‘THE EARLIEST OBTAINABLE MAP TO NAME ‘AMERICA” (BURDEN). Peter Apian’s map is a key document in the early mapping of the New World. His reputation and use of ‘America’ brought the name into general acceptance. It was Martin Waldseemüller who first used the name on his famous twelve-sheet wall map of 1507 surviving only in a unique example discovered in 1901, now residing in the Library of Congress (acquired for $10,000,000 in 2003). He applied the name in recognition of Amerigo Vespucci’s perceived achievements. Shortly after these became suspect in his eyes and he did not use the appellation on the world or America maps in his Geographi[a]e atlas of 1513. It was the publication of this Apian map which broadened the use of the name, one which remained in the public consciousness. ‘Until the discovery of that map [Waldseemüller, 1507] it was believed to have been the first mappamundi to use the word ‘America’ (Kish).
Peter Apian (1495-1552) was born in Leisnig, Saxony and attended the University of Leipzig in 1518. He was at the University of Vienna by 1520 which had a reputation for mathematics. He quickly gained a reputation despite his youth. The Viennese bookseller Lucas Atlantse financed the publication of and edition of Solinus’ Polyhistor written and edited by Johann Kamers. Apian was approached to produce a world map, his first published work. He drew upon the Waldseemüller wall map of 1507 and until 1901 was the only evidence of how it appeared. This however is debated by Karrow who believes that Laurent Fries, then in Strasbourg, drew the map. The initials of Fries appear lower right and lower left is found those of Kamers with the monogram of Atlantse above.
Interstingly Laurent Fries would also utilise the earlier Waldseemüller maps from the Geographi[a]e of 1513 for his edition of 1522 in which he also used ‘America’ in his world map. The issue would rumble on for several more years. The last two editions of the Fries work in 1535 and 1541 contained text on the verso of the America map ‘against the use of the name ‘America’ for the New World: ‘Toto itaque, quod ajunt, aberrant coelo qui hanc continentem Americam nuncupari contendunt, cum Americus multo post Columbum eandem terram adierit, nec cum Hispanis ille, sed cum Portugallensibus, ut suas merces commutaret, eo se contulit.’ (Burden).
There are some differences with the Waldseemüller notably in the depiction of South America. Here Apian clearly illustrates a southern tip to the continent which is truncated in Waldseemüller. Interestingly Magellan had just left on his famous voyage which would pass through the strait named after him. What appears to be a relatively late insertion on the map is a reference to the Portuguese presence at Calicut in 1516. Shirley comments that ‘the twelve windheads and the decorative surround to the map are robust examples of woodcut work’.
The map is also found in an edition of Pomponius Mela’s ‘De Situ Orbis’, 1522, published in Basel, the two works often found bound together. Drawing on the data reported by McGuirk the fact that this example is a nice dark impression and bears the early watermark chapeau, it is a fair conclusion that this is a 1520 example. In 1524 Apian would publish the ‘Cosmographia’ which was republished many times during the sixteenth century and from 1544 most editions would contain a reduced version of this map.
Provenance: private English collection since c.1985. Burden (1996) pp. xxiv-xxv, no. 4; Harrisse (1892) pp. 126, 135 & 150; Karrow (1993) pp. 49-50, 568-70; Kish (1965); McGuirk (2010) ‘The Forgotten “First Map with the Name of AMERICA’ (the 1520 Apianus World Map), this example item 31 in the census; History, Census and Comparison with the Waldseemüller 1507 World Map)’; Nordenskiöld (1889) p. 99; Shirley (1984) nos. 26, 45 & 82; Suárez (1992) no. 13; Tooley (1999-2004); Wagner (1937) no. IV.