(Repeats with no changes to text)
* Renaissance cleric first wrote "America" on 1507 map
* Resonance with current climate of "geo-enabled" devices
* Google, Apple, Facebook looking at mapping apps
By Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON, May 18 As online titans compete to
deliver instant maps to smartphones, the Library of Congress in
Washington is focusing attention on an antique "cosmology"
printed in 1507 that serves as America's birth certificate.
The black-and-white map created by Martin Waldseemuller, a
French cleric, was the first time the name America had appeared
on any map.
Waldseemuller was prescient enough to show the Rocky
Mountains and the Pacific Ocean at a time when no one else in
Europe thought they were there.
The map, purchased a decade ago at a cost of $10 million, is
the centerpiece of an exhibit at the Library of Congress running
through June 22 that features a collection of artifacts from
Waldseemuller and his colleagues.
It includes later maps that lose faith in Waldseemuller's
vision of America. In a 1516 world map, the Americas are called
"Terra Ultra Incognita" - a faraway unknown country.
Still, the Library of Congress had pursued Waldseemuller's
mammoth map for more than a century.
It shows two continents across the ocean from Europe, with a
skinny isthmus between them, an embryonic Florida peninsula, a
western mountain range on the northern continent, and on the
southern continent, a clearly lettered name: "America."
These maps are essential for the same reason a smartphone is
better with satellite images of Earth, according to Ralph
Ehrenberg, chief of the library's geography and map division:
people want to know where they came from.
Waldseemuller's maps came at a time of geographic
exploration, technological advance, societal ferment and
expanding communication - a time much like our own, Ehrenberg
said in an interview.
The new way of communication in 1507 was printing with
mechanical type, he said, while "now we have Google Earth, which
is a new way of looking at the world today."
This week, Google unveiled a map application that the search
engine giant said will customize the known world for every user.
This competes with Apple's iMap app and possibly with Facebook,
which is creating a map app of its own, as reported by USA
"We have a universal need to know where we are on the globe
and where we are in the world; it's one of the things that
transcends time and space," said John Hessler, a library map
curator and Waldseemuller expert.
OUT OF THE GEOGRAPHIC COMFORT ZONE
That geographic comfort zone was unsettled in
Waldseemuller's day. His best-known maps were made between 1492,
when Christopher Columbus arrived at what he thought was Asia,
and 1543, when astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus rocked the
Renaissance with his theory that Earth revolved around the Sun,
instead of the other way around.
Waldseemuller chose the name America to honor Florentine
navigator Amerigo Vespucci, who explored the east coast of what
is now known as South America. Because other known continents
had feminine endings in Latin - Africa, Asia and Europa - he
feminized Amerigo to America, said John Hessler, a curator in
the library's geography and map division.
Also on this map, six years before Vasco de Balboa
encountered it and 15 years after Columbus' seminal voyage, is
an ocean east of Asia, now known as the Pacific.
So how did Waldseemuller know? He talked about new
Portuguese sailing charts, and according to one theory, may have
heard the Chinese claim that they had already discovered the
Americas. Hessler discounted this.
"He knows it's a really radical geography," Hessler said. A
map notation reassures viewers that his was an unusual and
forward-looking world view.
Mariners, clerics, scholars and noble folk were the only
map consumers in Waldseemuller's time, and maps were rare
because they had to be laboriously printed. Waldseemuller wrote
that there were 1,000 copies of his 1507 map; the Library of
Congress has the only one known to survive.
Digital technology, satellite navigation and easy data
availability now has made maps ubiquitous, said Joseph Kerski, a
geographer at Environmental Systems Research Institute in
"We're at a moment in time now where all of a sudden
everything we know, everything we touch is being geo-enabled,"
Kerski said by telephone. Still, the role of maps is essentially
While most of Earth's terrain has already been explored,
Kerski said, mapping continues into such diverse areas as social
networks and microbial activity in soil.
"We may not be exploring new lands per se, but we're still
exploring and maps are still powerful, just as they always have
been," the geographer said.
(Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Christopher Wilson)