The science of discovery

Historians have long been fascinated by the creation of maps during the Age of Exploration. Of special interest are maps such as Waldseemüller and Ringmann's first map mentioning "America." The New York Times Science page looks at A Renaissance Globemaker’s Toolbox, a new book on the subject by John W. Hessler.

In the book, Hessler discusses the "America Map," now owned by the Library of Congress, and its re-emergence in the Black Forest, as well as introducing readers to a little-known Renaissance globemaker, “Johannes Schöner, whose personal correspondence he used for the work.

Rather than a producer of theories,” Dr. Hessler observes, Schöner “was instead a disseminator, a compiler and a transmitter of the new science and mathematics.” Yes, something of a pack rat, but one with a sharp eye for what was likely to be of importance in the future. This attribute cast Schöner as savior of the 1507 world map. His practice was to gather and bind portfolios of his compiled materials. One of these, now called Schöner Sammelband (meaning “gathering”), preserved the “America” map. There it passed from hand to hand, all the other original prints disappeared, and Schöner’s was lost for more than 300 years. Most of the bound portfolios wound up in a Vienna library, but one languished in a German castle, unrecognized, until a Jesuit priest found it in 1901 — thence to the United States in 2003.