Martin Waldseemüller (Latinized Martinus Ilacomylus, Ilacomilus or Hylacomylus, c. 1470, Wolfenweiler, Baden – Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, Lorraine 1520, March 16) was a German cartographer. He and Matthias Ringmann are credited with the first recorded usage of the word America, on the 1507 map Universalis Cosmographia in honour of the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci.
Waldseemüller was born in Wolfenweiler, and then his family moved to near Freiburg im Breisgau (his mother came from Radolfzell) and he studied at the University of Freiburg. He died 16 March 1520, "ab intestat", then a canon of the collegiate Church of Saint-Dié (located between Nancy, Lorraine and Strasbourg, Alsace in the heart of the Vosges blue mountain range along the Rhine river valley).
On 25 April 1507, as a member of the Gymnasium Vosagense at Saint Diey (German: Sankt Didel) in the duchy of Lorraine (today Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France), he produced a globular world map and a large 12-panel world wall map (Universalis Cosmographia), both bearing the first use of the name "America". The globular and wall maps were accompanied by a book Cosmographiae Introductio, an introduction to cosmography. The book, first printed in the city of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, includes in its second part, a translation to Latin of the Quattuor Americi Vespuccij navigationes (Four Voyages of Americo Vespucci), which is apparently a letter written by Amerigo Vespucci, although some historians consider it to have been a forgery written by its supposed recipient in Italy. In the chapter nine of the first part of the Cosmographiae Introductio, written by Mat(t)hias Ringmann (died in Sélestat in 1511 at the age of 29), it is explained why the name America was proposed for the then New World, or the Fourth Part of the World:
ab Americo Inventore ...quasi Americi terram sive Americam (from Amerigo the discoverer ...as if it were the land of Americus, thus America).
In 1513, Waldseemüller appears to have had second thoughts about the name, probably due to contemporary protests about Vespucci’s role in the discovery and naming of America, or just carefully waiting for the official discovery of the whole northwestern coast of what is now called North America, as separated from East Asia. In his reworking of the Ptolemy atlas, the continent is labelled simply Terra Incognita (unknown land). Despite the revision, 1,000 copies of the world maps had since been distributed, and the original suggestion took hold. While North America was still called Indies in documents for some time, it was eventually called America as well.
The wall map was lost for a long time, but a copy was found in Schloss Wolfegg in southern Germany by Joseph Fischer in 1901. It is still the only copy known to survive, and it was purchased by the Library of Congress in May 2003, after reaching an agreement in 2001. Five copies of the globular map survive in the form of "gores": printed maps that were intended to be cut out and pasted onto a ball. Only one of these lies in the Americas today, residing at the James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota.
See also 
- Waldseemüller map
- Naming of America
- Discoverer of the Americas
- Richard Amerike
- History of cartography
- List of Roman Catholic scientist-clerics
- List of German inventors and discoverers
- John Hessler: The Naming of America: Martin Waldseemüller's 1507 World Map and the Cosmographiae Introductio, Library of Congress, 2007
- David Brown: 16th-Century Mapmaker's Intriguing Knowledge, in: Washington Post, 2008-11-17, p. A7
- Toby Lester: Putting America on the Map, Smithsonian, Volume 40, Number 9, p. 78, December 2009
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Martin Waldseemüller|
- The Cosmographiæ Introductio of Martin Waldseemüller (Facsimile), via Google Books.
- Joseph Fischer (1913). "Martin Waldseemüller". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- "16th-Century Mapmaker's Intriguing Knowledge", David Brown, The Washington Post. November 17, 2008; Page A07.
- "You Are Here—The Library of Congress buys 'America's birth certificate'.", John J. Miller, The Wall Street Journal. July 25, 2003.
- "The map that changed the world", Toby Lester The BBC, October 28, 2009.
- "Naming of America", BBC.
- "Waldseemüller, Martin". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1900.
- World Digital Library presentation of Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii aliorum que lustrationes or A Map of the Entire World According to the Traditional Method of Ptolemy and Corrected with Other Lands of Amerigo Vespucci. Library of Congress.