Friday, August 9, 2019

Where is America?

There has been sufficient misunderstanding of the word “America” in relationship to the location of the Land of Promise and the land promised to Lehi by the Lord, that people have become used to thinking one way while the scriptural record means something else. That is, the scriptural record as well as the early Church leaders in the past used terminology that is no longer the same as it was then.
    As an example, the word “America” to people of this land has come to mean the same as “people of the United States.” However, the word “America” as a location name has a rich and long history dating back to the early 1500s, when it first appeared on a map showing one of the first illustrations of the Western Hemisphere.
Painting of Martin Waldseemüller and his famous map (Universalis Cosmographia)

As we have reported before, when the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller created his monumental 1507 world map, he gave the name “America” after Amerigo Vespucci who made four voyages to the Americas—a name that referred to the entire Western Hemiphere. The entire Western Hemisphere was then called “The Americas,” for centuries—a term, in fact, that is still used today.
    Another example is the word Cosmography: Today it means: “the science that deals with the general features of the universe, including the earth—The branches of cosmography include astronomy, geography, and geology. However, educated readers in 1507 knew that it meant: “the study of the known world and its place in the cosmos” (Toby Lester, “The Waldseemüller Map: Charting the New World,” Smithsonian Magazine, December 2009).
    His 1507 Map has been referred to in various circles as America's birth certificate and for good reason; it is the first document on which the name "America" appears. It is also the first map to depict a separate and full Western Hemisphere and the first map to represent the Pacific Ocean as a separate body of water.
    The map, which revealed new European thinking about the world nearly 500 years ago took nearly century-long to secure for the Library of Congress.
The Map that named America—the entire Western Hemisphere. The word "America" is circled

Martin Waldseemüller, the primary author of the 1507 world map, was a 16th-century scholar, humanist, cleric and cartographer who was part of the small intellectual circle known as the Gymnasium Vosagense, in Saint-Dié, France. The word gymnasium was both a training facility as well as a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. Waldseemüller was born near Freiburg, Germany, sometime in the 1470s and died in the canon house at Saint-Dié in 1522. During his lifetime he devoted much of his time to cartographic ventures, including, in the spring 1507, the famous world map, a set of globe gores (for a globe with a three-inch diameter), and the "Cosmographiae Introductio" (a book to accompany the map). He also prepared the 1513 edition of the Ptolemy "Geographiae"; the "Carta Marina," a large world map, in 1516; and a smaller world map in the 1515 edition of "Margarita Philosophica Nova."
    Waldseemüller’s wall map consists of twelve sections printed from woodcuts measuring 18 by 24.5 inches. Each section is one of four horizontally and three vertically, when assembled. The map uses a modified Ptolemaic map projection with curved meridians to depict the entire surface of the Earth. In the upper-mid part of the main map there is inset another, miniature world map representing to some extent an alternative view of the world.
    Thus, in a remote part of northeast France, was born the famous 1507 world map, whose full title is "Universalis cosmographia secunda Ptholemei traditionem et Americi Vespucci aliorum que lustrationes" ("A drawing of the whole earth following the tradition of Ptolemy and the travels of Amerigo Vespucci and others"). That map, printed on 12 separate sheets, each 18-by-24-inches, from wood block plates, measured more than 4 feet by 8 feet in dimension when assembled.
The Waldseemüller world map in the form of a set of gores for a globe, 1507

The large map is an early 16th-century masterpiece, containing a full map of the world, two inset maps showing separately the Western and Eastern Hemispheres, illustrations of Ptolemy and Vespucci, images of the various winds, and extensive explanatory notes about selected regions of the world. Waldseemüller's map created quite a stir in Europe, since its findings departed considerably from the accepted knowledge of the world at that time, which was based on the second century A.D. work of the Greek geographer, Claudius Ptolemy. His map represented a bold statement that rationalized the modern world in light of the exciting news arriving in Europe as a result of explorations across the Atlantic Ocean or down the African coast, which were sponsored by Spain, Portugal and others. It created considerable debate in Europe regarding its conclusions that an unknown continent (unknown, at least, to Europeans and others in the Eastern Hemisphere) existed between two huge bodies of water, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and was separated from the classical world of Ptolemy, which had been confined to the continents of Europe, Africa and Asia.
    While it was suggested that Waldseemüller incorrectly dismissed Christopher Columbus' great achievement in history by the selection of the name "America" for the Western Hemisphere, it is evident that the information that Waldseemüller and his colleagues had at their disposal recognized Columbus' previous voyages of exploration and discovery. The information contained in the version of Vespucci’s discoveries, had of course, influenced the details on their maps. However, the group also had acquired a recent French translation of the important work "Mundus Novus," Amerigo Vespucci's letter detailing his purported four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean to America between 1497 and 1504. In that work, Vespucci concluded that the lands reached by Columbus in 1492 and explored by Columbus and others over the ensuing two decades were indeed a segment of the world, a new continent, unknown to Europe. Because of Vespucci's recognition of that startling revelation, he was honored with the use of his name for the newly discovered continent.
    Even all those documents, however did not fully explain how Waldseemüller came to imagine the Pacific Ocean. That would have required further, now undocumented, information—or a feat of inference unmatched by any other cartographer of his time.
Closeup of the Waldseemüller wall map showing “America.”

It is remarkable that the entire Western Hemisphere was named for a living person since Vespucci did not die until 1512. With regard to Columbus' exploits after 1492, his various explorations between 1492 and 1504, the 1507 map clearly denotes Columbus' explorations in the West Indies as well as the Spanish monarchs' sponsorship of those and subsequent voyages of exploration. Later cartographic contributions by Johannes Schöner in 1515 and by Peter Apian in 1520, both repeated the use of the name "America" for the Western Hemisphere, and that name then became part of accepted usage on all later maps. Today, the 1507 world map, the only surviving copy of the map, is now the centerpiece of the outstanding cartographic collections of the Geography and Map Division in the Library of Congress in the Thomas Jefferson Building.
    As can be seen, America then is the entire Western Hemisphere, or the entire continent known as the Americas before the United States Congress claimed a division between North and South America due to World War II and significant connected factors involved in pursuing that war.

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