The Texas Collection at Carroll Library will host the grand opening of the exhibit titled "Mapping it Out: A Cartographic History of Texas" at 2:30 p.m. today.
"This is a fabulous exhibition, and people wouldn't believe that we would own these maps," said John Wilson, interim director of the Texas Collection.
The exhibit, featured in the new Frances C. Poage Map Room in Carroll Library, displays historic maps of Texas and surrounding areas.
"Back in the 1980s, Congressman William Poage gave funds to the Texas Collection to set up a map room in honor of his wife Francis," said Kathy Hinton, administrative coordinator for the Texas Collection. "This past year we took some of those endowment funds and remodeled the room in the second floor; it allows all of our maps to be stored in one room. We've got over 10,000 maps."
Most of the maps are centered on Texas history, and one dates to the time of Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez.
"The oldest map that we think we own, because we keep finding more, is 1524, which is a map out of the second letter of Cortez, and it is a map of Mexico," Wilson said. "The original is in the archives in Spain, but this is the printed letter in Latin."
The original second letter of Cortez will be on display at the library's exhibit today only.
"To have something that is close to 500 years old is pretty amazing and it's in pretty good shape," Wilson said.
Wilson said the collection has one of the first maps featuring the Texas coastline, a map thought to have been created in 1656 by French cartographer Nicolas Sanson.
Sanson's map is one of the earliest documentations of Texas cartography, according to the Texas Collection's manual about the exhibit.
Special guest Toby Lester, author of "The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth," will be giving a lecture at 3:30 p.m. today in Bennett Auditorium.
"This is the book about the epic story which gave America it's name," Hinton said.
In his book Lester writes about the Waldseemüller map, the first map which has "America" written on it. Lester will have a copy of the famous map at his lecture today.
"We really needed someone here who got excited about maps and cartography and discovery," Wilson said.
"After reading his book you could tell he was interested in how all of this was made. What Toby does is he looks backward into this journey, what Vespucci, Columbus, the Portuguese and the Spanish were doing, and he brings it back to modern times."
After the lecture Lester will sign copies of his book, which will be followed by a reception at the Texas Collection in Carroll Library.
The event is hosted in partnership with Baylor's departments of English, history, journalism & media arts and the Honors College.
For more information visit www.baylor.edu/lib/texas.