Deep American History
In 1517, when Martin Luther published his Ninety-five Theses (and the many subsequent fliers he drafted outlining his anti-indulgences position), he did so with the help of a printer. That printer’s name was Johannes Schott.
You may never have heard of Schott, but if you if have then you would also know that Luther’s choice of printers was rather ironic. You see, Schott came from a family of printers who learned everything they knew about printing from the master himself: Johannes Gutenberg.
The irony of Schott printing Luther’s anti-indulgence fliers is that Gutenberg got his start printing certificates of indulgences.
I suppose it is not much different from a modern day election. Democrat and Republican candidates both need printers. And so, when Luther needed a printer, he chose Johannes Schott.
A few years before Schott met Luther, he attended college, and while in college he had a roommate. That roommate was also destined to become a great printer. In fact, he created something epic.
Schott’s roommate in college was Martin Waldseemüller. After Waldseemüller graduated, he went into printing and mapmaking and, not long after that, he came up with an idea.
Waldseemüller’s idea was to create a 12-panel wall map of the world – in other words, a map of the world divided into 12 pieces of paper.
People would buy a set of all 12 pieces and bring them together on a wall to create one giant “wall paper” map. Once assembled, the map measured 4 feet high by 8 feet wide. Waldseemüller carved the map into 12 equally sized woodblocks for printing and he printed and sold 1,000 sets.
But – as we all know - wallpaper fades and falls apart over time. Only one of those original 1,000 sets exist today. That one surviving set was found in 1901. It was discovered accidentally by a German clergyman who was researching a history of the Vikings. It is the only known existing set, and it was purchased by the United States Library of Congress a century later.
They paid $10 million for it.
Why did the Library of Congress pay $10 million 20 years ago for a 500-year-old map?
Because of one word.
When Waldseemüller created his map, he invented a word.
That new word gave a name to one specific geographical location – a name that endures to this day.
He called it “America.”
God Bless America, and Happy Independence Day, everyone.
Currently serving as president of the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association, Dwayne Magee is in his 13th year as director of Messiah College Press and Postal Services. Before that, he worked for 17 years at Alphagraphics as an assistant manager and ISO coordinator. Outside of work, Dwayne enjoys exploring spiritual, environmental, and social concerns through creative writing and the arts. He can often be found speaking on the topic of diversity in bookstores, public libraries and elementary schools, where he makes use of his award-winning children’s book “A Blue-Footed Booby Named Solly McBoo.” His travel writing and fictional essays have made appearances in various publications including the Northern Colorado Writers Anthology and the Goose River Anthology published by Goose River Press. Dwayne is the father of two children and currently resides in Mechanicsburg, Pa., with his wife and their two dogs.