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Library of Congress to Buy $10M Map

July 20, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The first map to use the name America is coming to the Library of Congress. It is buying the 494-year-old chart for $10 million.

``This map, giving our hemisphere its name for the first time, will be the crown jewel of the library’s already unparalleled collection of maps an atlases,″ said James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress.

Sometimes called America’s birth certificate, it’s the only known copy of a map that historians say caused the hemisphere to be named for explorer Amerigo Vespucci instead of Columbus.

It was also the first map to depict a separate western hemisphere and a separate Pacific Ocean.

The library said a $500,000 down payment has been made to the owner, German Prince Johannes Waldburg-Wolfegg, in whose south German castle it was found in 1901. Historians had long thought it had been lost.

The library has tried to get the map for decades, and permission has now been given by both the government of Germany and the state of Baden-Wuertenberg.

It will be on permanent display in the library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. It has already arrived, but a date for showing it has not been set, the library said. It consists of 12 separate sheets, which, when put together, cover 36 square feet.

Martin Waldseemueller made the map in 1507, part of a project to update knowledge of geography after the explorations of the late 1400s and the early 1500s. One of the explorers was Vespucci, who visited the new world in 1501 and 1502 and decided it was a separate continent, a decade after Columbus’ first trip. But Waldseemueller apparently thought Vespucci had been first and labeled the continent ``America.″

He is said to have made and sold 1,000 copies of the woodcuts, but the library knows of no other that has survived.

``The map is in mint condition and is an exceptionally fine example of printing technology at the onset of the Renaissance,″ the library said.

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