Graphic representations of the earth based on Ptolemy’s Geography encouraged Columbus to test his hypothesis that the East could be reached by sailing west. Reports from the explorers who followed him transformed European conceptions of the known world. Scholars attempted to modify Ptolemaic frameworks to incorporate this astonishing new information, which expanded the inhabited, terrestrial area of the globe.

Universalior cogniti orbis tabula ex recentibus confecta observationibus

by Johann Ruysch

Rome, 1508
Copperplate, uncolored , 41 x 54 cm.

The cartographer and astronomer Ruysch devised this fan-shaped projection to accommodate recent western discoveries for the first time in an edition of Ptolemy's Geography. He attempted to reconcile conflicting observations during the first decade of exploration: the West Indian archipelago, including the large islands of Cuba and "Spagnola," is located off the coast of Asia, as claimed by Columbus; South America, marked "Mundus Novus," is represented as a continent, as asserted by Vespucci; and Greenland and Newfoundland or "Gruenland" and "Terra Nova" are shown as an extension of Asia, as reported by John Cabot.