Just in time for Independence Day, researchers in Germany have announced the discovery of a fifth copy of the 500-year-old map that is credited with first naming the then-recently discovered New World “America.”
Popularly known as “America’s birth certificate,” the map was drafted by famous cartographer Martin Waldseemueller in 1507; until now it was believed that only four copies existed, and Newser reports that the fifth was found in an old geometry book in Munich.
The BBC reports that the copy will be made available online today in the United States. Of the map, Sven Kuttner of the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich said that “it seems to be a second edition and this is a unique map. Until now, we have no signs for a further map like this.” According to Spiegel, library director Klaus-Rainer Brintzinger characterized the discovery as “sensational.”
Waldseemueller’s portrayal of the North and South American continents isn’t…quite accurate, but the map is noteworthy for its identification of the New World as “America.” Waldseemueller named the new landmass in honor of Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian sailor and explorer whom Waldseemueller erroneously credited with the discovery of the New World.
Of course, Christopher Columbus is usually credited as the first to discover the New World in 1492, though sticklers for historical accuracy might note that he was only the first European to discover the continent, if you don’t count the Viking expeditions five hundred years earlier. The first person to discover the New World was probably an ancestor of one of the people who, you know, lived there when the Europeans showed up.
A much larger copy of Waldseemueller’s map is kept in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented the map as a gift to the United States in 2007 to celebrate the 500 year anniversary of America’s naming.