The Waldseemüller map is a world map drawn by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller and originally published in April 1507. The map consists of 12 panels, arranged in a 4×3 grid, totaling 2.48 by 1.38 meters when wall mounted into a single piece. It was one of the first maps to chart latitude and longitude precisely; following the example of Ptolemy; and was the first map to use the name “America”. The map provides a great tool for engaging students in critical thinking, especially in relation to the development and spread of “Western” civilisation around the world. Students can be asked to consider questions such as “why were the Mediterranean and Arabic worlds so well mapped?”, “why was Australia not on the map?” and “why does America appear so thin?”. Another angle that can be taken is considering how technology has changed the art of cartography, and what the implications are for society and our sense of self.

Wikimedia (Wikipedia’s media warehouse) contains a huge digital version of this map: at 13,708 × 7,590 pixels and 19.65 MB it is big enough to crash some browsers. This gives plenty of detail for up-close inspection.