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Sebastian Munster, Early Map of North America, 1545

Context

Early mapmakers (cartographers) depicted the New World based on maps drawn from coastal explorations, land travels, and even information heard word of mouth from American Indians or from colonists or traders.  They used symbols, pictures, and other illustrations to represent various geographic features, topics, and themes.  Sometimes mapmakers drew in known but unseen mountains or inland seas, or they simply embellished the map with mythical creatures like mermaids and centaurs.  Unexplored areas were otherwise left as empty or “blank” land.
 
This map is thought to be the first to depict North and South America connected to each other with no link to another continent.  The Americas were thus represented as a more completely New World.

Citation: Munster, Sebastian, (1489–1552). Novae Insvlae XXVI Nova Tabvla. Basilae: Per Henrichum Petrum, 1545. G3290 1545 .M8 Voorhees Collection. Library of Virginia.

Standards

VS.1, VS.2, VS.3, VS.4, USI.1, USI.2, USI.3, USI.4, CE.1, WG.1, WG.3,W.17, WHII.1, WHII.2, WHII.4, WHII.5, WHII.6, WHII.7, VUS.1, VUS.2, VUS.3

Suggested Questions

Analyze: How does the mapmaker's depiction of North and South America represent a European perspective?

Analyze: What clues does the map offer as to the political powers behind the early exploration and settlement of the New World?

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