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500-year-old Map Burns Christopher Columbus
Plus: see America mapped for the first time

The new find shows the world divided into 12 segments which taper to a point at each end and are printed on a single sheet, which, when folded out, form a small globe

A 500-year-old map, known as ‘America’s birth certificate’ has been uncovered by chance, wedged inside a totally unrelated 19th century book in Germany. The 38 centimeter by 27.5 centimeter sheet is one of only five known copies of the map by master cartographer Martin Waldseemueller and can be folded to clearly resemble a globe.

The map, which shows America marked for the first time, was only thought to have four copies, but staff at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University made the unexpected find on Tuesday, just before Independence Day.

The groundbreaking map is also political as it’s the first to name America in honour of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci and not Christopher Columbus (oh, snap). Waldseemueller believed Vespucci, rather than Columbus, was the first European to discover America and named the continent after him.

The newly discovered map is smaller than the version which is held in the U.S. capital and dates from 1507 and is divided into 12 segments which taper to a point at each end, which when folded together form a small globe.

America, of course, had not been properly explored and mapped in the 16th century and the continents of North and South America appear as a truncated boomerang shaped island.

(The original 1507 map by master cartographer Martin Waldseemueller which resides in the U.S. Library of Congress)                                                        Credit: Getty

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Síle Cleary is a regular contributor to Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter at @silecleary.

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