Oceanus Occidentalis Terra Nova (The Western Ocean and the New World)
This hand-coloured woodcut map of the New World is a later version of the first edition of 1513, also in the museum collection, known as ‘The Admiral’s Map’ – the Admiral being Christopher Columbus (c.Full description »
This hand-coloured woodcut map of the New World is a later version of the first edition of 1513, also in the museum collection, known as ‘The Admiral’s Map’ – the Admiral being Christopher Columbus (c.1451–1506). The inscription above the words Terra Nova reads: ‘This land with the adjacent islands was discovered by Columbus of Genoa under the mandate of the monarchs of Castile.’ If one wonders why Waldseemüller ‘protests too much’, there is a reason: he had earlier attributed the discovery of ‘a fourth part of the Globe’ to Amerigo Vespucci, whose letters about his travels had been published in Waldseemüller’s 'Cosmographiae Introductio' of 1507. Indeed, Waldseemüller coined the name ‘America’ for the new continent and included it on his huge wall map of the world made in the same year. Despite Waldseemüller’s efforts to undo his mistake, the name ‘America’ stuck. Ironically, even the picture of cannibals and an opossum depicted here is based on Vespucci’s descriptions. The upper inscription also states that ‘Spagnola’ (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) was discovered by Columbus and that ‘the natives there eat large serpents, and, instead of bread, sweet roots tasting like chestnuts,’ perhaps a reference to potatoes.
On his third voyage, Columbus sailed along the north coast of South America hoping to find a strait that would lead him through to the East Indies. When he discovered the huge freshwater flow of a river (the Orinoco), however, Columbus surmised that this was no island river, but that of a continent, and that that continent must be the Earthly Paradise ‘because all men say that it is at the end of the Orient and that is where we are’.