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Facts or Fictions: Debating the Mysteries of Early Modern Science and Cartography—A Celebration of the 500th Anniversary of Waldseemüller’s 1516 Carta Marina

October 6, 2016 @ 9:00 am - October 7, 2016 @ 3:00 pm

A two-day conference hosted by the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Waldseemüller’s Carta Marina, one of the great masterpieces of Renaissance cartography, and focus on some of the most mysterious maps of the Medieval and Early Modern periods.  The conference also will unveil a multi-media interactive website on the life of Waldseemüller, and feature best-selling author and historian of science Dava Sobel as the keynote speaker.

“Facts or Fictions: Debating the Mysteries of Early Modern Science and Cartography—A Celebration of the 500th Anniversary of Waldseemüller’s 1516 Carta Marina” will be held on Thursday, Oct. 6 andFriday, Oct. 7 in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground level of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.  The event is free and open to the public.  Tickets are not needed.

The conference is sponsored by the Jay I. Kislak Family Foundation and the Gray Family Memorial Fund.  The keynote speech, on the evening of Oct. 6, will be the Library’s Annual Jay I. Kislak Lecture in the Archaeology and History of the Early Americas. The lecture by Sobel, author of “Longitude” and “Galileo’s Daughter,” will focus on the early history of celestial cartography, the topic of her forthcoming book that will be released this fall.

The Galileo Museum in Florence, Italy, in collaboration with the Library’s Geography and Map Division, created an online multi-media presentation on Waldseemüller’s life and cartography.  Galileo Museum Director Paolo Galluzzi, the museum’s Deputy Director Filippo Camerota and John Hessler, Curator of the Kislak Collection at the Library of Congress, will demonstrate the website.  The Ambassador of Italy to the United States Armando Varricchio and Umberto Tombari, president of Ente Cassa di Risparmio, the foundation in Florence that sponsored the project, will deliver opening remarks.  Further information about the website will be released in October.

“Facts or Fictions” also will celebrate the Library’s completion of the Schöner Sammelband acquisition project.  The Sammelband is a compilation of materials that originally contained Waldseemüller’s Map of 1507, his 1516 Carta Marina, globe gores by Johannes Schöner and the earliest printed star chart by Albrecht Dűrer, dated 1515.  Schöner bound together the contents of the Sammelband in Nuremburg in 1517.  In 2003, the Library of Congress purchased the 1507 map from the Prince Waldburg-Wolfegg in Baden-Württenberg, Germany, whose family owned the Sammelband and its contents for many generations.  Jay I. Kislak, a member of the Library’s Madison Council, purchased the Carta Marina, the globe gores and the Sammelband portfolio, and donated them to the Library in 2014.  The Library purchased the final piece of the original Sammelband, the Dűrer chart, in late 2015.

Speakers at the conference will include historians of cartography, science, philosophy and literature.  They will talk about the Vinland Map, Marco Polo and the Rossi Map with Ship, the 1516 Carta Marina, portolan charts, and the Puebla-Tlaxcala contrived maps and manuscripts.  There will be a special presentation by the Library’s Conservation Division on the science behind the preservation and encasement of the Waldseemüller Map of 1507.  An Open House of the Geography and Map Division—featuring a display of cartographic treasures from Waldseemüller’s time—will be held on the afternoon of Oct. 7.

Conference Schedule


Thursday, Oct. 6

Morning Session

“Facts or Fictions:  The Mysteries of Renaissance Cartography”

9:00                 Opening Remarks

9:30                 The Vinland Map

Kirsten Seaver

10:00               Marco Polo and the Rossi Map with Ship

Ben Olshin

10:30               Puebla-Tlaxcala Maps

                        Stephanie Wood

11:00               Questions


Afternoon Session

“The Carta Marina at 500”

1:00                 Nautical Mapping in the Medieval and Early Modern Period

Joaquim Gaspar

1:30                 Columbus, Vespucci and the Carta Marina

Don McGurck

2:00                 Waldseemüller’s Carta Marina: Its Originality and Diffusion

Chet Van Duzer

2:30                 Questions

3:00                 Reception


Evening Session

2016 Annual Jay I. Kislak Lecture in the Archaeology and History of the Early Americas         

6:30                “Mapping The Elusive Southern Sky”

Dava Sobel


Friday, Oct. 7

Morning Session

9:00                 Opening Remarks

Librarian of Congress Carla D. Hayden

Ambassador of Italy to the United States Armando Varricchio

Umberto Tombari, Ente Cassa di Risparmio

10:00               Launch of Website “A Land Beyond the Stars”

Paolo Galluzzi, Galileo Museum

Filippo Camerota, Galileo Museum

John Hessler, Library of Congress

11:00               Encasing Waldseemüller

Elmer Eusman, Library of Congress

11:30               All Speakers on Stage for Question and Answer Session


Afternoon Session

1:00-3:00         Open House in the Geography and Map Division


October 6, 2016 @ 9:00 am
October 7, 2016 @ 3:00 pm


Library of Congress Geography and Map Division


Thomas Jefferson Building
10 First Street, SE
Washington , DC 20540 United States
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