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Million Dollar Map That Named America Sold at Christie's

million dollar map

First new map of the world, printed by Martin Waldseemuller in 1507.


LONDON, ENGLAND.- The map responsible for giving America its name sold at Christie's today for £545,600 / $1,002,267 / €811,852, a world record price for any single sheet map at auction. The printed map by Martin Waldseemuller, produced in 1507, is truly groundbreaking. 

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It presents the first use of the word ‘America’, as well as the first ever printed portrayal of the Earth as a globe, the first time that the continents of North and South America had been individually distinguished and the first depiction of a Pacific Ocean. This is one of four examples of this map in existence, and was discovered amongst the collection of a European collector after he read about the subject in a national newspaper. The price realized today represents a world record price for a single-sheet map at auction. It was bought by Charles Frodsham and Co. Ltd. In London - a spokesman for the company said that they were 'over the moon'.

‘This was one of the most exciting discoveries of my career, and represents the pinnacle in the history of map making’, says Tom Lamb, Director of Christie’s Book and Manuscript Department, London. ‘This simple sheet of paper holds so many new and anticipated discoveries, all created with an enormous leap of faith by a venerable Geographer in a small town in Lorraine.’

The Great Age of European Exploration and Discovery lasted from 1492 to 1522. During this period, the greatest explorers from Spain, Italy and Portugal sailed the seas and returned with stories and information about the New World. Although history records that Christopher Columbus had discovered America in 1492, he was convinced that the land mass was Asia. It was another Italian, Amerigo Vespucci, who argued that the new land to the West was a new continent altogether.

Until this map was published, the conception of the world was based on the knowledge of the Ancient Greeks. In 1505, Rene II, the Duke of Lorraine, gathered a group of scholars to the Monastery of Saint Die des Vosges, near Strasbourg, to work on a new map of the world. These scholars, led by Martin Waldseemuller, were provided with a French translation of Vespucci’s voyages that Rene II had received from Lisbon earlier in that year. This account gave them enough material to start to plot a new map to include the New World to the West. In 1507, the scholars published a work titled ‘Cosmographiae Introductio’, which argued the existence of a new land mass to the West. They called this land mass America, after Amerigo Vespucci. Within a month of publishing the book, they produced the first map of the world to include the Americas, an example of which was sold today at Christie's.

This example of the Waldseemuller map was discovered amongst the collection of a European gentleman, who is a keen collector of books and manuscripts. This collector recalls that one morning in February 2003, he was reading his newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee when he noticed an article about Waldseemuller and his map of the world. He instantly recognized the distinctive jagged outline of the map, and recalled seeing something similar in his own collection. After taking the map to his regional Christie’s representative, it was sent to London where book and map specialists confirmed that it was indeed a Waldseemuller map.

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