The original of the first map using the name ‘America’ sits in The Library of Congress, but a copy was found tucked away, perhaps for centuries, and is more than 500 years old.

It was a stroke of good luck or simply meant to be, but a copy of a map was recently found, one which was originally drawn in 1507, and it was the first use of the name America.

The map is one of the first which used the name ‘America’ for a landmass situated between Europe and Asia. CNN writes, cartographer Martin Waldseemüller created the map in 1507. It was Waldseemüller who chose the designation of America for the strip of land which was somewhat banana shaped. Waldseemüller believed America had initially been discovered by Amerigo Vespucci, and chose the name on that basis.

A staff bibliographer at Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) found the map while performing a routine revision of the catalogs at the university library, the map being wedged between two 16th century volumes on geometry.

The map which was newly found, is one of only five known copies to exist, with the others being in Offenburg, the Bavarian State Library in Munich, one is in Minneapolis and one which was sold to a private collection.

The map in question, was part of the repository at the library which had been transferred from the University to a rural location in November, 1942 for safeguarding, the University Library, according to the University website, was severely damaged by Allied Forces bombing sorties.

The Curator of the Library’s Department of Early Printed Books, Stefan Kuttner, notes that the map in question is not a precise duplicate of the other four versions, which were printed using wood blocks.

The most recent find has significant differences, which make it unique. Because of the unique watermark impression, Kuttner suggests;

“this version may have been printed at some time after the first edition of 1507, somewhere in Alsace.”

Kuttner, on the University website, remarked that the origins of the copy are not known, but offered two possibilities, It could be part of the Cosmographiae Introductio which the University has, or it may be part of a collection from the Monastery Library in Oberalteich.

The Cosmographiae Introductio was part of a collection owned by Heinrich Loriti Glareanus (1488 – 1563), a Swiss humanist and polymath. A Bishop of Augsburg, Johann Egolph von Knöringen (1537 – 1575) acquired the entire collection of Glareanus while still a student, and later stipulated in his will, that his entire library of more than 6,000 volumes be given to the precursor of the Munich University Library.

However the map got from Martin Waldseemüller to the library stacks in Munich, it is certainly a miracle that it escaped through so many difficult times, including two world wars, without being damaged or completely lost.

One of the original maps drawn by Waldseemüller was presented to The Library of Congress in 2007, when the map would have been exactly 500 years old, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel referred to the map as,

“a wonderful token of the particularly close ties of friendship between Germany and America.”

Happy Birthday America.