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"Old maps lead you to strange and unexpected places, and none does so more ineluctably than the subject of this book: the giant, beguiling Waldseemuller world map of 1507." So begins this remarkable story of the map that gave America its name. For millennia Europeans believed that the world consisted of three parts: Europe, Africa, and Asia. They drew the three continents "Old maps lead you to strange and unexpected places, and none does so more ineluctably than the subject of this book: the giant, beguiling Waldseemuller world map of 1507." So begins this remarkable story of the map that gave America its name. For millennia Europeans believed that the world consisted of three parts: Europe, Africa, and Asia. They drew the three continents in countless shapes and sizes on their maps, but occasionally they hinted at the existence of a "fourth part of the world," a mysterious, inaccessible place, separated from the rest by a vast expanse of ocean. It was a land of myth--until 1507, that is, when Martin Waldseemuller and Matthias Ringmann, two obscure scholars working in the mountains of eastern France, made it real. Columbus had died the year before convinced that he had sailed to Asia, but Waldseemuller and Ringmann, after reading about the Atlantic discoveries of Columbus's contemporary Amerigo Vespucci, came to a startling conclusion: Vespucci had reached the fourth part of the world. To celebrate his achievement, Waldseemuller and Ringmann printed a huge map, for the first time showing the New World surrounded by water and distinct from Asia, and in Vespucci's honor they gave this New World a name: America. " The Fourth Part of the World "is the story behind that map, a thrilling saga of geographical and intellectual exploration, full of outsize thinkers and voyages. Taking a kaleidoscopic approach, Toby Lester traces the origins of our modern worldview. His narrative sweeps across continents and centuries, zeroing in on different portions of the map to reveal strands of ancient legend, Biblical prophecy, classical learning, medieval exploration, imperial ambitions, and more. In Lester's telling the map comes alive: Marco Polo and the early Christian missionaries trek across Central Asia and China; Europe's early humanists travel to monastic libraries to recover ancient texts; Portuguese merchants round up the first West African slaves; Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci make their epic voyages of discovery; and finally, vitally, Nicholas Copernicus makes an appearance, deducing from the new geography shown on the Waldseemuller map that the earth could not lie at the center of the cosmos. The map literally altered humanity's worldview. One thousand copies of the map were printed, yet only one remains. Discovered accidentally in 1901 in the library of a German castle it was bought in 2003 for the unprecedented sum of $10 million by the Library of Congress, where it is now on permanent public display. Lavishly illustrated with rare maps and diagrams, "The Fourth Part of the World "is the story of that map: the dazzling story of the geographical and intellectual journeys that have helped us decipher our world.


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"Old maps lead you to strange and unexpected places, and none does so more ineluctably than the subject of this book: the giant, beguiling Waldseemuller world map of 1507." So begins this remarkable story of the map that gave America its name. For millennia Europeans believed that the world consisted of three parts: Europe, Africa, and Asia. They drew the three continents "Old maps lead you to strange and unexpected places, and none does so more ineluctably than the subject of this book: the giant, beguiling Waldseemuller world map of 1507." So begins this remarkable story of the map that gave America its name. For millennia Europeans believed that the world consisted of three parts: Europe, Africa, and Asia. They drew the three continents in countless shapes and sizes on their maps, but occasionally they hinted at the existence of a "fourth part of the world," a mysterious, inaccessible place, separated from the rest by a vast expanse of ocean. It was a land of myth--until 1507, that is, when Martin Waldseemuller and Matthias Ringmann, two obscure scholars working in the mountains of eastern France, made it real. Columbus had died the year before convinced that he had sailed to Asia, but Waldseemuller and Ringmann, after reading about the Atlantic discoveries of Columbus's contemporary Amerigo Vespucci, came to a startling conclusion: Vespucci had reached the fourth part of the world. To celebrate his achievement, Waldseemuller and Ringmann printed a huge map, for the first time showing the New World surrounded by water and distinct from Asia, and in Vespucci's honor they gave this New World a name: America. " The Fourth Part of the World "is the story behind that map, a thrilling saga of geographical and intellectual exploration, full of outsize thinkers and voyages. Taking a kaleidoscopic approach, Toby Lester traces the origins of our modern worldview. His narrative sweeps across continents and centuries, zeroing in on different portions of the map to reveal strands of ancient legend, Biblical prophecy, classical learning, medieval exploration, imperial ambitions, and more. In Lester's telling the map comes alive: Marco Polo and the early Christian missionaries trek across Central Asia and China; Europe's early humanists travel to monastic libraries to recover ancient texts; Portuguese merchants round up the first West African slaves; Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci make their epic voyages of discovery; and finally, vitally, Nicholas Copernicus makes an appearance, deducing from the new geography shown on the Waldseemuller map that the earth could not lie at the center of the cosmos. The map literally altered humanity's worldview. One thousand copies of the map were printed, yet only one remains. Discovered accidentally in 1901 in the library of a German castle it was bought in 2003 for the unprecedented sum of $10 million by the Library of Congress, where it is now on permanent public display. Lavishly illustrated with rare maps and diagrams, "The Fourth Part of the World "is the story of that map: the dazzling story of the geographical and intellectual journeys that have helped us decipher our world.

30 review for The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I read history books the way others read genre fiction. Some of them are well-written and some not, some well-sourced and some not. Sometimes a book claiming to be a work of historical scholarship is actually a political screed. When I read one well-written, well-sourced, and about a subject not often tread, I am in my happy place. The Fourth Part of the World is one of those books and it's about maps. To be precise, it is about one map: the first map in the world to name the New World "America." I read history books the way others read genre fiction. Some of them are well-written and some not, some well-sourced and some not. Sometimes a book claiming to be a work of historical scholarship is actually a political screed. When I read one well-written, well-sourced, and about a subject not often tread, I am in my happy place. The Fourth Part of the World is one of those books and it's about maps. To be precise, it is about one map: the first map in the world to name the New World "America." But to get to that point, one has to go back in time and start with the Medieval maps of the 12th century and slowly move the clock forward through the Golden Horde and the Crusades. The Travels of Marco Polo and "the Book" -- no authoritative version of the travels of Marco Polo exists but any number of versions await a reader's pleasure. The endless fascination and eternal quest to find Prester John, an imaginary king with an imaginary army waiting just over the hills to come to the assistance of the Crusaders and who existed in every unexplored corner of every map. The re-discovery of Greek in Western Europe, lost for a thousand years, and the translation of Claudius Ptolemy's Geographie, a book with instructions on how to draw maps, described latitude and longitude, and with 8000 places in the ancient world. Great convocations on religious matters where men of learning got together and, for the first time in dark rooms, discussed the forgotten philosophies and mathematics of the ancient world as they were feverishly translated, and exchanged books. The printing press. The invention of the Caravel. Dreams of Japan. The Portuguese and Africa and what they found there. The first trip around the Cape of Good Hope. The men of Bristol who saw something, once, a long stretch of coastline while chasing schools of cod. Columbus. John Cabot. Amerigo Vespucci. de Medicis and Papal Spies and secret societies of Royal mapmakers and the quest for the way to India. Lies and false letters and Monarchies jostling to lay hands on the New World. And it all comes together with two men in a small town outside of Strassburg, one a philosopher and one a cartographer, who had access to a printing press, a stolen map of the New World, and a set of forged letters full of imaginary extra adventures of Amerigo Vespucci. They fell in love with the alliteration of Africa and Asia and Europe and, with small metal letters and newly translated Latin poetry in their heads, named the new world America. It was a best seller for twenty years but maps being what maps are and they wore out as new ones appeared. The map disappeared from the face of the Earth until one copy complete, in tact, and whole, found... and now in the Library of Congress. The book ends with a very nice touch of the impact of the maps of the New World on Nicolaus Copernicus who quotes much of the intro text to the first true world map in his On the Revolutions. It leaves proof that, while perhaps not all of his theories of the Earth revolving around the Sun came from this source, it had bearing on his thinking. With the Fourth Part of the World, the old Aristotelean view of the world no longer worked. And if it didn't work, what else about how the world worked was outright wrong. The Fourth Part of the World is terrific. For anyone interested in the history of maps and learning in Western Europe, or the Age of Discovery, I can completely recommend this book. It's a fun read, it's well written, it's incredibly well sourced, it is full of pictures of maps to help with the text, and it's all around great. Fantastic. An easy 5 star rating.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    'The Fourth Part of the World', Toby Lester, 2009. All to often, the keepers of knowledge, -the academics, intellectuals and scholars, are sadly crippled by verbose, pompous, unreadable writing skills. Occasionally It takes an outsider, a professional writer such as Toby Lester, to attack a subject with freshness and enthusiasm. The catalyst for "The Forth Part of The World" was the purchase by The Library of Congress of the Waldseemuller world map of 1507, for the incredible sum of ten million 'The Fourth Part of the World', Toby Lester, 2009. All to often, the keepers of knowledge, -the academics, intellectuals and scholars, are sadly crippled by verbose, pompous, unreadable writing skills. Occasionally It takes an outsider, a professional writer such as Toby Lester, to attack a subject with freshness and enthusiasm. The catalyst for "The Forth Part of The World" was the purchase by The Library of Congress of the Waldseemuller world map of 1507, for the incredible sum of ten million dollars. Toby Lester dissects the map, researching the historical world events leading up to its creation. Lester takes the broadest approach possible, making the book more of an overview of the history of cartography and exploration, rather than a narrow history of one specific peice of cartography. "The Fourth Part of The World' is a very exciting, fast paced read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rex Fuller

    Let’s see, although Balboa crossed Panama to a large body of water in 1513, nobody in Europe knew there was a true ocean on the other side of South America until Magellan sailed around Cape Horn and across the Pacific in 1521. So, how could some German monks in eastern France (of all places) make a map in 1507 showing the continent surrounded by water and call it “America?” The reason, believe it or not, is “sex sells.” How it happened is an amazing story, very well told by Toby Lester in “The F Let’s see, although Balboa crossed Panama to a large body of water in 1513, nobody in Europe knew there was a true ocean on the other side of South America until Magellan sailed around Cape Horn and across the Pacific in 1521. So, how could some German monks in eastern France (of all places) make a map in 1507 showing the continent surrounded by water and call it “America?” The reason, believe it or not, is “sex sells.” How it happened is an amazing story, very well told by Toby Lester in “The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name.” The map was thought to have disappeared until it was found in a German castle in 1901. The Library of Congress then sought to acquire it for many years and finally bought it in 2003 for $10 million, the most ever paid for any map. The possibility of a fourth part of the world – in addition to Europe, Asia, and Africa – goes back to the ancients, including Ptolemy. But it was never universally accepted. The size of the Earth itself suggested as much, but that size was not agreed upon either, which allowed Columbus to believe he had sailed to islands just east of Asia, the “Indies.” His writings could have led the map’s makers to name the area Columbia. Or John Cabot’s voyage sponsored by England in 1497 to Labrador and Newfoundland could have lent another name. But it was a Florentine businessman, Americus Vespucci, whose name stuck. Strangely, whether Vespucci actually made a voyage is not certain. He claimed to have made four between 1499 and 1502, two for Spain and two for Portugal, and to have been in command. But he may have only tagged along on two, if that. What did it for him? The then equivalent of tabloid sensationalism. He sold his stories of discovery highlighting naked, sexually promiscuous people, cannibalism, and rivers that could be the four rivers of paradise. He had a bestseller. Largely on the strength of Vespucci’s tales, which pointed out differences between what he saw and what Marco Polo saw, the German monks, Martin Waldseemuller and Matthias Ringmann, drew the first map showing that water surrounded the new land and credited Vespucci with demonstrating it, although he didn’t. They named the land “America.” Exactly why they concluded that water surrounded the lands Columbus, Vespucci, and others found remains a mystery. Nor were they as certain of it as the map suggested. After Ringmann died in 1511, Waldseemuller published another map and reverted to labeling the lands “the New World.” But the die was cast. Not only did the map popularize the name “America,” it also found its way to Poland and into the hands of someone who realized that it meant the earth had to revolve around the sun. Nicolas Copernicus was so fearful of what he discovered that he didn’t publish it for another thirty six years, shortly before he died. Lester tells how all of this and much more happened in encyclopedic, fascinating detail. Absolutely recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    I decided not to travel just once on a very long journey by ship or on horse or on foot to those lands, but many times on a tiny map with books and the imagination. -- Petrarch Well, I am often that way. And this book did take me places and show me things. I learned that the 'silk trade involved vast amounts of labor and expense and travel for the singularly frivolous purpose,' according to Pliny the Elder, 'to enable the Roman maiden to flaunt transparent clothing in public.' I'm guessing Pliny I decided not to travel just once on a very long journey by ship or on horse or on foot to those lands, but many times on a tiny map with books and the imagination. -- Petrarch Well, I am often that way. And this book did take me places and show me things. I learned that the 'silk trade involved vast amounts of labor and expense and travel for the singularly frivolous purpose,' according to Pliny the Elder, 'to enable the Roman maiden to flaunt transparent clothing in public.' I'm guessing Pliny the Younger had to hide his Playboys under his bed. I learned that the Christian discoverers put up padraoes, huge crosses, to mark their course along the African coast, even as they filled their ships with human cargo. There were enough tidbits here, even if already known, to make this an interesting read. However, the twin-bill of the subtitle - The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Making of History's Greatest Map - suggests edge-of-your-seat thrills and some serious gravitas. It doesn't deliver. The re-telling of the adventures adds nothing new. As for the map: yes, it's nice; but it's delivered wrapped in one uncertainty after another. Even Waldseemueller, who probably created the map, waffled about it in later versions. Except that it inspired Copernicus. Unless, our author writes, it didn't. If this had been subtitled, Pay No Attention to That 'Here Be Dragons' Sign on That Old Map, it would have been a more forthright effort.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    I love this book--in the interest of full disclosure I edited it at the Free Press--but I've been crazy about it since I saw the proposal ages ago. When the Library of Congress bought the 1507 Waldseemüller map from the German government for $10 million, they sent out a press release that crossed Toby’s desk at the Atlantic where he was Deputy managing editor. He thought the map’s drawing and rediscovery after four centuries might make a nice little article, even a short book, but closer examina I love this book--in the interest of full disclosure I edited it at the Free Press--but I've been crazy about it since I saw the proposal ages ago. When the Library of Congress bought the 1507 Waldseemüller map from the German government for $10 million, they sent out a press release that crossed Toby’s desk at the Atlantic where he was Deputy managing editor. He thought the map’s drawing and rediscovery after four centuries might make a nice little article, even a short book, but closer examination began to reveal the map’s depths. And indeed, the book’s structure reflects the vantage point of the obsessed observer. The starting-off point for each chapter is a close-up of the map, and one-by-one the chapters move over the map’s surface, following the course of European exploration, both geographically and chronologically until it lands on the shores of South America or the Land of the Parrots, as it was briefly, whimsically, called. The discovery of this “fourth part of the world” was the result of doomsday prophecy, voracious greed, Renaissance optimism, and imperialism. It would yield far more discoveries —even what is arguably man’s most profound discovery, the heliocentric universe. The book itself is lavishly illustrated with hundreds of maps and pictures—some in vivid color—that allow us into the strikingly different consciousnesses of people who lived a thousand years ago and the strikingly familiar imaginations of people living five hundred years later. Each map adds a new facet to the epic narrative.

  6. 5 out of 5

    N.E. White

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I recently finished The Fourth Part of the World, The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name by Toby Lester. Though this is Toby's first book, he has been writing for a very long time on religion, history, and maps. He has done a magnificent job with this book. The Fourth Part is a hefty tome. At 462 pages (hardback edition - yes, it's worth it), including an index and notes, one might think a book so long about one map would be a slog to get throu I recently finished The Fourth Part of the World, The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name by Toby Lester. Though this is Toby's first book, he has been writing for a very long time on religion, history, and maps. He has done a magnificent job with this book. The Fourth Part is a hefty tome. At 462 pages (hardback edition - yes, it's worth it), including an index and notes, one might think a book so long about one map would be a slog to get through. But Toby Lester engages the reader by bringing the European Middle Ages to life. The author starts the book with a preface that details why he started on the quest to research the Waldseemuller world map of 1507. $10 million. (It's always about money, isn't it?) In 2003, the Library of Congress had just purchased the Waldseemuller map for $10 million dollars, 2 million more than the original copy of the Declaration of Independence. This fact piqued Toby Lester's interest and six years later we have The Fourth Part. The Fourth Part is divided into three parts: Part One, Old World; Part Two, New World; and Part Three, The Whole World. It also includes a Prologue, Epilogue, and an Appendix along with Notes and an Index. In Part One, Old World, Toby delves into the mindset of the early Medieval scholar. Their religious view of the world told them that the world consisted of three parts only - Asia, Africa, and Europe. They based much of their geographic knowledge of the world on what the Bible taught or alluded to. In the mid 13th century, the Great Khan Guyuk (widely known as Genphis Khan) announced to the western world (Europe): "Through the power of God all empires from sunrise to sunset have been given to us, and we own them." What a surprising and frightening proclamation. Ultimately, the Mongols empire building efforts along with the numerous Crusades to win back Jerusalem led to more geographic information. Monks were sent to parley and Christianize the Mongols. Though they did not succeed in that venture, they did bring back cultural and geographical details that helped flesh out European's sense of the world. Still, their view of the world consisted of T-O maps and mappamundes - rather poor representations of the world that excluded at least half of it. It's easy for us to look back and scoff at the inadequate maps that were produced in Europe before the 14th century. It's easy for us to forget that most people were illiterate. Merchants and travelers didn't have the benefit of a travel guide, nor were they able to produce a travel guide with their own knowledge as they didn't have the skills or means to do so. The Christian monks that produced maps and cosmology (geography) texts at the time worked with the best knowledge that they had bereft of the great secular knowledge of the ancient Greeks and Roman Latins who had it a bit more right, but whose knowledge was lost to Europe's Catholics. In Part Two, New World, the author chronicles the efforts of the great Genoese and Florentine mariners at rediscovering the world of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In the 14th century, surprisingly detailed and accurate marine charts of Europe and North Africa emerged. Europeans also rediscovered Ptolemy and other Greek texts that helped piece the larger world together. With Portugal's and Spain's drive to reach India (as their overland routes were hampered by the Muslims finally taking control over the entire Middle East), maps of the known world were improved, and the thought of sailing west gripped explorers. So they did. Part Two is the largest section in The Fourth Part, and contain the most fascinating tales. Any summary of mine will do it injustice. So, I'll leave you with this quote from the book: "Just as one thing leads to another and starts a train of thought, while he was in Portugal [my father] began to speculate that just as the Portuguese had sailed so far south, it should be possible to sail as far west, and to find land in that direction. - Ferdinand Columbus (circa 1538)" The last part of the book, Part 3, The Whole World, Toby explains how Walter Lud, Matthias Ringmann, and Martin Waldseemuller came across one of Amerigo Vespucci's letters that detailed his explorations of the New World. Though that letter was a fake, the three scholars and map makers didn't know that at the time. They took it at face value, and together they created a "curious little book" titled Cosmographiae introductio (1507). This little book included a huge map (the largest known map produced at the time), and just so happened to haphazardly name the New World - America. What struck me most while reading The Fourth Part is how religion has played such a huge role in our political, social, and geographic history. Of course, I already knew that. Anyone with any sort of education can see religion's stamp on just about everything, but the author presents the motives (both religious and otherwise) behind the map makers and explorers in a manner that drives that fact home. Conclusion? I can't recommend this book enough. If you want a quick, blow by blow of the events that led up to the discovery of the New World, the fourth part of the world, then this is the perfect book for you. It will be a well-thumbed, reference book on my shelf for a very long time. If you have any interest in history and/or maps, go get this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rindis

    In 1507, new world maps were something of a booming business. The Portuguese had been discovering more about Africa for decades, the Spanish had recently found a number of islands, and a larger landmass across the Atlantic, and the English had found a long shoreline to the west of Greenland. Since Asia was mostly known to be a northerly continent, that last was still presumed to be part of Asia, but the Spanish mainland, in the tropics, was starting to look like something else again. In 1507 a ne In 1507, new world maps were something of a booming business. The Portuguese had been discovering more about Africa for decades, the Spanish had recently found a number of islands, and a larger landmass across the Atlantic, and the English had found a long shoreline to the west of Greenland. Since Asia was mostly known to be a northerly continent, that last was still presumed to be part of Asia, but the Spanish mainland, in the tropics, was starting to look like something else again. In 1507 a new map was published, designed to put together all the pieces of the world, as they were becoming known. It was a large map, meant to be mounted and used as huge wall map, and it marked the southern landmass "America", after Amerigo Vespucci, who was known to have visited the landmass a year before Columbus did on his third voyage by a letter written by him that was being reprinted across Europe. The map, made to be used, largely disappeared, and it was only in the nineteenth century that its existence as the first use of the word "America" for the New World was discovered. Toby Lester's book is about this map—and everything else that led to it. This begins with medieval mappaemundi, and works its way through Marco Polo, the Italian and German humanists, and the dawn of the Age of Exploration. It's a very entertaining and informative book all the way, and gives a good overview of the careers of Columbus and Vespucchi, and explains the letter that has caused much gnashing of teeth over the centuries, and kept Columbus from being a major cartographical feature, even if it did not keep him out of the history books. It is most likely not written by Vespucci at all. It takes pieces of two of his letters, some details from one of Columbus' reports, adds sex and cannibals, and did a brisk business for local printing presses across the continent. It's kind of a early-sixteenth century equivalent to the DaVinci Code.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    This is one of those books calculated to warm the heart of a cartographer and excite the pulse of an historian. Since I am both, I loved it! It's like one of those Simon Winchester books that takes many seemingly unrelated events and people, and shows how they came together to produce a history-changing result. The book purports to be the story of the 1517 Waldseemüller map, on which the name "America" was first applied to the New World. In fact, it's the history of the way Europe's perception of This is one of those books calculated to warm the heart of a cartographer and excite the pulse of an historian. Since I am both, I loved it! It's like one of those Simon Winchester books that takes many seemingly unrelated events and people, and shows how they came together to produce a history-changing result. The book purports to be the story of the 1517 Waldseemüller map, on which the name "America" was first applied to the New World. In fact, it's the history of the way Europe's perception of the world, and man's place in it, evolved from the days of Ptolemy through the Renaissance. Aided by the Mongols, metallurgy, and an obscure abbey a day's ride north of London, Europeans grew to see the world (which they *always* knew was round) as an understandable, comprehensible, knowable place that fit in nicely with the emerging philosphy of humanism. I can't recommend this book too highly for anyone with a desire to learn how our modern knowledge of the world's geography, and our place in it, was born.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    At first I wondered how Lester was going to fill 400 pages with the story of the Waldseemuller map. I'm glad I stuck around to find out--instead of just the story of a map, I was treated to a wonderful exploration of an evolving worldview--just HOW our modern conception of the continents began to dawn upon the Europeans in the beginning of the age of exploration. From Mongol hordes to monasteries, humanists to self-promoting explorers, Lester lays it all out with style. Very rewarding 400 pages At first I wondered how Lester was going to fill 400 pages with the story of the Waldseemuller map. I'm glad I stuck around to find out--instead of just the story of a map, I was treated to a wonderful exploration of an evolving worldview--just HOW our modern conception of the continents began to dawn upon the Europeans in the beginning of the age of exploration. From Mongol hordes to monasteries, humanists to self-promoting explorers, Lester lays it all out with style. Very rewarding 400 pages after all. I especially liked making connections with the fun bio of Joanna of Naples I just read--having fun with intersections like Petrarch, Boccacio and Florentine merchants.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    In 2003, the Library of Congress paid $10 million to purchase the sole surviving copy of the Waldseemüller map of 1507. One of the earlier maps to to incorporate new data gleaned from the voyages of Columbus and Vespucci, it is said to be the first map to name a place called America. When it was purchased, it was nicknamed "America's birth certificate." This is the story of that map--but not only that because Toby Lester tells a thousand stories in this book! Incredibly detailed it basically pre In 2003, the Library of Congress paid $10 million to purchase the sole surviving copy of the Waldseemüller map of 1507. One of the earlier maps to to incorporate new data gleaned from the voyages of Columbus and Vespucci, it is said to be the first map to name a place called America. When it was purchased, it was nicknamed "America's birth certificate." This is the story of that map--but not only that because Toby Lester tells a thousand stories in this book! Incredibly detailed it basically presents everything you will need to gain an understanding of the history of European cartography. While I agree with one of the reviewers here who stated that there is no real new information, the book is so wonderfully written and doesn't leave any stone unturned. Haven't you wondered why the continent wasn't called Columbia after the person we associate with America's discovery? This is the story and it also illuminates all the various ancient and medieval theories that informed Columbus and Vespucci's discovery... it is a wonderful book!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Really good read, lots of great historical information with lots of great source material. I have more books I now need to read. The book flows very well, with a great cast of historical figures they never taught us about in school. Well worth the time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This is a detailed history of the paired development of geography and cartography through the middle ages, the Renaissance rediscovery of classical texts, the so-called "Age of Discovery," and the early 16th century. I bookmarked too many pages containing interesting facts and insights to be able to share them. The conventional wisdom about what Europeans did and didn't know about the earth is picked apart here. As with so many issues of the early modern era, we see a bizarre juxtaposition of th This is a detailed history of the paired development of geography and cartography through the middle ages, the Renaissance rediscovery of classical texts, the so-called "Age of Discovery," and the early 16th century. I bookmarked too many pages containing interesting facts and insights to be able to share them. The conventional wisdom about what Europeans did and didn't know about the earth is picked apart here. As with so many issues of the early modern era, we see a bizarre juxtaposition of the modern and reasonable ("the earth must be round because the lookout spots land before a man on deck") and the completely mythical (Europeans' unquashable belief in Prester John). Paired with their ignorance of North and South America and the East was their total certainty about the existence of a literal and historical Heavenly Paradise in the Far East, Hy-Brasil, and other significant geographical features that only ever existed as rumors. And to top off their outlandish ideas about the world outside Europe, medieval Europeans also lacked the technology to explore and believed that staying home and ratiocinating over the Bible was an adequate way to deduce the shape of the earth. The book shows how their fuzzy and fanciful mental map of the world was overturned through technology and thinking through the ramifications of Europeans' voyages of exploration, to emerge in the 16th century as something we can recognize as a correct world map. The book is ostensibly about a single map, but I wouldn't call it a microhistory in the sense of tracing something small through a large expanse of space or time. Instead, it's more a straight-up history of the development of an idea during a particular era. I would note, though, that it doesn't make a very good ebook due to the important illustrations.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tuck

    a fantastic book on the history of the Waldseemuller map and much much more. Looks at maps and humanists from 1200's to 1500's, delves into the movement of people both physically and intellectually plus so much more. as simon winchester says in blurb "lester..create[s] a masterpiece of cartographic literature that will be of lasting importance". agreed by little ol me (though he DOES only concentrate on european maps and intellectual history to the detriment of all other ideas, from say asia, af a fantastic book on the history of the Waldseemuller map and much much more. Looks at maps and humanists from 1200's to 1500's, delves into the movement of people both physically and intellectually plus so much more. as simon winchester says in blurb "lester..create[s] a masterpiece of cartographic literature that will be of lasting importance". agreed by little ol me (though he DOES only concentrate on european maps and intellectual history to the detriment of all other ideas, from say asia, africa, amer indians etc), this is one of the most important books written in the 21st century about the history of ideas. i don't know how long these websites will last but here are some digital versions and more insight into the mappamundis of the middle ages and re-enlightenment: here are waldseemuller map and carta marina side by side http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/earlyamer... a high rez version http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/map_ite.... here's loc map librarian john hessler, see his "warping waldseemuller" section of his most fantastic blog http://warpinghistory.blogspot.com/ and free press has a toby lester page which is pretty damn keen http://www.simonandschuster.com/speci... now where was i.....?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    One of the most entertaining and informative books I've read in some time, can't say enough about how much I enjoyed reading it. Names from grade-school days like Vespucci, Marco Polo, Copernicus, Genghis Khan, da Gama and Columbus collide and come alive here, their adventures, exploits and discoveries richly recounted and complemented by plenty of ancient maps and illustrations (The graphics are perhaps the best part of this book.) Our world is mapped and digitized to the extent one can know hi One of the most entertaining and informative books I've read in some time, can't say enough about how much I enjoyed reading it. Names from grade-school days like Vespucci, Marco Polo, Copernicus, Genghis Khan, da Gama and Columbus collide and come alive here, their adventures, exploits and discoveries richly recounted and complemented by plenty of ancient maps and illustrations (The graphics are perhaps the best part of this book.) Our world is mapped and digitized to the extent one can know his/her location almost anywhere on the globe within a few feet. We've looked at finely-detailed maps and globes since we could walk. Space and the invisible microworlds are what come to (my) mind as the unknown frontiers. As noted recently in Outside magazine, GPS, the internet and other technologies have rendered the days of epic travel yarns and embellishments pretty much over. The Fourth Part of the World will let you imagine again, and discover the world beyond Europe one voyage, one map, many fables and tall tales at a time. Lester has written this book in such a way as to allow the reader to feel he/she is a part of the many adventures contained herein. Piece together the known world bit by bit, starting with maps speculating at the location of the "monstrous races" up through the first to use the term "America," the Waldseemuller map eventually purchased by the Library of Congress for ten million dollars. Highly, highly recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jolene

    This is my first reading of a non fiction book and I really enjoyed it. Possibly because I just visited the Library of Congress and saw the WALDSEEMULLER Map. My guide recommended this book because it tells the story of how the map came about and how it was found. Research revealed that the map had been made but no one could find one. People hunted for one for hundreds of years until one was finally found in 1901 in an obscure castle in Germany. Finally in 2007, USA paid 1 million dollars for it This is my first reading of a non fiction book and I really enjoyed it. Possibly because I just visited the Library of Congress and saw the WALDSEEMULLER Map. My guide recommended this book because it tells the story of how the map came about and how it was found. Research revealed that the map had been made but no one could find one. People hunted for one for hundreds of years until one was finally found in 1901 in an obscure castle in Germany. Finally in 2007, USA paid 1 million dollars for it because it is the first map that identifies the American continent reasonably well and names it America. It is housed in a special case in the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The book teaches how exploration and map making progressed from when people thought there were only 3 places, Asia, Africa and Europe and the rest of the earth was hidden and forbidden. Until the seas voyages of Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci discovered the American Continent. A very readable book. I got caught up in the story.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenny T

    A delicious, well-written book about the history of map-making as it relates to the "discovery" of the Americas. The author begins by introducing the most expensive historical document ever purchased publicly: the Waldseemuller map of 1507 (the first map to label "America" as such)--bought by the Library of Congress for 10 million dollars--2 million more than was paid for the Declaration of Independence... From there, the author discusses the history of maps, from ancient times through the invent A delicious, well-written book about the history of map-making as it relates to the "discovery" of the Americas. The author begins by introducing the most expensive historical document ever purchased publicly: the Waldseemuller map of 1507 (the first map to label "America" as such)--bought by the Library of Congress for 10 million dollars--2 million more than was paid for the Declaration of Independence... From there, the author discusses the history of maps, from ancient times through the invention of the printing press and the voyages of Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. Filled with historical anecdotes (Saint Brendan! Prester John!) well-researched (and cited), with plenty of illustrations--this was a treat to read AND I learned quite a bit.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    Many reviewers stressed early on that Lester's book offers more of a historical detective story than a narrative built around exciting characters of the past. But they were also consistently impressed with the way he could draw in readers by bringing together what might otherwise seem to be a miscellaneous collection of observations and tales. Above all, critics came away impressed with the way that all maps provide insight into the character of a culture. All the more true, then, for one as imp Many reviewers stressed early on that Lester's book offers more of a historical detective story than a narrative built around exciting characters of the past. But they were also consistently impressed with the way he could draw in readers by bringing together what might otherwise seem to be a miscellaneous collection of observations and tales. Above all, critics came away impressed with the way that all maps provide insight into the character of a culture. All the more true, then, for one as important as this. This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    This book is a masterpiece. Starting with a few questions about a once lost map, Lester stretches the canvas, so to speak, and draws us into a broader discussion of early cartography and the Age of Discovery. He brilliantly connects seemingly disparate events; the writing of Ptolemy’s seminal Geography, the Mongol conquest, Marco Polo's journeys, and Magellan’s Voyage all fall into place like the pieces of a perfect mosaic. This is History at its best. Rather than feeling like a doctoral thesis This book is a masterpiece. Starting with a few questions about a once lost map, Lester stretches the canvas, so to speak, and draws us into a broader discussion of early cartography and the Age of Discovery. He brilliantly connects seemingly disparate events; the writing of Ptolemy’s seminal Geography, the Mongol conquest, Marco Polo's journeys, and Magellan’s Voyage all fall into place like the pieces of a perfect mosaic. This is History at its best. Rather than feeling like a doctoral thesis full of mind numbing minutiae, this book creates an intriguing, visual story of the world that was. I highly recommend.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jon Fish

    An amazing, accessible account of the European quest to understand the geography of the world in the Middle Ages. Every paragraph contains some new piece of information that forced me to rethink my perceptions of Medieval Europeans, geography, religion, and history. If nothing else, read this book to shake the notion that Medieval Europeans thought the world was flat until Columbus, and that explorers like Columbus, Polo, and Vespucci were altruistic voyagers with a thirst for truth like academi An amazing, accessible account of the European quest to understand the geography of the world in the Middle Ages. Every paragraph contains some new piece of information that forced me to rethink my perceptions of Medieval Europeans, geography, religion, and history. If nothing else, read this book to shake the notion that Medieval Europeans thought the world was flat until Columbus, and that explorers like Columbus, Polo, and Vespucci were altruistic voyagers with a thirst for truth like academics instead of bold men living within their context. You do not need to be a history buff to appreciate the thoroughly-researched yet coherent text.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emilyadamc

    This was one of the best sourced, well written, informative books I have ever read. It covers a broad range of time and fills in so many gaps in history. Instead of glossing over minuscule historic events, it delves into them revealing history that I had never even heard of. Or if I had, I had always heard it incorrectly. This book is now on my top 3 historical book list. It has opened up an entire world of history and people for me to learn even more about. I was intrigued throughout the entire This was one of the best sourced, well written, informative books I have ever read. It covers a broad range of time and fills in so many gaps in history. Instead of glossing over minuscule historic events, it delves into them revealing history that I had never even heard of. Or if I had, I had always heard it incorrectly. This book is now on my top 3 historical book list. It has opened up an entire world of history and people for me to learn even more about. I was intrigued throughout the entire book and was sad when I was done.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    When I read the subtitle of this book, I expected to be let down a little. I was not. This was truly an epic story about the naming of America. Forget all you know about the discovery of the New World. Unbelievably detailed, and written in an authoritative narrative, Toby Lester reconstructs the mapping of the world from medieval days in a way that will challenge the modern mind to look at the world in a different way.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    This is a good read chock a block full of history - great kings and khans, the voyages to the "Indies" , the familiar explorers and not so familiar, the maps and map makers, the philosophers, the primary documents lost and found. This is a intriguing cartographical journey and it begins with a beloved word: America. The book has a wonderful set of illustrations so much so I wished I were reading the hard back edition. This is a good read chock a block full of history - great kings and khans, the voyages to the "Indies" , the familiar explorers and not so familiar, the maps and map makers, the philosophers, the primary documents lost and found. This is a intriguing cartographical journey and it begins with a beloved word: America. The book has a wonderful set of illustrations so much so I wished I were reading the hard back edition.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Wesley Fryer

    I absolutely loved this book! I heard Lester speak at a Google Geo-Teacher's Institute in Maine in September. This book fuses history, geography, economics, and politics together in a delightful tale. I learned a great deal about the Age of Exploration as a result of reading it. Definite five stars. Super book! I absolutely loved this book! I heard Lester speak at a Google Geo-Teacher's Institute in Maine in September. This book fuses history, geography, economics, and politics together in a delightful tale. I learned a great deal about the Age of Exploration as a result of reading it. Definite five stars. Super book!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I loved this book. I'm not a big non fiction reader. This book was fascinating from the beginning. Ancient maps, how they were created, how America got it's name. It's all in here. I loved this book. I'm not a big non fiction reader. This book was fascinating from the beginning. Ancient maps, how they were created, how America got it's name. It's all in here.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Adam Wilsman

    Prologue- Discusses 1507 map in which America is given its name. Among first to see that America was distinct and not a part of Asia and seemingly predicted its being surrounded by water almost ten years before the pacific was discovered. It wasn't until Columbus' third voyage that he set foot on the continent: Venezuela in 1498. It was only in 1513 after Vasco Nunez de Balboa had first caught sight if the Pacific that Europeans began to conceive of the new world as a separate continent. Columbus Prologue- Discusses 1507 map in which America is given its name. Among first to see that America was distinct and not a part of Asia and seemingly predicted its being surrounded by water almost ten years before the pacific was discovered. It wasn't until Columbus' third voyage that he set foot on the continent: Venezuela in 1498. It was only in 1513 after Vasco Nunez de Balboa had first caught sight if the Pacific that Europeans began to conceive of the new world as a separate continent. Columbus died believing he had reached the vicinity of Japan and china. Vespucci too thought this. In 1520 Magellan confirmed new continent. Ancient Greek proofs of the earth as spherical had survived into the Middle Ages and we're circulating in Europe. Discuss the world as Medieval Europeans saw it: three continents and one ocean - p. 32. Maps were one oriented with East being on top. Show students such a map. That was the Arab way of designing maps. How did people envision distant, unknown peoples? Monstrous races - 39. Increased orientation to west meant apocalypse was forthcoming and antichrist and the end of the world forthcoming. Jerusalem at center of maps. Medieval map hugely influenced by religious texts, bible. Mongols tied into many Christian legends. Of apocalyptic warriors coming from the East. Tartars even sounded like Tartarus, a Latin name for the underworld. After repeated overtures from Christian missionaries who hoped to stave off Mongol advances into Western Europe by converting the Mongols, these advances failed. However, the silver lining for the Europeans was that the primary victims of Mongol invasions was the Muslims and Byzantines, not Latin Christendom. The Mongols had their own religious imperatives and believed that their conquests had been ordained by the supreme sky god, Tenggeri and the whole world, they believed was a Mongol empire-in-the-making. Mongols often manipulated Christian beliefs and many times their soldiers were led with a big cross to suggest to Europeans that they were allies. The Europeans' understanding of the East was largely based on the bible and ideas of an eastern Christian kingdom that would unite Christendom. Chinese had their own concept of monstrous species. Marco's account does not include mythic elements but "matter-of-factly describes it as wealthier, more powerful, more populous, more extensive, more technologically advanced, and more civilized than anything Europeans had ever imagined." In traveling to java, marco had discovered an area formerlyof debated legend, the antipodes, or a continent south of the equator. after polo, fascination with far east and many travrlrrs, particulafly missionariez. in mkd 1300s with plague, strengthening muslim empire and fall of mongolsand subsequent expelling of wesrerners, communication shut down. 1200s - emergence of idea that you can sail west from europe until you reach Asia. The emergence of modern compass and marine chart meant that Euroepeans could navigate oceans without the help of the stars. Idea that Ireland wasn't the westermost part of the world. Early Middle Ages, Christian scholars did not much engage Greek and Roman works. These works were preserved and study by Jewish and Arabic scholars, who would later spread that information to Christian scholars. Key role of Arabic scholars in championing ideas about astronomy, ideas that would later be embraced by Europeans. Definition of humanism as a precursor of a description of how humanism influenced exploration: "Humanism describes a surge of interest in the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans, the development of a new kind of critical method for studying those works, and the gradual emergence of a program of education and cultural renewal based on classical thought." As Italian humanists saw it, fall of Rome in fifth century AD brought about a period of intellectual decline and social decay. Bring back learning of classical Greece and Rome. Prime mover: Petrarch. Petrach defined the three-part view of European cultural evolution that dominates the historiography today: first comes antiquity, a glorious era of classical learning; then comes the Middle Ages, long, dark centuries when the learning of the ancients is forgotten or lost; and finally comes the Renaissance, when the learning is revived." Giovanni Boccaccio was a discipline of Petrarch. Petrarch and Bocaccio drew on classical knowledge of maps and marine charts to reenvision the map. Fascination with classical Rome to a large extent related to Christian fascination with era of Christian dominance across Europe. When the Roman Empire split, each side with its own capital, language, and religion, fought over the legacy of the Roman Empire and the true Christian Church. This bitterness presents itself when the Latin Crusaders sacked Constantinople in 1204. During the Middle Ages, one scholar from Florentine, "described how the ancient Romans and Greeks differed in their approaches to geography: how Pliny and other Romans had described the world anecdotally and unsystematically, whereas Ptolemy and the Greek had mapped it with mathematical precision." Florentines tried to build about Ptolemy's maps. "The idea that the world could be seen from above, and that the individual human mind, with the help of mathematics, could grasp its measure--would be one of Ptolemy's great gifts to the artists and thinkers of the Italian Renaissance." This later got tied up into humanism. "Everything from the anatomy of the tiniest insect to the complex workings of the entire cosmos could be studied, surveyed, drawn, and mapped, and the effort would help modern Christians understand God's plan for the world better than ever before. This was the true gift of the humanist movement: it taught Christians that God's vision of the world--its geography and its history--was fully accessible to them." da Vinci is mapping the body in similar ways. Mappers in the 1400s began to draw maps like Ptolemy, maps that included not simply the known world, but the unknown world. Prince Henry the Navigator oversaw expeditions along the West African coast, expeditions who initially killed seals for their skins and oils and later began a big slaving operation. It was sanctioned by the Catholic Church because the Portuguese were "saving the heathens." "Europeans of the fifteenth century are generally portrayed as having no idea about the size, the shape, and the circumnavigability of Africa. To a great degree, that's true: the Portuguese didn't know what they would find as they sailed south." The Portuguese suspect that they may be able to round Africa to access India and its goods. After several failures, Bartolomeu Dias finally does so after a storm sends his ships out to see out of view of land for 13 days. His crew sick and without supplies, he heads back to Europe before reaching India. He names the cape the Cape of Storms given his experience, but the Portuguese kind renames it the Cape of Good Hope. Dias was not greeted as a hero upon his return because his journey was disspiriting. Sailed more than 1000 miles and still couldn't say he had reached the Indian Ocean. Coastline of Africa was longer than expected. Less practical than anybody had expected. Deep into the age of exploration, mapmakers and explorers rely upon the words and maps of Ptolemy and the world as described by Marco Polo. Columbus returns from Indies in Portuguese port before Portuguese are able to sail west to "Indies." Columbus is rejected by the Portuguese court, whose comsmographers have a much better sense of the earth, its size and geography than Columbus. He moves on to Spain where he is rejected for years. For six years he studies so that he can better argue with scholars at the Spanish court. The Spanish court is engaged in its fight against the Moors and so are too distracted to sponsor Columbus, but continually tell him to come back later. As Columbus is rejected after the successful conclusion of the REconquista, he starts to move on to France until he is chased down by a member of the Spanish court who says Ferdinand and Isabella are on board. Columbus discovers Hispaniola, Cuba, and an array of other islands that he thinks are part of Asia. Part of him still thinks it doesn't fit and doesn't sound like the world describes by Marco Polo, but he has no concept that he's found a new area. Searching for gold, which he thinks can fund a new crusade to seize Jerusalem for the Christians. Santa Maria crashes and they set up a small settlement, which is destroyed when its 39 European inhabitants lead a few too many raids into Indian territory. Portuguese are mad to hear about Columbus' discoveries (he lands in Portugal after first voyage) and some advisers tell the Portuguese king to kill Columbus. Doesn't happen, but it does set off negotiations arbitrated by the Pope. For the rest of his life, Columbus becomes distracted by the disastrous colony that he had established on Hispaniola, wracked by civil conflict, rebellions from natives, food issues, and more. Columbus would later spend years of his life trying to bring order to the colony. Cabot begins his explorations of the Ocean, claiming to have found the lands of the Great Khan. When Columbus discovers what ends up being Venezuela, he figures out it is a continent. Though for a moment he thinks it's a new continent, he ultimately concludes that it is the eastern edge of the Earthly Paradise and his discovery of it is going to usher in armageddon. When Columbus' cruelty in putting down violence in Hispaniola came to light, he was arrested by the Spanish, though later released. Columbus quickly became known as an explorer who discovered a couple minor islands and was vastly overshadowed by Vasco da Gama who returned from Calicut having successfully travelled from Lisbon and with riches that Columbus only dreamed of. Cabral shortly thereafter discovered "Brazil" for Portugal. Amerigo Vespucci who helps explore for Spain, then Portugal, then Spain again travels the coast of South America and upon seeing how long it is, determines that it can't be the "Dragon's Tail" long thought to represent the eastern end of Asia. He still does not assert that this is a new continent, but an new part of Asia, previously unknown to earlier mapmakers. Printing press key to Columbus because of its democratizing effects of knowledge. He wasn’t a learned man before he set sail and needed to learn in order to speak intelligently to the Spanish king’s advisers. German humanism emerges with a desire to assert to Italian humanists the German embrace and relationship to the Roman Empire, tie together the Holy Roman Empire and classical Rome. They seek to meld Ptolemy’s ideas of the world with new ideas emerging from new discoveries. After all, it seemed that new discoveries in the west dwarfed Europe. The printing press also enabled mapmakers to print maps much more efficiently. Copyists had corrupted the maps over the years and updates of the modern age didn’t always accurately reflect new conceptions of the world. “Even the most devoted reader does not know what derives from the moderns and what from Ptolemy himself.” Taking measure of the world at this time, trying to understand its contours, this was a very humanistic endeavor and an empirical one. "For millennia geography was a tool used by philosophers and theologians to probe the mysteries of existence and to trace the course of human history. It laid out the boundaries of the known. By placing the fourth part of the world inside those boundaries and then extending them all the way around the world for the first time, the Waldseemuller map helped usher in the modern geographical era, an achievement for which it deserves an important place in the history of ideas.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Keith Parrish

    The Age of Exploration has always fascinated me. This is an era when when men with dash, panache and derring-do set out in the name of the three G's (as we learned them) - God, Gold, and Glory (not necessarily in that order). Prince Henry the Navigator sending his Portuguese explorers along the coast of Africa, farther and farther south until they found the elusive water route to Asia. The Spanish countering by sending Columbus westward. Much of this, of course is very simplified history, but th The Age of Exploration has always fascinated me. This is an era when when men with dash, panache and derring-do set out in the name of the three G's (as we learned them) - God, Gold, and Glory (not necessarily in that order). Prince Henry the Navigator sending his Portuguese explorers along the coast of Africa, farther and farther south until they found the elusive water route to Asia. The Spanish countering by sending Columbus westward. Much of this, of course is very simplified history, but the story is true that these were men who set out to become rich and famous (and, oh, yeah spread Christianity) risking the lives of themselves and their crews in the process. Toby Lester gives us this story, focusing in particular on Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. But Lester gives a much larger picture and puts the accomplishments and failings of these and other men into a much larger context. Lester introduces the reader to the Waldseemuller map - the first map of the world to use the word "America" to denote the new world discovered by the explorers. This map has sometimes been referred to as "America's Birth Certificate." Lester goes into a history of cosmography - the study of how human beings view the world. Maps for centuries had been more ideas than anything else. They presented the world in three parts - Europe, Asia, and Africa and even then only in the vaguest terms. The Roman scholar Ptolemy is one of the major figures in the book for his efforts at producing a realistic view of the world as a whole in the first century C.E. It is Ptolemy who sets the stage for the many maps to come after. As more f the world is explored by men like Marco Polo, more knowledge is added to those three parts. It is only with the Portuguese and Spanish (and a little by the Norse and the English) explorations that the fourth part of the world is added and put in print by a little known mapmaker named Martin Walseemuller and his intellectual friends who made a map and wrote a book to go along with it that for a brief time made them celebrities and authors of one of the first best-sellers in the world. Lester's enthusiasm for all this is absolutely contagious. What could be a potentially extremely dry subject - the history of mapmaking - becomes an epic journey. Lester paints the main characters colorfully and provides side notes that at times are laugh out loud funny. It does,at times, become difficultto keep straight the various projections and versions of maps of the world, I do not blame Lester but rather the scope of the subject. One of the blurbs on the cover compares this book to Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs & Steel." While I don't think this approaches the importance of that book in understanding modern society, it would appeal to the same audience. I highly recommend this.

  27. 4 out of 5

    John Vanek

    After the opening chapter described the discovery and importance of the Waldseemuller Map, I thought Lester had already fulfilled the book's title. But there is so much more here! So what is it? At base, The Fourth Part of the World is a cultural history of European cartography and exploration. Lester's goal is to describe all of the ideas represented in--and influenced by--the 1507 Waldseemuller map. And he achieves it. I love books like this that pull together wide-ranging ideas and events int After the opening chapter described the discovery and importance of the Waldseemuller Map, I thought Lester had already fulfilled the book's title. But there is so much more here! So what is it? At base, The Fourth Part of the World is a cultural history of European cartography and exploration. Lester's goal is to describe all of the ideas represented in--and influenced by--the 1507 Waldseemuller map. And he achieves it. I love books like this that pull together wide-ranging ideas and events into a cohesive narrative. In this case, chapters cover everything from the Mongol invasions to Copernicus. If you want a one-stop shop to learn about about how the Age of Exploration happened--and not just names and dates but why it matters--this is the book for you. In the latter chapters, it includes an up-to-date synthesis of scholarship about Columbus, Vespucci, and other early explorers. (Of course, we're all still waiting to see if Evan Jones can piece together the lost research of Alwyn Ruddock about the so-called Men from Bristol.)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Well-written story of the map and geographical world of Europe as it changed from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance. This is a history of ideas, not the story of any specific explorer, but the story of the intellectual undercurrents of a Europe grappling with the meaning of the discoveries made in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It’s a narrow story, but very well-told with tight writing and well-drawn characters. As a former Early Modern European grad student, I was surprised by how mu Well-written story of the map and geographical world of Europe as it changed from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance. This is a history of ideas, not the story of any specific explorer, but the story of the intellectual undercurrents of a Europe grappling with the meaning of the discoveries made in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It’s a narrow story, but very well-told with tight writing and well-drawn characters. As a former Early Modern European grad student, I was surprised by how much I learned from this obviously we’ll researched book. The author may have tried a little too hard at the end to tie his story into the larger Copernican astronomical changes, but that didn’t change my overall opinion of the book. Fascinating and very easy to read, even fir someone no longer accustomed to reading academic history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    George Sink

    This was one of the most interesting books I've read on the history of how we as people have thought about the world we walk upon, as well as how we've mapped it through the centuries. It walks through history from antiquity to the late 1500s, focusing on the Greek, Roman, and European experience, and for me was written in a style that flowed incredibly well. It was easy to read while being quite informative. The intellectual tradition that spurred on the Renaissance is shown to have its roots h This was one of the most interesting books I've read on the history of how we as people have thought about the world we walk upon, as well as how we've mapped it through the centuries. It walks through history from antiquity to the late 1500s, focusing on the Greek, Roman, and European experience, and for me was written in a style that flowed incredibly well. It was easy to read while being quite informative. The intellectual tradition that spurred on the Renaissance is shown to have its roots here, and I was fascinated to discover the role of the ancients, from Rome to China, in motivating exploration and discovery. For me this was a great read, covering a broad swath of history. I'd definitely recommend it for those interested.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liam

    Very enjoyable listen. It is about the period of naval exploration. Many navigators made an estimate that there must be an as yet undiscovered part of the world - looking at a map, if Europe, Africa and Asia, it seemed a part was missing. This text introduces a great number a explorers over two centuries that sought backing from the wealthy monarchs. The investments are made with great caution, often just traveling a few hundred kilometres farther than the known world. It's a long time, and dozens Very enjoyable listen. It is about the period of naval exploration. Many navigators made an estimate that there must be an as yet undiscovered part of the world - looking at a map, if Europe, Africa and Asia, it seemed a part was missing. This text introduces a great number a explorers over two centuries that sought backing from the wealthy monarchs. The investments are made with great caution, often just traveling a few hundred kilometres farther than the known world. It's a long time, and dozens of expeditions before anyone reaches the America's. It is written to keep an interested audience and the narration brings tension, excitement and elation. One of my favourite naval and exploration books. 5 star.

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