When Was the name of “America” used on the World Map?

On April 25, 1507, Martin Waldseemüller (ca. 1470-ca. 1518), was the first to suggest that the newly discovered landmass in the New World should be called America.

It was in fact in South America. The last known copy of this magnificent world map is in the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.

Waldseemüller was born at Radolfzell on the Bodensee and matriculated at the University of Freiburg in 1490. Much of Waldseemüller’s early life is obscure.

The America of Waldseemüller. Copyright © Geographic Guide – Geography and History.

He first comes to light as a member of the group of humanist scholars and geographers which thrived at the court of Duke René II of Lorraine and influenced later-16th-century German interest in geography. News of the discoveries in the New World traveled quickly to transalpine Europe, and Alsace and Lorraine soon became important centers of interest and study in the discoveries and their consequences.

When copies of the letters of Amerigo Vespucci arrived at the court, they generated even more interest in the New World, and Waldseemüller published a volume called Cosmographiae introductio, which contained a description of the New World as well as a translation of Vespucci’s letters. Seeking a name for the new lands, Waldseemüller (who had not then heard of Christopher Columbus) suggested that they be called America, after Vespucci.

Although Waldseemüller later suggested a revision when he became aware of Columbus’s role in the discoveries, his original suggestion had become too popular.

America remained the common designation for the new continents, and Waldseemüller retained the nickname “the godfather of America.”


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