Five years ago, John W. Hessler, a historian of cartography at the library, published “The Naming of America,” an account of the map’s importance in post-Ptolemy geography, its disappearance for centuries and its rediscovery in a castle near the Black Forest in southwestern Germany. Now, Dr. Hessler has dug deeper into the dynamic of the years between Columbus, in 1492, and Copernicus, in 1543. Science and exploration were stretching minds to distant horizons, once unknown. Copernican astronomy was about to dislodge Earth from the center of the universe, a start to the Scientific Revolution.
His new book, “A Renaissance Globemaker’s Toolbox,” is not able to solve the mapmakers’ enduring mystery. But it is a richly illustrated delight to the eye. I advise a slow tour of the maps, drawings, marginal notes and other material remains of Schöner’s wide-ranging mind. Read the informative captions, then begin the text.
General readers will find the accounts of Schöner’s place in history and the preservation of the map lucid and fascinating. Parts of more technical chapters, like the instructions on making a terrestrial globe, appear to be written more for the author’s academic peers than for many laypeople. And of necessity, this is hardly a flesh-and-blood biography, as the archives are largely silent about Schöner’s personal life.For more images re A Renaissance Globemaker's Toolbox, go here:
A Renaissance Globemaker's Toolbox is the first scholarly biography of the Nuremberg astronomer and mathematician Johannes Schöner (d. 1547) and the first history of the Schöner Sammelband, a collection of maps and notes put together by him sometime after 1516. Into the Sammelbund, now part of the Kislak Collection of the Library of Congress, Schöner bound two masterpieces of cartography by Martin Waldseemüller, celestial and terrestrial globe patterns of his own design, fragments of two other celestial and terrestrial globes, and the earliest printed star chart, by none other than Albrecht Dürer. It is a book whose contents has spurred some of the most hotly contested debates in contemporary historical geography and the history of exploration, containing as it does the only surviving copy of the famous 1507 World Map by Martin Waldseemüller, the earliest map to show a Pacific Ocean, dated years before its accepted discovery by Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1513. Although it is well known that Schöner owned this map and Waldseemüller's later world map, the Carta marina (1516), until now very little research has focused on how he used them and on the origins of the other materials that were found in the Sammelband.