Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, America: New Copy of Rare American "Birth Certificate" Discovered

A copy of an extremely rare 500-year-old map that depicts a strange new continent called "America" as a small, boomerang-shaped island has been discovered between the pages of a book in Germany.

The map, drawn by the famous German cartographer Martin Waldseemueller, is credited as the first document to attach the name "America" to the New World. It was thought that Waldseemueller had only made four copies of the American "birth certificate" until the recent discovery of the fifth copy amid the pages of an unrelated 19th century manuscript on geometry at the Munich University Library.

Waldseemuller named the new continent America after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, whom he believed had discovered the continent before Christopher Columbus in 1492. A larger copy of the map can be viewed at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, which was a gift from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the United States in 2007 to mark the 500th anniversary of the naming of America.

German researchers are set to make the map, which is printed in clear black ink on yellowing paper, available to view online beginning July 4, American Independence Day.

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