Frequently Asked Questions about Antique Maps
Our customers often marvel at the many different maps we have in our store, and as we chat with them, they ask lots of questions. Here are some of the most common:
Where did you get your maps?
Bob bought two antique map businesses from dealers who were retiring, so he acquired thousands of antique maps, prints, and nautical charts in those purchases. We also still buy at shows and auctions, and occasionally we buy items directly from people who bring them into the store. Our inventory is always changing and every month we send out a newsletter highlighting exciting new items- sign up at the bottom of the page to learn about new additions!
Where do the maps come from?
Many antique maps are from books and atlases, including school books, county atlases, topographical atlases, commercial atlases, etc. Many maps were published with a center fold or many folds, because they were folded into a book. Some atlases were intended for education, some were made for tax purposes and showed property owners, some were sponsored by the government to record land or coast surveys, some atlases record historical events and wars, and some were created to display the information gathered in a census. Later maps were published for tourism and fun as well. And of course, maps have always been made for travel!
What do you mean when you say a map is an "original antique"?
Sometimes customers think that saying a map is an original antique means that there is only one in existence, but that is rarely the case. Most maps were made using a printmaking technique, meaning that multiples were created at the same time, and all of those are originals. For example, our maps by Munster from 1542 were printed and published in 1542 (yes, the paper really is that old!) and Munster printed many sets of them at that time and published his maps in Heinrich Petri's Cosmographia. He was recreating the maps made by Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD, which have been lost to time. It is impossible to know how many volumes of Cosmographia were printed or how many have survived to the modern era, but these maps do go on the market with some regularity. The exception to this are hand-drawn maps, which are generally singular and unique.
How can I tell how old a map is?
Many maps do not have a date printed on them, and sometimes the date cannot be trusted entirely. If the map is still in or with the atlas it was published in, then the atlas will have a publication date, making it easy to date the map. If the map has a date printed near the title or at the bottom edge of the paper, that is a good starting point, however some mapmakers used the same printing plate for many years, meaning that a map that says 1627 may have actually been in a later printing of the atlas. When researching a map, it is important to use all of the information at your disposal and to examine the map very thoroughly, especially paying attention to things that may have changed and been updated (like railroads in 19th century maps). Professional map dealers may be able to glean more information, so you may want to bring your map to someone to look at. We offer an Informal Assessment service and also a Formal Appraisal service.