The discovery of a 500-year-old map in a German university library just a few days ago ended up becoming the oldest -- and the first -- global sketch to mention the name "America."
Experts assumed that there were only four copies of German cartographer Martin Waldseemueller's maps, but the discovery of a fifth at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich is a bombshell of sorts. It is believed that Waldseemueller, who died in 1522, produced the map himself.
His global drawings hold major significance. One of the four was sold at an auction for $1 million back in 2005, showcasing just how valuable the maps are in terms of historical value and intrigue. According to the university, the other three are in Minneapolis, Offenburg and in the Bavarian State Library in Munich.
The fifth map was discovered by a bibliographer who was working on revising the library's catalogue. It was apparently "nestled between two printed works on geometry."
"The new find shows the world divided into 12 segments which taper to a point at each end and are printed on a single sheet, which, when folded out, form a small globe, with the three rightmost segments depicting a boomerang-shaped territory named America," reports the Telegraph.
A web site setup by the university to offer the public a closer look at the map explains, in detail, more about the discovery:
The “new” Munich copy of the segmented map itself has obviously followed a tortuous course to reach its present haven. And the story of this voyage is at least as fascinating as that of the discovery and exploration of the New World. Its latest chapter began only a few days ago in the Munich University Library. [...] The 19th-century librarians, at any rate, had failed to recognize the significance of Waldseemüller’s map...The first copy of the segmental maps to be discovered only turned up in 1871, in the Hauslab-Liechtenstein Library in Vienna. “And the Munich copy was returned to the obscurity of the stacks.”
But it survived the Second World War unscathed, although the University Library itself was devastated by air raids. In November 1942, large portions of the holdings of older books, including the unassuming volume containing the two geometry treatises, had been transferred to a safer rural location. Stefan Kuttner has ascertained that the book was among the contents of deposit box No. 340, which was first stowed away in Burghausen, and later transported to Niederviehbach near Landshut. The box was returned to Munich in 1955, and provisionally stored in the Northeastern Repository at LMU.
You can read the rest of the history here and check out some of the images and interactives the university created for the general public to view.