A New Map of the World
Detail from the Waldeseemuller map, 1507.

Detail from the Waldeseemuller map, 1507.

Columbus sailed first to the New World, but Amerigo Vespucci got his name on the territory. America.

The map that first named America, in 1507, now sits in the Library of Congress. “America’s birth certificate” it’s been called.

But the Waldseemüller map — dug out of a German castle a hundred years ago — is much more than that. It’s the record of a “big bang” moment in human understanding of the shape of the world — from the explorer’s salty compass to the cosmic vision of Copernicus.

This hour, On Point: The incredible story of the map that gave America its name.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Toby Lester, contributing editor at The Atlantic and author of “The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name.”

Read the first chapter of “The Fourth Part of the World.”

View an interactive version of the 1507 Waldseemüller map.

Michael Dine, professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He’s author of “Supersymmetry and String Theory, Beyond the Standard Model.”

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