footnote 88 This information was very recent indeed, compared with that on the 1507 map, and much more detailed, as it does not merely list place names, but also reveals the current political situation.

Northern India (the lower left hand part of sheet 4) is another area where Waldseemüller was following the most recent sources, but since those sources recycled traditional information, his depiction of the area is not, in fact, particularly modern. Both John of Plano Carpini and Pierre d’Ailly describe monstrous races of men in India—men with the heads of dogs, Cyclopes, men whose faces are in their chests (elsewhere called blemmyae), pygmies, and so on. In listing these races, Plano Carpini and d’Ailly are availing themselves of the traditional view of India as a land of marvels and monsters, a perception that goes back to ancient Greece.Footnote 89 Waldseemüller is the first cartographer to depict several of the monstrous races of India together on a map, but the source material, although it appears in relatively recent books, is old.Footnote 90

In the northeastern corner of the map (sheet 4) is a large image of the Great Khan in his tent, and to the left of him, a long legend describing Tartaria (northern and central Asia, from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific)—the terrain, the customs, and the Khan’s great power (Legend 4.16). Marco Polo gives detailed descriptions of the Khan and his realm, and Waldseemüller made heavy use of Polo in his 1507 map, but curiously, he says almost nothing about the Khan either on that map or in the Cosmographiae introductio.Footnote 91 He indicates some lands under the Khan’s control with little escutcheons, or shield-shaped emblems, bearing the Khan’s symbol (the anchor) in western Asia, but strangely, not in eastern Asia. The great emphasis on the Khan on the Carta marina should be read as part of Waldseemüller’s new emphasis on practical matters: the Khan represented a threat to Europe, so Waldseemüller provides information about him, and a large image to emphasize his importance. As for the legend describing Tartaria, this is a case where Waldseemüller used an older source rather than a newer one, for his information comes primarily from John of Plano Carpini, who traveled to Asia a couple of decades before Marco Polo. This is no doubt an indication that Waldseemüller thought Plano Carpini more reliable than Polo.

The Indian Ocean is one of the regions where Waldseemüller’s updating of his image of the world is the most dramatic. On the 1507 map, his information about the Indian Ocean comes from Ptolemy and Marco Polo, and his legends about sea monsters come from an illustrated encyclopedia titled Hortus sanitatis, first published in 1491,Footnote 92 by way of a large world map by Henricus Martellus.Footnote 93 There are only small bits of information from the recent Portuguese explorations in the Indian Ocean, which followed Vasco da Gama’s first voyage from Portugal to India and back in 1497–99: for instance, there is a brief legend about the important trading center of Calicut, which da Gama had reached.Footnote 94

On his Carta marina, almost everything about the Indian Ocean has changed. On the 1507 map, the depiction of Taprobana (modern Sri Lanka) is straight out of Ptolemy. On the 1516 map, in a legend in the upper left corner of sheet 12, Waldseemüller disputes the equatorial position that Ptolemy assigned to the island, siding instead with the Roman author Solinus and evidence from recent Portuguese voyages that place it further south (Legend 12.1); and on sheet 8, he discusses whether Taprobana is to be identified with Sumatra (Legend 8.10). Ptolemy had said there were 1,378 islands near Taprobana, and Waldseemüller quotes him to that effect on the 1507 map; on the 1516 map he instead quotes Varthema’s statement—around 1300 years more recent—that there were 8,000 islands near Sumatra (Legend 12.2). Ptolemy’s various islands of cannibals, together with the magnetic islands that pull the nails from ships, are simply gone, though there are still cannibals in the area, now on the island of Java, and the information about them now comes from Varthema (Legend 12.3). Here again, Waldseemüller has set aside the information about Java on his 1507 map that came from Marco Polo.

On the 1507 map a short legend describes the trading center of Calicut,Footnote 95 while on the 1516 map, at the right-hand edge of sheet 7 (just west of Calicut, which is at the left-hand edge of sheet 8), a long legend describes the merchandise available in that city (Legend 7.18). It also gives an account of the king and his many wives as well as the unusual sexual and religious practices in the region, and includes a few words about what the people drink and eat (rice, fruit, butter, sugar, and some fish, but no meat)—all of this from Varthema. Then in the lower right-hand corner of the map, a long legend (Legend 12.11) describes the systems of weights and money at Calicut, the regions from which the various spices were brought to that city, and the price of each of them in the Calicut markets,Footnote 96 all of which information comes from Chaps. 82–83 of the 1507 Paesi novamente retrovati.Footnote 97 Again, Waldseemüller is providing an abundance of current practical information about trade, navigation, and local customs.

Waldseemüller updated his portrayal of the Indian Ocean in other ways, among them his treatment of the sea monsters. On his 1507 map, several legends describe sea monsters in the Indian Ocean, such as this one just north of Madagascar:

Hic cernitur orcha mirabile monstrum mari[n]um ad modum [s]olis cum reverberat cuius figura vix describi potest nisi quod est pelle mollis et carne in mensa.

Here is seen the orca, an extraordinary sea monster, like the sun when it glitters, whose form can hardly be described, except that its skin is soft and its body huge.

Although this information ultimately comes from the illustrated encyclopedia Hortus sanitatis, Waldseemüller’s source for his legends about Indian Ocean sea monsters on the 1507 map was Henricus Martellus’s large world map discussed earlier. Footnote 98 On the 1516 map, these sea monsters are gone, and the cartographer presents just one image of a sea monster in the southern ocean (sheet 11), south of the southern tip of Africa. In this image King Manuel of Portugal rides a sea monster through the waves, holding aloft a scepter and the banner of Portugal, proclaiming his nation’s mastery of the ocean, particularly of the passage to India around the Cape of Good Hope. The image alludes to a new title that Manuel had adopted following Vasco da Gama’s return from his first voyage to India, Senhor da conquista e da navegação e comércio de Etiópia, Arábia, Pérsia e da Índia, “Lord of the conquest, and navigation, and commerce of Ethiopia, Arabia, Persia and India”—the adoption of which title is reported in the Paesi novamente retrovati, Chap. 62.Footnote 99

The differences between the sea monsters on the two maps reflect a radical reconceptualization of the Indian Ocean. Most of the sea monsters on the 1507 map—all of which derive from Martellus—are dangerous, and thus would discourage navigation, while the image of King Manuel riding a sea monster on the Carta marina boldly proclaims human control over the dangers of the sea, and by extension, dominion over the oceans themselves.Footnote 100 The riches on the distant shores of the Indian Ocean are no longer mere abstractions, things told of in tales; they are now commodities that are weighed out and sold in markets at specific prices (which are listed in the lower right corner of the map). And those markets can be reached by ship along well-established routesFootnote 101 that are evidently untroubled by sea monsters. In the short space of nine years, Waldseemüller had set aside an essentially medieval view of the ocean and adopted a much more modern conception.

1.5 The Carta Marina’s Iconographical Program, and Its Sources

As mentioned earlier, in creating the Carta marina, Waldseemüller used Caverio’s chart as a basis, but added so many features as to create something essentially new: it has much more geographical detail in the hinterlands, far more textual information, and a more elaborate artistic decoration. This increased level of decoration sets the map apart not only from Caverio’s chart but also from the 1507 map. The borders of the 1507 map are decorated with finely depicted wind-heads and the portraits of Ptolemy and Vespucci, but the map proper is artistically quite plain: there are renderings of mountains and small trees, flags and some small coats of arms, one city in Asia, one elephant and a few people in Africa, one ship in the South Atlantic and one parrot in South America, but little more. The Carta marina, on the other hand, boasts a rich and ambitious iconographical program, particularly in Asia.

On traditional manuscript nautical charts, many of the decorative elements were optional: the person commissioning the chart could choose to have various elements added to a basic chart, including images of cities, animals, trees, ships, and sovereigns (Fig. 1.5). On sumptuous nautical charts made in the fourteenth century, the sovereigns depicted are in North Africa, but on later charts, sovereigns in Asia and sometimes Europe appear as well. The Caverio chart has just one image of a sovereign, the Magnus Tartarus, or Great Khan. Waldseemüller included many images of sovereigns on the Carta marina—a far larger number than on any surviving manuscript nautical chart. The abundance of sovereigns can be interpreted as reflecting Waldseemüller’s interest in the world’s politics—that is, in adding practical information to the Carta marina. Moreover, Waldseemüller made use of a simple graphical convention that, although common in other media in ancient, medieval and Renaissance art, had essentially not been employed in the depictions of sovereigns on nautical chartsFootnote 102: he used size to indicate the relative importance of the different sovereigns. Waldseemüller’s decision to make many of the sovereigns quite small allowed him to include the large number that appear on the map, and also meant that most of the sovereigns are artistically rather simple, and thus took less time to design and to cut into the woodblocks.

Fig. 1.5
figure 5

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Detail of an elabrately decorated nautical chart made by Matteo Prunes in 1559. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, G5672.M4P5 1559 .P7 Vault: Vellum 7.

Two particularly large images of sovereigns appear on the map, one of the Great Khan in the northeast corner of sheet 4, and the other of King Manuel of Portugal riding the sea monster on sheet 11. It seems likely that Waldseemüller intended the viewer to compare and contrast the greatest power in the East with the greatest power in the West, one powerful on land, the other on the oceans. On Caverio’s map, the Great Khan is pudgy and unimposing, while on the Carta marina he is large, stern, and warlike (Fig. 1.6). The image is finely executed, and was probably made by a special artist rather than by Waldseemüller himself (we have no evidence that Waldseemüller had any woodcutting skills).Footnote 103 This likelihood is increased by the fact that some details of the image do not agree as well with Waldseemüller’s textual sources as we might expect. The Khan’s facial features do not agree with Plano Carpini’s description of typical Tartar features, for example, and while the Khan’s braided hair accords with Plano Carpini’s description, he also is quite clear that most Tartars do not have beards, but on the Carta marina the Khan does have one.Footnote 104

Fig. 1.6
figure 6

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Detail of the Great Khan on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 4).

While the model of Waldseemüller’s image of the Khan is unknown, in the case of the image of King Manuel riding the sea monster (Fig. 1.7), which also seems to be the work of a specialized artist, we can identify the likely iconographical sources, as there are few surviving earlier Renaissance images of humans riding sea monsters. The Italian painter Andrea Mantegna produced a print in about 1485–88 known as the Battle of the Sea Gods, in which one of the gods rides a sea monster much as King Manuel does on the Carta marina (Fig. 1.8).Footnote 105 But Waldseemüller’s direct source was more likely Jacopo de’ Barbari’s monumental six-sheet view of Venice of c. 1500, which was itself no doubt influenced by Mantegna: in front of the city, right in front of St. Mark’s Square, de’ Barbari has an image of Neptune riding a sea monster and holding aloft on his trident a sign that reads AEQVORA TVENS PORTV RESIDEO HIC NEPTVNVS (“I, Neptune, reside here, watching over the seas at this port”) (Fig. 1.9).Footnote 106 This is a powerful image of the protection that Venice enjoyed from the god of the sea, but Waldseemüller’s recasting of this image is still more powerful: he has replaced the classical god Neptune with a contemporary king, thus almost effecting an apotheosis of ManuelFootnote 107; and rather than indicating the protection passively enjoyed by Venice, the new image illustrates Portugal’s active control of the lanes of navigation to India.Footnote 108

Fig. 1.7
figure 7

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Detail of King Manuel of Portugal riding a sea monster on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 11).

Fig. 1.8
figure 8

Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

Detail showing a god riding a sea monster from Andrea Mantegna’s Battle of the Sea Gods, c. 1485–88. Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, 1984.53.1.

Fig. 1.9
figure 9

Courtesy of the Newberry Library

Detail of Neptune riding a sea monster on Jacopo de’ Barbari’s six-sheet view of Venice of c. 1500. Chicago, Newberry Library, Novacco 8f 7.

Waldseemüller also made use of recent sources for other images on his map, as part of his effort to create an entirely fresh and modern image of the world. In South America Waldseemüller has an image of an opossum (sheet 5), and this is the earliest surviving European depiction of that animal. Vicente Yáñez Pinzón was the first European to see an opossum in 1499; in fact it was the first marsupial that Europeans had ever seen, and was regarded as a marvel. Pinzón brought an opossum back to Spain and left this description of the creatureFootnote 109:

Between these Trees he saw a strange Monster, the foremost part resembling a Fox, the hinder a Monkey, the feet were like a Mans, with Ears like an Owl; under whose Belly hung a great Bag, in which it carry’d the Young, which they drop not, nor forsake till they can feed themselves.

As Waldseemüller’s image is quite detailed, it seems likely that it was taken from a contemporary illustration of Pinzón’s opossum that no longer survives.Footnote 110 Waldseemüller’s image was copied both on later maps and in other media, mostly by way of the reproduction of Waldseemüller’s image in Lorenz Fries’s Carta marina of 1525, 1530, and 1531.Footnote 111

In Scandinavia, near the northern edge of the map (sheet 2), the animal that looks like an elephant is intended to be a walrus (Fig. 1.10). The accompanying legend reads (see on Legend 2.3):

Fig. 1.10
figure 10

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Detail of the elephant-like walrus on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 2).

Morsus animal ingens quantitate Elephantis huius dentes longos duos et quadrangulares carens quibus iuncturis in pedibus. Reperitur in promontoriis septentrionalibus Norbegie incedit gregatim agmine ducentorum animalium.

The walrus is a huge animal, the size of an elephant, and it has two long teeth which are quadrangular, and lacks joints in its legs. It is found in the northern promontories of Norway, and they travel together in groups of two hundred animals.

There is at least one discussion of a walrus by a medieval author, namely Albertus Magnus in his On Animals,Footnote 112 but Waldseemüller did not make use of Albertus.Footnote 113 The word Waldseemüller uses for the walrus, morsus, is usually held to have entered European literature in 1517, in Maciej of Miechów’s Tractatus de duabus Sarmatiis.Footnote 114 In fact, William Caxton used it in 1480 in his Chronicles of EnglandFootnote 115—but certainly Waldseemüller’s is among the earliest uses of it. On the one hand, it is clear that Waldseemüller (or his unknown iconographical source, if there was one) made the image from a vague description that emphasized the creature’s elephant-like tusks and size, rather than on the basis of seeing a walrus. On the other hand, Waldseemüller’s text about the animal is surely based on information derived from an examination of a walrus, as no other known early document mentions the walrus’s quadrangular tusks.Footnote 116 The image and text pertaining to the walrus thus contain a mixture of good information and extrapolation, a common characteristic of attempts to interpret incomplete reports about unfamiliar things.

In West Africa (sheet 6), Waldseemüller shows a small image of a rhinoceros (Fig. 1.11), and this is another instance where he was using the most recent iconographical sources available. In 1514 Sultan Muzafar II of Gujarat had presented a rhinoceros to Afonso de Albuquerque, the governor of Portuguese India. Albuquerque sent the rhinoceros to King Manuel of Portugal,Footnote 117 and Albrecht Dürer made an influential print depicting the animal in 1515 (Fig. 1.12).Footnote 118 Waldseemüller used as his model not Dürer’s print, however, but a different one, also made in 1515, by Hans Burgkmair, that survives in only one copy (Fig. 1.13).Footnote 119 The images of the rhinoceroses are similar in the two artists’ prints, but there are differences, and those differences indicate that Waldseemüller used Burgkmair’s print: in particular, Dürer shows hard plating and a small ancillary horn on the crest of the creature’s neck where Burgkmair places hair—and it is hair that we see in Waldseemüller’s image. It has been suggested that Dürer might have been involved in the engraving of the Carta marina,Footnote 120 but given that Waldseemüller used Burgkmair’s image of the rhinoceros rather than Dürer’s, this seems unlikely.

Fig. 1.11
figure 11

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Detail of the rhinoceros in West Africa on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 6).

Fig. 1.12
figure 12

Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Albrecht Dürer’s print of the rhinoceros, 1515. Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection 1964.8.697.

Fig. 1.13
figure 13

Courtesy of the Albertina Museum, Vienna

Hans Burgkmair’s print of the rhinoceros, 1515. Vienna, Grafische Sammlung Albertina, Inv. DG1934/123.

In northeastern Asia, specifically in northern India at the bottom of sheet 4, is an image of sati or suttee, the Hindu practice whereby a widow burned herself to death on the funeral pyre of her husband. This custom very much surprised Western visitors to India, and there are legends on the subject on earlier maps, for example the metal Borgia mappamundi from the first half of the fifteenth century,Footnote 121 and Andreas Walsperger’s mappamundi of 1448.Footnote 122 The image on the Carta marina (Fig. 1.14) shows a woman who has leapt into a fire pit, with a man standing over her and about to strike her with something in his hand, no doubt so that she will die sooner; on the right a horned devil stands looking on. No legend accompanies the scene, but it illustrates a passage in Varthema about the practice of sati in the city of Tarnassari. Varthema describes the fire pit, the beating of the woman with sticks and balls of pitch, and the participation of men clothed like devils.Footnote 123 Waldseemüller’s scene here was clearly inspired by that in the first illustrated edition of Varthema, which has woodcuts by Jörg BreuFootnote 124 and was published in 1515,Footnote 125 just one year before the Carta marina (Fig. 1.15): in this scene two men instead of one are beating down the woman, and a king and noble are present, but in other respects the scenes are quite similar, particularly the poses of the women and the depiction of the flames. Once again, Waldseemüller was using a recent iconographical source, and the evidence from these images gives us a window into Waldseemüller’s workshop, for we now know that the cartographer had a copy of the 1515 edition of Varthema on his bookshelf.

Fig. 1.14
figure 14

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The image of suttee or sati on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 4).

Fig. 1.15
figure 15

Courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Jörg Breu’s woodcut image of suttee or sati from the 1515 edition of Varthema’s travels. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Rar. 894, f. 51r.

Waldseemüller used this same edition of Varthema as the source for two other images on his map. On f. 9v of the book there is an image of the mosque of Medina, with Varthema himself on the far left, and his guide beside him (Fig. 1.16). The guide points to the flames emanating from the top of the building, which he claims indicate the presence of the prophet’s body.Footnote 126 This image of Medina, with its buttresses, windows, and other features, is used by Waldseemüller with very few changes to depict Mecca on the Carta marina (Fig. 1.17). The cartographer removes the flames issuing from the building’s roof, and replaces them, in effect, with an Islamic crescent which he may have borrowed from the building to the left in the image in Varthema. Waldseemüller’s choice to use an image of Medina for Mecca was perhaps guided by a desire to use the example he had of supposedly Islamic architecture for the more famous city; but certainly his use of this image demonstrates again his interest in giving his map a rich and accurate iconographical program from recent sources.

Fig. 1.16
figure 16

Courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Jörg Breu’s woodcut image of Medina from the 1515 edition of Varthema’s travels. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Rar. 894, f. 9v.

Fig. 1.17
figure 17

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Detail of Mecca on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 7).

The important trading center of Calicut in India, mentioned above, is the only city in eastern Asia to bear a flag, and the flag is a curious one: it is of a black devil or demon (Fig. 1.18). The allusion is to the worship of devils that Varthema says took place in Calicut,Footnote 127 though this is merely a misunderstanding of Hindu art,Footnote 128 and the image on the flag is a simplification of an image of the devil supposedly worshipped in Calicut in the same 1515 edition of Varthema (Fig. 1.19).

Fig. 1.18
figure 18

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Image of Calicut, India, with its flag displaying a demon on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 8).

Fig. 1.19
figure 19

Courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Jörg Breu’s woodcut image of the devil of Calicut, India, from the 1515 edition of Varthema’s travels. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Rar. 894, f. 35r.

On sheet 8, in southwestern India, there is a curious image of an Indian king with a crown on his turban who is standing rather than sitting on a throne (Fig. 1.20). Waldseemüller borrowed this image from another recent source, the 1509 edition of Balthasar Springer’s account of Francisco de Almeida’s voyage to India, which was illustrated by Hans Burgkmair (Fig. 1.21). Waldseemüller has rotated the man to the left, added the crown to his turban to make him a king, and shortened the handle of his weapon, but there can be no doubt where he obtained the image. Waldseemüller used Burgkmair’s image of this Indian man a second time on the map, in West Africa (sheet 6), to illustrate a king in the delta of the Senegal River (Fig. 1.22). The king stands almost with his back to us, and Waldseemüller seems to have borrowed this stance from that of a figure in another of Burgkmair’s illustrations of Springer’s narrative, namely the man shading the king in the fold-out Triumphus Regis Gosci sive Gutschmin, or Triumph of the King of Cochin (Kochi, India) (Fig. 1.23).Footnote 129 It is interesting that Waldseemüller did not hesitate to use an image of an Indian man to illustrate an African, particularly as the 1509 edition of Springer’s book has images of Africans that Waldseemüller could have copied.Footnote 130 One reason might have been that the Africans in Springer’s book are naked, and Waldseemüller’s colleague Matthias Ringmann, who had worked closely with him on the Cosmographiae introductio, the 1511 Carta itineraria Europae with its accompanying booklet, and the 1513 edition of Ptolemy,Footnote 131 had written against the illustration of full-frontal nudity in 1509.Footnote 132 On the other hand, the natives in southern Africa on the 1507 map are naked, and it would not have been difficult to add clothes to Burgkmair’s naked figures, so the matter is not clear.

Fig. 1.20
figure 20

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Detail of a king in southwestern India on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 8).

Fig. 1.21
figure 21

Courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Hans Burgkmair’s woodcut illustration of an Indian man in the 1509 edition of Balthasar Springer’s account of Francisco de Almeida’s voyage to India. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Rar. 470, f. 12v. urn:nbn:de:bvb:12-bsb00045403-6.

Fig. 1.22
figure 22

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Detail of a man in Senegal on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 6).

Fig. 1.23
figure 23

Courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Detail of the fold-out Triumphus Regis Gosci in the 1509 edition of Balthasar Springer’s account of Francisco de Almeida’s voyage to India. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Rar. 470, ff. 2v–3r. urn:nbn:de:bvb:12-bsb00045403-6.

We know that Waldseemüller had the Caverio chart in his workshop, but he twice alludes to having more than one nautical chart at his disposal. In the Cosmographiae introductio he says that he has followed nautical charts (plural) particularly with regard to the newly discovered lands,Footnote 133 and in the long text block on sheet 9 of the Carta marina he says that eo que in maris descriptionibus vulgarem fuerimus & approbatissimam nauticarum tabularum notificationes insequuti, “as far as the depiction of the oceans, I have followed the commonly used and the most approved nautical charts and their indications” (plural). It seems very likely that some of the illustrations on the Carta marina were inspired by nautical chart legends or illustrations—legends or illustrations that do not appear on the Caverio chart—and an examination of these images can give us information about the other chart or charts that Waldseemüller had.

At the top of sheet 7 of the Carta marina there is a small image of Moses kneeling before Mount Sinai and receiving from God the two tablets with the commandments written on them (Fig. 1.24). I do not know of an earlier nautical chart that has a similar image of Moses, but many nautical charts have a legend that probably inspired Waldseemüller to include this scene. The Pizzigani chart of 1367,Footnote 134 for example, has a legend that reads (in very idiosyncratic Latin) Mons Sinay quo dominus jesus a de moyss instrudebat et ey legem cunferebat propter populum, “Mount Sinai where Lord Jesus or God instructed Moses and gave him the law for the people.”Footnote 135 The legend on the Catalan Atlas of 1375Footnote 136 is similar, Mont de Sinai en lo qual Déu dona la Ley a Moyssés, “Mount Sinai where God gave the law to Moses.”Footnote 137 Similar legends appear on many other nautical charts, including some sixteenth-century works by Ottomano Freducci, such as London, British Library, Add. MS 11548, made in 1529.Footnote 138 It seems likely, then, that such a legend inspired Waldseemüller to add an image of Moses to his map; Waldseemüller may have drawn iconographic inspiration from the scene of Moses receiving the laws in Hartmann Schedel’s Liber chronicarum (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493), f. 30v (Fig. 1.25), as in both cases Moses is receiving the tablets with his hands gripping them from the sides,Footnote 139 but there are so many representations of this scene that it is impossible to be certain that the Liber chronicarum was the source.Footnote 140

Fig. 1.24
figure 24

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Detail of Moses kneeling before Mount Sinai and receiving from God the two Tablets of the Law, from Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 7).

Fig. 1.25
figure 25

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Moses receiving from God the two Tablets of the Law, from the Hartmann Schedel’s Buch der Croniken (Nuremberg, 1493), f. 30v. Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collection Division, Rosenwald Collection 166.

On sheet 3 of the Carta marina just west of the Caspian (which is labeled Mare Abacuc…) there is a short legend that reads Arach mons super quam requieuit Archa noe, “Mount Ararat, upon which Noah’s Ark rested,” above which there is a small image of a ship on the mountains (see Fig. 1.26 and Legend 3.12). Isidore, Etymologiae 14.3.35, Marco Polo, and Pierre d’Ailly mention that Noah’s Ark can be found on some mountains in Armenia, but they do not give the mountains’ name.Footnote 141 The case is much the same with Odoric of Pordenone,Footnote 142 and Varthema does not mention Noah’s Ark. But there is a nautical chart tradition of illustrating Noah’s ark on a pair of mountains together with a brief text identifying the ship and the mountains, very much as we have on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina.Footnote 143 The earliest surviving nautical chart that has a representation of Noah’s Ark is that of Angelino Dulcert of 1339,Footnote 144 where the illustration is accompanied by the text Archa de Noe. Mons Ararat in quo permansit Archa Noe post diluuium, “Noah’s Ark. Mount Ararat on which Noah’s Ark remained after the Flood.”Footnote 145 Very similar texts appeared on later luxury nautical charts including the Pizzigani chart of 1367,Footnote 146 Catalan Atlas of 1375,Footnote 147 Mecia de Viladestes’s chart of 1413,Footnote 148 the chart of Joan de Viladestes of 1428,Footnote 149 and the Catalan-Estense map of c. 1460Footnote 150; there is also an image of Noah’s Ark on an elaborately decorated chart made by Grazioso Benincasa in 1482, but without the brief explanatory text.Footnote 151 When the descriptive text does appear, it is quite similar to that on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina. On nautical charts the Ark is represented either as a chest, in a curious pyramidal shape,Footnote 152 or as a building, whereas Waldseemüller’s image is distinctly a ship,Footnote 153 but it would be quite natural for Waldseemüller to change the image he found in a nautical chart to something more shiplike.Footnote 154 Thus we can be quite certain that in addition to the Caverio chart, Waldseemüller had a heavily illustrated luxury nautical chart.

Fig. 1.26
figure 26

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Detail of Noah’s Ark on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 3).

In northeastern Asia on the Carta marina Waldseemüller has an image of a man riding a deer, certainly a reindeer, and a brief legend that says magis Septentrionales equitant ceruos, “In the far north they ride deer” (see Legend 4.17). On his 1507 map in the same area Waldseemüller has a legend about Balor Regio that derives from Marco Polo, and mentions that the inhabitants ride deer.Footnote 155 The image and legend on the Carta marina are in essentially the same location as the legend on the 1507 map, but the image comes from a nautical chart illustration of an inhabitant of Scandinavia riding a reindeer—that is, Waldseemüller has transplanted a nautical chart image relating to Scandinavia to a location that accords with what Marco Polo says about northeastern Asia. There are just a few nautical charts that have an illustration of a Scandinavian man riding a reindeer: Mecia de Viladestes’s chart of 1413Footnote 156; the Vatican Borgia XVI metal mappamundi from the first half of the fifteenth century, which uses nautical chart dataFootnote 157; the anonymous nautical chart which is Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Portolano 16 (ca. 1439–1460)Footnote 158; and the Catalan-Estense map (c. 1460).Footnote 159 In addition, a mid fifteenth-century nautical chart which is now lost, but whose legends are preserved in a manuscript in Genoa has a text that says that in the provinces de Scachia et de Gotia…. Sunt magni venatores et equitant ceruos, “of Scachia and Gothia… they are great hunters and ride deer.”Footnote 160

In addition to the evidence of images, below in my discussion of the names Waldseemüller gives to the Caspian Sea (see Legend 3.25) I will show that those names come from a nautical chart, and are most similar to the names assigned to the sea on the Catalan Atlas of 1375 and the Catalan-Estense mappamundi of c. 1460.

The images of Noah’s Ark and the man riding the reindeer, and also the names of the Caspian Sea, are of particular value in shedding light on the type of nautical chart from which Waldseemüller drew these images. First it was a luxury nautical chart, as the hinterlands contained illustrations. Also, as most nautical charts show the rectangular area defined by a diagonal from the Red Sea northwest to Ireland, plus a bit more of the Atlantic, we know that Waldseemüller’s chart was larger than average, as it included lands north to Scandinavia and east to Armenia (Mount Ararat), and in fact to the Caspian. In particular, the surviving charts that have the illustration of a man riding a reindeer date from 1413 to about 1460. It would not surprise me if the chart fragment of c. 1375 which is in Istanbul, Topkapi Saray, H. 1828, once contained such an illustration,Footnote 161 but in any case there are no charts later than c. 1460 that have this illustration. So in addition to the quite recent and no doubt very expensive Caverio chart, Waldseemüller had an older large luxury nautical chart, on which the hinterlands were much more elaborately decorated than on the Caverio chart. This is one case in which Waldseemüller was content to make occasional use of a somewhat older source.

Waldseemüller’s use of so many recent sources, both textual and iconographical, clearly reflects his ambition to create a thoroughly up-to-date image of the world. It also provides insight into the cartographer’s schedule of work on the Carta marina: he was actively working on the map right until it was printed in 1516.

1.6 The Development of Waldseemüller’s Cartographic Thought

Waldseemüller’s use of Ptolemaic cartographic principles in his 1507 map and his repudiation of them in his 1516 map merit tracing in more detail. As we saw earlier, the title of the 1507 map describes an essentially Ptolemaic world map, with the addition of the New World. Waldseemüller’s description of his project in the accompanying Cosmographiae introductio is similar, except that he says he was influenced not only by verbal accounts of the new discoveries but also by nautical chartsFootnote 162:

Haec pro inductione ad Cosmographiam dicta sufficiant si te modo ammonuerimus prius, nos in depingendis tabulis typi generalis non omnimodo sequutos esse Ptholomeum, presertim circa nouas terras, ubi in cartis marinis aliter animaduertimus, equatorem constituti, quam Ptholomeus foecerit. Et proinde non debent nos statim culpare qui illud ipsum notauerint. Consulto enim foecimus quod hic Ptholomeum, alibi cartas marinas sequuti sumus.

All that has been said by way of introduction to cosmography will be sufficient, if we merely advise you that in designing the sheets of our world-map we have not followed Ptolemy in every respect, particularly as regards the new lands, where on nautical charts we observe that the equator is placed otherwise than Ptolemy represented it. Therefore those who notice this ought not to find fault with us, for we have done so purposely, because here we have followed Ptolemy, and elsewhere nautical charts.

So there was some tension between the Ptolemaic and nautical chart models in the 1507 map. In fact, expressions of doubt about or criticism of Ptolemy go back to the first Latin translation of the work, which was made in 1409 by Jacopo Angeli da Scarperia,Footnote 163 who mentions other authors qui et alia quedam habent quae ab auctore hoc Ptolomeo uidentur pretermissa, “who have other things which seem to have been omitted by this author, Ptolemy.”Footnote 164 A manuscript of Ptolemy’s Geography from c. 1436–1455 shows marked influence of nautical charts, using nautical chart data for the coastlines, but Ptolemaic place names in the interior.Footnote 165 Fra Mauro on his world map of c. 1455 notes that Ptolemy’s information about various regions is incomplete, and declines to employ his system of latitude and longitude.Footnote 166 The addition of Tabulae modernae, or modern maps, to both manuscripts and printed editions of Ptolemy represents a profound if unarticulated criticism of Ptolemy’s data,Footnote 167 and such maps existed in the 1486 Ulm edition of Ptolemy, of which Waldseemüller owned a copy.

In 1505, Waldseemüller together with Matthias Ringmann and other colleagues began work on a new edition of Ptolemy’s Geography, which after several long delays was published in 1513. Two years earlier, Bernardus Sylvanus had published an edition of the Geography in Venice.Footnote 168 In his introduction, Sylvanus says that in studying Ptolemy,Footnote 169

Cum Ptolemaeum inter alios geographiae scriptores diligentissime et situs et distantias locorum scripsisse conspicerem admirabar profecto cur illius tabulae paucis admodum in rebus cum nostri temporis navigationibus consentirent: eoque magis admirabar quod Ptolemaeum quoque navigationibus comprimis innixum ea quae scripserit scripsisse arbitrabar.

Although I used to view Ptolemy as having recorded the sites and distances of places more diligently than other writers of geography, I was none the less puzzled as to why his tables agreed in very few instances with the navigations of our times: and I was all the more puzzled because I used to think that Ptolemy too had recorded what he recorded relying on navigations more than anything else.

Sylvanus revised Ptolemy’s maps and data in accordance with recent nautical charts, convincing himself that in doing so he was actually restoring them to what Ptolemy had originally intended. Specifically, he copied the coastlines from nautical charts (where available), but retained the place names and hinterland geographical details of Ptolemy, then extrapolated latitude and longitude values for the new coastlines, and adjusted the data in Ptolemy’s text appropriately.Footnote 170 Thus Sylvanus’s edition clearly shows that nautical charts were seen as superior to then-available Ptolemaic maps at least in some quarters in the early sixteenth century, and from a comment that Waldseemüller makes in the introduction to the index in his edition of Ptolemy, it seems very likely that he had seen Sylvanus’s edition.Footnote 171

On the title page of his 1513 edition of Ptolemy,Footnote 172 Waldseemüller says that it consists of two parts; first the text of the Geography, an index, a brief account of the Greek numbering system, and twenty-seven Ptolemaic maps, and then:

Pars secunda moderniorum lustrationum viginti tabulis veluti supplementum quoddam antiquitatis obsoletae suo loco quae vel abstrusa vel erronea videbantur resolutissime pandit.

The second part, through twenty maps of modern explorations, boldly offers a kind of supplement to obsolete antiquity [i.e. obsolete ancient authors] wherever it seems to be obscure or erroneous.

The separate one-page introduction to the second part of the work discusses how time changes many things, and how the names of many cities and regions are different than what they had been previously—a passage very similar to part of the introductory paragraph on the Carta marina (compare Legend 9.3)Footnote 173:

Ptolemaei Geographiam prima parte clausimus operis: ut incorruptior & selecta stet antiquitas sua. Verum quia temporis lapsus multa quidem labilitate quoque sua indies mutat: plaerisque visus est auctor notabilius a modernioribus deuiasse. Id quod cernere licet in utraque Pannonia, quae nunc Hungaria & Austria vocatur. Et quae regio dum floruit unica appellatione Sarmatia, siue Sauromatia dicebatur: nunc diuisim Poloniam, Russiam, Prussiam, Moscouiam & Lituaniam nominamus. Populorum denique usui placuit transmutatio vocabulorum. Quos enim vetustas Eluetios & Sequanos, nunc vulgo Burgundiones Suitensesque vocamus. Quaedam & ciuitates primitiuis nominibus orbati sunt. Quis enim iuxta Rhenum Flauium, Canodurum, Augustam rauricum, Elcebum & Berthomagum urbes a Ptolemaeo comemoratas digito mostrabit?

We have confined the Geography of Ptolemy to the first part of the work, in order that its antiquity may remain intact and separate. But since the course of time changes many things from day to day as it passes, it has become generally evident that the author deviates notably from those more modern, as may be seen in the two Pannonias, which are now called Hungary and Austria; and the region which was called while it flourished, by the sole appellation of Sarmatia or Sauromatia, we now name in its divisions, Poland, Russia, Prussia, Muscovy and Lithuania. Change in the names of nations has also come into use. For those whom the ancients called Helvetii and Sequani, we now commonly call Burgundians and Swiss. Certain cities, too, have lost their primitive names, for who with his finger will point out on the River Rhine the cities Canodorum, Augusta Rauricum, Elcebus and Berthomagus mentioned by Ptolemy?

He then continuesFootnote 174:

Haec vel his similia non est qui Auctoris imperitiae subscribat. Quin potius hoc Supplemento modernioris lustrationis discat seipsum certius informare. Qua tripartiti orbis explanationem planius ad tempora nostra videbit. Charta autem Marina, quam Hydrographiam vocant, per Admiralem quondam serenissi. Portugaliae regis Ferdinandi, caeteros denique lustratores verissimis peragrationibus lustrata….

These or similar [inaccuracies in place names] let no one attribute to the ignorance of the author [i.e. Ptolemy], but rather from this supplement let him learn to inform himself more accurately about modern explorations, in which he will see an image of the three parts of the world more clearly adapted to our times. Specifically the nautical chart which they call a hydrography, which was surveyed by the very authentic explorations of a former Admiral of Ferdinand, the Most Serene King of Portugal, and of other explorers….

There is a slip of the pen here, as Ferdinand was not king of Portugal, but rather of Aragon, and through his wife, Isabela, of Castile.Footnote 175 The Admiral in question must be Columbus,Footnote 176 but it is misleading to call the map (as a number of scholars have done) “The Admiral’s Map,” implying a particularly close connection with Columbus. Waldseemüller clearly states that the map is based on the discoveries not only of Columbus but also of other explorers. In any case, we see that by 1513 Waldseemüller had realized that Columbus, rather than Vespucci, was the first to reach the New World.

The new world map in the 1513 Ptolemy (Fig. 1.27) serves as an important indicator of the development of Waldseemüller’s thinking about cartography at that time. The title of the map is Orbis Typus Universalis Iuxta Hydrographorum Traditionem, “General Map of the World According to the Tradition of the Hydrographers.” By “hydrographers” Waldseemüller means the makers of nautical charts: the map has a system of rhumb lines like a nautical chart, and no Ptolemaic grid of latitude and longitude, though it does indicate the equator and tropics. Thus the cartographer is clearly proclaiming that a world map “more clearly adapted to our times” must be based on nautical charts, and the depiction of southern Asia shows the influence of the Caverio chart, while the shape of Africa is also clearly based on recent Portuguese cartographic data. Moreover, and this is very important, of the twenty modern charts in the 1513 Ptolemy, all but one are made using a nautical chart projection, rather than one of Ptolemy’s projections—a strong confirmation of Waldseemüller’s recognition of the value of nautical cartography.Footnote 177

Fig. 1.27
figure 27

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

“Modern” world map by Waldseemüller, the so-called “Admiral’s Map”, in the 1513 edition of Ptolemy’s Geography. Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collection Division, Rosenwald Collection 624.

At the same time, even while Waldseemüller proclaims that his new world map in the 1513 Ptolemy is based on nautical cartography, certain elements of the map do not derive from that genre: his depiction of Scandinavia and the sweeping rounded coast of eastern Asia clearly derive from one of the world maps by Henricus Martellus (Fig. 1.28).Footnote 178 Waldseemüller had based his 1507 map on a large world map by Martellus similar to that at Yale, so the elements from Martellus in this new world map in the 1513 Ptolemy show that in some ways Waldseemüller was still holding onto this older style of cartography.

Fig. 1.28
figure 28

World map by Henricus Martellus in a manuscript of his Insularium illustratum, c. 1490. British Library, Add. MS 15760, ff. 68v–69r. © The British Library Board

The 1513 Ptolemy shows Waldseemüller at a point of transition. Certainly he would not have devoted the time and energy to creating a new edition of Ptolemy if he did not believe in the value of Ptolemaic geography and cartography. The elements of Ptolemy and Martellus in his new world map also reflect that belief. But his twenty modern maps in the book,Footnote 179 almost as many as Ptolemy’s twenty-seven, and all but one of which are made according to the principles of nautical charts, constitute a cartographic parallel universe to Ptolemy’s. Further, his declarations about the value of nautical charts clearly indicate that if one has to choose a cartographic system for a modern world map, it will be that of nautical charts—manifestly anticipating the purer expression of that philosophy in the Carta marina.

1.7 The Cutting of the Woodblocks for the Carta Marina

Careful examination of the sheets of the Carta marina shows that multiple artisans were involved in cutting the woodblocks, and also a lack of close coordination among those workers. This contrasts with the situation with Waldseemüller’s 1507 map, where the signs of different hands and of lack of coordination between those cutting adjacent blocks are more subtle. Illustrations supporting the points made in the following paragraphs can be found in Fig. 1.4, of the whole Carta marina, and in the plates of each sheet of the map below at the beginning of the relevant sections of the transcription.

On the Carta marina there are significant differences of style in the rendering of the wind-heads and associated decorations in the map’s margins. For example, the lines representing the wind blown by two of the wind-heads in the margin of sheet 9, in the lower left corner of the map, cross the border into the map proper, but this is not the case on the other sheets. The margins of some of the sheets have stars as part of their decoration (1, 2, 4, 8, and 12), while the others do not; the styles of rendering the clouds varies, with those in the border of sheet 9 being particularly puffy; and the styles of drawing the heads themselves are inconsistent, with those in the border of sheet 12 being more stern in appearance, for example.

The style of rendering the oceans also varies from sheet to sheet. On sheet 1 in the upper left corner of the map the texture of the surface of the water is intermittently depicted, and some clouds are shown above the water, but the ocean on the adjacent sheet 2 has neither of these features—the difference is quite dramatic. On sheet 10 the block cutter gives some texture to the surface of the water, and shows a few clouds (differently than in sheet 1), and both sheet 6 above it, and sheet 11 to its right, have notably more plain styles of rendering the ocean.

The vast majority of the cartouches on the map are simple frames; a few have small geometrical decorations at their tops or sides, namely those on sheet 2 by the southern tip of Greenland, on sheet 6 by the Canary Islands, on sheet 7 off the coast from Mogadishu, on sheet 10 off the coast of Brazil, and on sheet 12 the large cartouche east of Java. And two other cartouches have very elaborate artistic decoration: the large cartouche on sheet 9 is embellished with vegetal motifs, knots, scrollwork, and two dragons; and the small cartouche at the right edge of sheet 12 with vegetal motifs and knots.

The block cutters also rendered differently the very simple compass roses at the nodes of the rhumb line network. These compass roses consist of two concentric circles and pointers to the north and east. On sheet 10 they are small and there is very little gap between the two circles, while on sheet 6 directly above they are larger and have a larger gap between their circles. These many stylistic differences among the sheets of the Carta marina demonstrate clearly that multiple block cutters were working on the map.

There are additional differneces between the sheets that point not so much to differences of style between the block cutters as to a lack of coordination among them. The most egregious example is found in the scale of latitude at the left-hand edge of the map, which runs down sheet 1 and sheet 5, but is not continued on sheet 9. Also on sheet 9, it is surprising that the decorative cartouche is cut off by the right-hand edge of the sheet—this sheet shows the most differences from its neighbors of any on the map, and is quite problematic. In addition, there are a few cases of rivers and mountain ranges that are discontinuous from one sheet to another, for example the mountains in Africa just north of the equator at the left edge of sheet 7 that do not continue onto sheet 6. Mention should also be made of the mountain range that extends from sheet 4 in India south onto sheet 8: it consists of sharp peaks north of that point, and rounded peaks south of that point.

What emerges from this examination of the details of the map is the fact that the production of the Carta marina was chaotic, with inadequate coordination among the artisans cutting the blocks for the map. Was the problem that the cutting was done hastily? Or could it have been the opposite, that the production was drawn out due to lack of funds (for example), and that the different blocks were cut at different times, and that was what reduced the consistency among them? In Legend 9.1 Waldseemüller offers thanks to Hugues des Hazards, Bishop of Toul from 1506 to 1517, presumably for his financial contribution to the production of the Carta marina, but this could have been funds that allowed the project to be brought to completion after a period of difficulties. Thus it does not seem possible to know the nature of the difficulties in the production of the Carta marina without additional evidence, but the inconsistencies among the sheets of the map show that it was indeed a challenging process.

1.8 Evidence for the Diffusion of the Carta Marina

Hildegard Binder Johnson has argued that the Carta marina was never published or sold, and that the only surviving copy was not part of the map’s print run, but rather a special proof printingFootnote 180; to my knowledge, no evidence to the contrary has been presented by other scholars.

The fact that only one exemplar each of Waldseemüller’s 1507 and 1516 maps survives has been used to raise questions about the degree to which both maps were diffused. But this fact does not tell at all against the maps’ diffusion: wall maps are notorious for their low survival rates, and there are many sixteenth-century printed maps, both wall maps and in smaller formats, that do not survive at all, or survive in only one or two exemplars. Such maps include:

This list might very easily be expanded, so it is not at all unusual that Waldseemüller’s two wall maps survive in only one exemplar each, and the fact that more exemplars do not survive cannot be adduced as evidence of a small print run or low diffusion.

The main difficulty in finding good evidence for the dissemination of Waldseemüller’s Carta marina is distinguishing between its influence, and the influence of its re-edition by Lorenz Fries.Footnote 201 In 1525, Fries and the publisher Johann Grüninger produced a new version of the map, on a somewhat reduced scale (1876 × 1031 mm, or 74 × 40.6 inches, versus 2330 × 1280 mm, or 91.7 × 50.4 inches for Waldseemüller’s map), with most of the legends translated into German, and accompanied by a booklet with more detailed descriptions of various parts of the world than there was room for on the map itself.Footnote 202 The booklet that Fries wrote is titled Uslegung der mercarthen oder Charta Marina (Explanation of the Sea Chart or Carta marina), and was published by Grüninger in Strasbourg in 1525.Footnote 203 No copy of the 1525 edition of Fries’s Carta marina is extant, but single copies of two later editions do survive: one of the 1530 edition in Munich in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Mapp. I,9m-1),Footnote 204 and one of the 1531 edition in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, in the Museum zu Allerheiligen (Inv. 6102), on which the legends are in Latin.Footnote 205

While it may well be true that the copy of Waldseemüller’s Carta marina now in the Library of Congress was specially printed, and while the existence of Fries’s re-edition makes it challenging to demonstrate the diffusion of Waldseemüller’s map rather than of Fries’s, there is in fact good evidence that the 1516 map was published and disseminated.Footnote 206 The Huntington Library in San Marino, California, has a manuscript atlas of nautical charts known as the Vallard Atlas, made in the Dieppe region of France in approximately 1547,Footnote 207 a product of the so-called Dieppe School of cartography.Footnote 208 A study of the images in this atlas makes it clear that the cartographer had both Waldseemüller’s Carta marina and the later edition by Fries in his workshop. The image in the Vallard Atlas of the King of France riding a sea monster south of Africa (Fig. 1.29) is clearly copied from the image on Fries’s map (Fig. 1.30), and not from Waldseemüller’s (Fig. 1.7). But there are also images that prove that the creator of the atlas had a copy of Waldseemüller’s Carta marina. The image of Mecca in the atlas (Fig. 1.31) is strikingly similar to that on Waldseemüller’s map (Fig. 1.17), and it is essentially impossible that the cartographer would have painted an image of Mecca so much like Waldseemüller’s if he had been working from the simpler image on Fries’s map (Fig. 1.32). As shown above, Waldseemüller copied his image of Mecca from the image of Medina in the 1515 illustrated edition of Varthema. Although a detailed image of the city very similar to Waldseemüller’s was thus in theory available to the maker of the Vallard Atlas independently of Waldseemüller’s map, it is all but inconceivable that the cartographer of the atlas would have consulted Fries’s Carta marina and then the 1515 edition of Varthema, and yet not have followed the 1515 book in using the image for Medina, rather than Mecca. So the image of Mecca in the Vallard Atlas is indeed good evidence of the diffusion and influence of Waldseemüller’s Carta marina.

Fig. 1.29
figure 29

Courtesy of the Huntington Library

Detail of the King of France riding a sea monster south of Africa from the Vallard Atlas. San Marino, California, Huntington Library, MS HM 29, f. 5.

Fig. 1.30
figure 30

Courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

King Manuel of Portugal riding a sea monster south of Africa on Laurent Fries’s Carta marina of 1530. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Mapp. I,9m-1.

Fig. 1.31
figure 31

Courtesy of the Huntington Library

Detail of Mecca from the Vallard Atlas. San Marino, California, Huntington Library, MS HM 29, f. 4.

Fig. 1.32
figure 32

Courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Mecca on Laurent Fries’s Carta marina of 1530. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Mapp. I,9m-1.

There is also strong evidence that the cartographer of the Vallard Atlas used Waldseemüller’s Carta marina in his depiction of the Indian Ocean. Specifically, on the third map in the atlas there is a scene of cannibal butchery on lille de geans or the Island of GiantsFootnote 209: a man who looks European holds a large cleaver and is chopping up a human body that is laid out on a butcher’s table, with a small conduit to drain the blood into a bucket below (Fig. 1.33). This scene is not similar to the cannibalistic scene on the island of Java on Fries’s Carta marina: that scene is much more complex, as Fries has added a woman and a baby, the woman holding a plate for the meat; the stance of the man with the cleaver is different, the body’s head is on the ground, the bucket for the blood is off to the side rather than under the table, and there is no sign of the conduit (Fig. 1.34). But the scene in the Vallard Atlas is very similar to Waldseemüller’s on Java: the stance and arm positions of the man with the cleaver are the same, and both tables have the conduit and the bucket for blood beneath them (Fig. 1.35).Footnote 210 Again, it is inconceivable that the cartographer of the Vallard Atlas could have arrived at an image so similar to Waldseemüller’s if he were only working from Fries’s map.

Fig. 1.33
figure 33

Courtesy of the Huntington Library

Cannibal butchery on lille de geans or the Island of Giants from the Vallard Atlas. San Marino, California, Huntington Library, MS HM 29, f. 3.

Fig. 1.34
figure 34

Courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

The cannibalistic scene on the island of Java on Laurent Fries’s Carta marina of 1530. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Mapp. I,9m-1.

Fig. 1.35
figure 35

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The cannibalistic scene on the island of Java on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina (sheet 12).

There is additional corroboratory evidence in Northern Europe that the maker of the Vallard Atlas used of Waldseemüller’s Carta marina as a source. As we saw earlier, Waldseemüller portrays the walrus as a creature that looks very much like an elephant (see Fig. 1.10). Lorenz Fries copies this image in the 1522 edition of Ptolemy in the Tabula moderna Gronlandie et Rusie and also in his version of the Carta marina (1530, 1531), and there is a similar image in the Vallard Atlas in the map of Western Europe and the Mediterranean (ff. 7v–8r). But again, only Waldseemüller’s map can have been the source. The walrus in the 1522 Ptolemy has a long elephantine trunk, which the image on the Vallard Atlas does not have; the image on Fries’s Carta marina is much more similar to that on the Vallard Atlas, but it shows the elephant’s far ear sticking up above the elephant’s head to some extent, which is the case on Waldseemüller’s map, but not on Fries’s.

There is also good evidence that Waldseemüller’s Carta marina was available to the sixteenth-century Norman cartographer Pierre Desceliers. Elsewhere I have argued that Desceliers copied his image of the former Hindu practice of suttee or sati (in which a widow threw herself on her husband’s funeral pyre) on his 1546 world map from Waldseemüller’s Carta marina, rather than from the Tabula moderna Indiae in Fries’ 1522 Ptolemy or from Fries’ edition of the Carta marina.Footnote 211 It also seems very likely that Desceliers copied his image of Jean-François de La Rocque de Roberval’s 1542 settlement in Canada from Waldseemüller’s image of Mecca,Footnote 212 discussed just above (see Fig. 1.17), but it is at least possible that Desceliers copied his image from that of Mecca in the Vallard Atlas (see Fig. 1.31), which was made three years before his 1550 map.

There is one other very clear piece of evidence confirming that Waldseemüller’s Carta marina was disseminated: Abraham Ortelius cites the map as a source in his Theatrum orbis terrarum of 1570. In his Catalogus auctorum tabularum geographicarum (Catalog of mapmakers), on p. Cii, Ortelius writes:

Martinus Ilacomilus Friburgensis, Europam; eam alicubi in Germania impressam habemus.

Martinus Waldseemuller, Universalem navigatoriam (quam Marinam vulgo appellant) in Germania editam. Puto hunc eundem esse cum Ilacomilo praedicto.

Martin Ilacomylus of Freigburg, a map of Europe; we have a copy printed somewhere in Germany.Footnote 213

Martin Waldseemüller, Universal nautical chart (which is commonly called a marine chart) published in Germany. I think that this cartographer is the same as the Ilacomylus just mentioned.

This passage is the clearest possible corroboration that the Carta marina did in fact circulate and influence other cartographers, and not just in the Dieppe region.

However, some other claims that Waldseemüller’s Carta marina influenced later globes and maps, and thus implicitly must have been well diffused, cannot be accepted as proven, largely because of the difficulty presented in distinguishing between the influence of Waldseemüller’s map and Fries’s. It has been asserted that Gerard Mercator used Waldseemüller’s Carta marina as a source in his depiction of southern Africa on his terrestrial globe of 1541,Footnote 214 but without any attempt to determine whether the influence was from Waldseemüller’s Carta marina or from Fries’s.Footnote 215 In fact the place names in southern Africa are very similar on Waldseemüller’s map and Fries’s,Footnote 216 so the similarities between Mercator’s globe and Waldseemüller’s map cannot be taken as providing additional evidence that the 1516 map was disseminated.

Fischer and von Wieser, in their introduction to their facsimile edition of Waldseemüller’s 1507 and 1516 maps, indicate that Gerard Mercator borrowed from Waldseemüller’s Carta marina in creating his famous 1569 world map,Footnote 217 particularly in his legends in India and the topography and hydrography of southern Africa.Footnote 218 But they do not provide details, and in fact after examining the legends on the 1516 and 1569 maps,Footnote 219 I find a close correspondence in only one place, in the legends describing the opossum in South America—and Mercator could have borrowed that legend from the 1531 (Latin) edition of Fries’s Carta marina, where it is the same as on Waldseemüller’s Carta marina. With regard to southern Africa, as just mentioned, the place names in this region are very similar on Waldseemüller’s map and Fries’s, so the very similar place names on Mercator’s 1569 map and Waldseemüller’s Carta marina do not establish that Waldseemüller’s map reached Mercator.Footnote 220

Another aspect of the diffusion of Waldseemüller’s Carta marina is its copying by Lorenz Fries in his editions of 1525, 1530, and 1531, which have been mentioned several times now. It is unlikely that Fries made use of Johann Schöner’s exemplar of the map—the only one that now surives—as the model for his maps, so his editions suggest the existence of at least one other exemplar of Waldseemüller’s Carta marina. As Fries’s maps are smaller than Waldseemüller’s, they contain fewer legends and illustrations; they are also of a substantially lower artistic quality than Waldseemüller’s map,Footnote 221 and in fact introduce a number of errors. But as the historian Henry Bruman has noted, the Fries-Grüninger Carta marina had a rather different aim than Waldseemüller’s map. Waldseemüller aimed to bring the latest geographical scholarship to a broad audience, while the Fries-Grüninger map was “an object of popularization and commerce, merchandised to a wide public,” designed “to disseminate reasonably recent, reasonably accurate information about different parts of the world in a picturesque, decorative way.”Footnote 222 On the 1530 edition of the map, and presumably in the lost 1525 edition as well, most of the legends are translated into German—an effort at the democratization of cartographic knowledge that is a logical step forward from Waldseemüller’s own Carta marina, itself a democratization of an expensive manuscript nautical chart. But in the 1531 edition, the legends are in Latin again, so either the edition in German was not well received, or the publishers wanted to sell a new version of the map to scholars.

Waldseemüller’s Carta marina also influenced another early sixteenth-century cartographer, a topic that has been little discussed by map historians, and this influence explains some features of the surviving copy of the Carta marina. As mentioned above, it was Johann Schöner who preserved the only surviving copies of Waldseemüller’s 1507 and 1516 maps. Schöner’s printed globe of 1515 was heavily influenced by Waldseemüller’s 1507 map,Footnote 223 and his magnificent but largely unstudied manuscript globe of 1520Footnote 224 borrows a number of legends from the Carta marina.Footnote 225

The copy of the Carta marina that Schöner preserved has a number of corrections made by hand, in accordance with the list of corrections that was printed on the lower of two escutcheons in the southwest corner of the map, but is now covered by a small piece of paper (Legend 9.2).Footnote 226 Thus Schöner seems to have taken care that the map was as correct as possible. The grid of red parallels and meridians drawn on much of the map bespeaks careful study and analysis of the map’s geography, no doubt by Schöner himself.Footnote 227 Moreover, stored in the Schöner Sammelband together with the twelve printed sheets of the Carta marina was a careful manuscript copy that Schöner made of sheet 6 of the map (here labeled sheet 6A), which covers western Africa. The existence of this manuscript copy has not been previously explained, but we can be quite certain that it was made as part of Schöner’s preparations for using data from the Carta marina on his 1520 globe.Footnote 228 This is confirmed by a difference between the printed sheet 6 and manuscript sheet 6A: on the printed sheet no legend appears in the Gulf of Guinea, but on the manuscript sheet there is a legend describing the islands in the São Tomé group (see Legend 6A.1)—and there is a similar legend in the same location on Schöner’s 1520 globe.

We have few records that tell us much about Martin Waldseemüller, but his two multi-sheet world maps shed important light on his character. The maps are products of a cartographer with a great creative vision, and a great ambition to disseminate the latest cartographic knowledge to scholars throughout Europe. The fact that he and his colleagues were able to gather in the small town of Saint-Dié the diverse array of cartographic and geographic information necessary to produce these maps—rare manuscript maps, codices of Ptolemy’s Geography, recent travel narratives, images of exotic animals—testifies to a remarkable drive and experience in research. Waldseemüller’s willingness to cast aside all of the work that had gone into his 1507 map, and to create less than a decade later a new world map based on a new cartographic philosophy and almost entirely new sources, demonstrates a wonderful open-mindedness, energy, and thirst for knowledge. His Carta marina represents the culmination of more than a decade of thought about how the world should be mapped, and much painstaking research into the latest texts and images that could be used to create a rich and detailed image of the earth as it was known and traveled by human beings.