THE FOURTH PART OF THE WORLD:
The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name.
By Toby Lester.
Free Press. 462 pp. $30
Renaissance sophisticates sneered. How could a sleepy little backwoods town like Saint-Dié in distant Lorraine, deep in upland pine forests, home to flax weavers and log sawyers, presume to rival the great centers of humanist learning at the beginning of the 16th century? Saint-Dié seemed too poor and remote for glory and fame. Yet under the ambitious patronage of the young Duke René, a group of learned men gathered, around the town’s printing press and cathedral library, to undertake an...