Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map

This groundbreaking 16th-century map is known as “America’s birth certificate.” 

The Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building houses the largest collection of maps in the world. Their Geography & Map Division manages over 5.5 million maps, 80,000 atlases (including a significant collection of Ptolemy atlases), 500 globes, reference materials, raised relief models, and a huge digital library.

One of the most notable items is the only surviving copy of Martin Waldseemüller’s world map from 1507. It is the first map to depict the Western Hemisphere as a distinct continent, surrounded by water and not connected to Asia. AtlasObscura.com

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Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map Library of Congress

Medieval excommunication: eternal damnation or no big deal?

In Christian-dominated medieval Europe, what did it mean to be excommunicated? How much of an earth-shattering punishment was it, and what can excommunications tell us about the attitudes of people in the Middle Ages? In this episode, Dr Felicity Hill of the University of St Andrews explains all to David Musgrove. HistoryExtra.com

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Jan Hus (right) at the Council of Constance, where he was excommunicated and declared a heretic.

Why Henry VI’s reign was such a disaster

In Westminster Abbey, the tomb of Henry V is hard to miss. Towering above the mosaic-encrusted tomb of St Edward the Confessor and his royal successors, for centuries Henry’s final resting place was topped by a shield, helm and warhorse’s saddle. All are symbols of the martial glory of a man many still consider to be the best English king of the Middle Ages.

Meanwhile, in the Lady Chapel behind, tucked away and noticed by almost no one, is a small wooden pew-end representing Henry V’s successor, and only child, Henry VI. Can anything more aptly demonstrate the reputations of this father and son? Henry V loomed over his offspring from the grave, and in his father’s shadow Henry VI grew up stunted, emotionally and politically. HistoryExtra.com

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Henry V and Henry VI

The Veterinary Magic of the Middle Ages

Medieval healers treated animals’ ailments with a mix of faith, tradition and science

The year is 1266, and your horse is acting strange. It started with a fever. But then weeping pustules appeared all over its body, and fluids poured forth from every orifice. Not long after, the horse stabled next to it came down with the same sickness. You’ve heard of this before. It’s the dreaded disease called farcy—and you’ll need more than medicine to make your animals well again. SmithsonianMag.com

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A workhorse in Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, 1412–1416 Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Amateur Treasure Hunter Unearths Missing Centerpiece of Henry VIII’s Crown

The gold figurine, valued at roughly £2 million, depicts 15th-century English king Henry VI

Standing just 2.5 inches tall, the statuette may have once formed the centerpiece of a dazzling Tudor crown. As historian Leanda de Lisle wrote on her website this past December, researchers had long thought that the diadem—worn by Henry VIII during processions marking the Feast of the Epiphany and by his five immediate successors during their respective coronations—was lost, its precious metals melted down to make coins and its jewels sold piecemeal following the fall of the British monarchy in 1649. Smithsonianmag.com

The gold figurine stands just 2.5 inches tall. Kevin Duckett via Facebook

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