The depiction of America on Martin Waldseemüller’s world map from 1507—Humanistic geography in the service of political propaganda

Cogent Arts & Humanities. 2016;3(1) DOI 10.1080/23311983.2016.1152785


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Journal Title: Cogent Arts & Humanities

ISSN: 2331-1983 (Online)

Publisher: Taylor & Francis Group

LCC Subject Category: Fine Arts: Arts in general | General Works: History of scholarship and learning. The humanities

Country of publisher: United Kingdom

Language of fulltext: English

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Martin Lehmann (Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat Freiburg)


Blind peer review

Editorial Board

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Time From Submission to Publication: 11 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

This paper demonstrates that the depiction of America on Waldseemüller’s world map of 1507, regardless of its apparently modern depiction, was not a rendering based primarily on geographical knowledge of new discoveries across the Atlantic Ocean. On the contrary, this depiction of America should instead be considered to have been much more influenced by the extremely powerful political and economic interests of the Portuguese Crown and the southern German-trading houses in the impending conflict with the Spanish royal family over supremacy in the spice trade with India. After having demonstrated that this map’s depiction of America, which based on an insular conception, neither corresponded to contemporary ideas nor was verifiable in any way at the beginning of the sixteenth century in the European cultural sphere, the map itself will serve—in a way that has not yet been employed in research related to Waldseemüller’s world map—to illustrate the extent to which this supposedly groundbreaking depiction was capable of serving the political and economic interests of the Portuguese and those of the southern German merchant houses in equal measure.