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Map History / History of Cartography: THE Gateway to the Subject

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Map History

Map Collecting

(mounted on the web in 1999, with regular updates thereafter)

see Marketplace (with sections on Dealers; Fairs; Sales, Auction & Prices; Searching for Maps)

Reading matter
Buying maps
Map Societies
Road maps


see this helpful guide by Joel Kovarsky:
'A Condensed Digital Travelers Guide: Web Resources for Map Collectors & Enthusiasts' [links arranged under 14 headings - 2004-15]s

Reading matter (about map collecting and general introductions to the subject)


See if you can buy one of the titles listed in Books to get you into the subject, or track them down in your local library - for collecting, try Francis J. Manasek's Collecting old maps or Jonathan Potter's Collecting antique maps. For lists of relevant publications and catalogues, see General Bibliographies , which includes a few entries for specific areas or themes.


For further online texts see Web articles and commentaries on specific topics in the History of Cartography - for example, the Themes page, under 'Printing Methods' (to learn about the differences between engraving, lithography and woodcut). The Journals and Newsletters listings on this site indicate which elements can be accessed online.

Map Bar
The map dealer Paulus Swaen has created a ‘Map Bar’, ‘where collectors can invite friends and colleagues to view and enjoy their maps in a virtual 3-dimensional space’. On this see also the IMCoS Map Journal, 170 (September 2022), p.40.

See Special Topics: Reference for links to book collecting.

Internet forums:
See Discussion lists

Buying maps

Visit a local map dealer, or attend a map fair, so that you can see some original maps. The 'Web Images' page includes a section on Larger map dealer sites . Use those links to locate pictures of maps of a particular region, or search out those by a specific maker. This is also a way to find out something about an individual item, although the descriptions may be rudimentary. You can also learn about prices from those sites. Look at Joel Kovarsky's Book search engines on the web: use for map-related materials.

You need to be aware that some modern maps are sold as original. On that see Fakes, forgeries & facsimiles likely to deceive. For information about stolen maps see Map Thefts.

For a round-up, see Marketplace, which also has sections on map fairs and auctions.


See, for brief and clear notes from a knowledgeable map dealer Joel Kovarsky's 'Care of old maps'. Also specifically on this topic, from the British Museum's celebrated former Conservator, A.D. Baynes-Cope, is 'The conservation of maps' (LIBER Bulletin 12 (1978)).

For help with your questions why not try Connecting to Collections Care Online Community

For online advice about caring for maps, a good place to start is the Library of Congress 'Caring for your collections' page. There are links to specific pages for Preserving Works on Paper: Manuscripts, Drawings, Prints, Posters, Maps, Documents;   Care, Handling and Storage of Books; and Guide to Preservation Matting and Framing. The LC site also includes links to other preservation resources, as does 'Conservation Online: Resources for Conservation Professionals' (from the Preservation Department of Stanford University Libraries). See specifically, The Conservation Course Syllabus Pages by Sarah Lowengard, which ranges over various media, including paper.

The British Library's Preservation Advisory Centre has put online a range of publications, including Cleaning books and documents. Another place to look is the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, particularly at the pages for Caring for your books and Caring for your documents and art on paper. The website of the Groupe des Cartothécaires de LIBER reprints a number of articles on Conservation from 1978 onwards.

Take a look at the Northeast Document Conservation Center's online leaflets on a wide variety of Preservation and Conservation topics.

You may find helpful the brief notes on 'Protecting your Collection' from Old World Auctions, 'The care and conservation of antique prints' by Neil Street, 'How to... Protect your rare maps and manuscripts' (Paul Fraser Collectibles), and Vic Zoschak's 'Caring for Your Rare and Antiquarian Maps' (Tavistock Books, reissued on the ILAB site).

Protect Photos, Documents And Other Papers From Natural Destruction Over Time (from Scrapbook.com) provides a clear survey of the history of paper-making and the types involved, along with preservation hints.

The well-publicised story of Unravelling the ‘Chimney map’ is well described in a YouTube video. This shows the fragmentary condition of the large double-hemisphere map of the world, Nova totius terrarum orbis tabula, by Gerard Valck and Leonard Schenk (Amsterdam, c.1690), discovered up a chimney of a house in northeast Scotland in 2008 and delivered in a plastic bag in pieces, and its miraculous transformation. See also a second YouTube video).

See the 4-minute YouTube video about restoration of the large and badly damaged plan of Evanston by Theodore Reese (c.1876), 'Library Restores and Digitizes Oldest Known Map of Evanston'. Another case study is 'Solving the Ptolemy Puzzle' (about the conservation issues raised by the Library of Congress's 1513 Ptolemy, by Sylvia Albro et al., The Book and Paper Group Annual 30 (2001): 5-8).

For another specialist example, this time concerning early portolan charts, see 'La restauration des cartes portulans par l'atelier de restauration des Cartes et plans de la BnF'. Also of interest is Restoration of the “War atlas” from the Military History and Culture Center (Barcelona) (a well-illustrated account). The National Library of Scotland's blog (4 April 2016) contains an illustrated note on Conserving large maps. Also instructive is ’Conserving the map of Stornoway by James Chapman, ca. 1800’. For still another practical example see ‘Conservation Close-up: Sea Charts used in Whaling’ (also Part 2) from the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan. For a further example see ’Conservation Treatment of Hendrick Doncker’s Zee-atlas from 1660; Or, How an Atlas Gets Stressed, and What Book Conservators Do About It’ (by Ursula Mitra, New York Public Library, September 2021). Yet another example is an illustrated account of the digitisation of the Juan de la Cosa chart by Factum Arte at the Museo Naval, Madrid in 2021, so as to create a high-quality facsimile faithfully reproducing the uneven surface.

For UK suppliers of conservation materials see the British Cartographic Society's 'MCG Toolbox' under 'Equipment and supplies'.

Besides the links above, see also under 'Map Societies' below and, for topics such as paper and watermarks, the Bibliography section of the 'Special Topics' page.

The Library of Congress Select risk management and insurance bibliography (January 2007) provides a general bibliography. See also the relevant 'Bulletin' of the International Map Collectors' Society (IMCoS), No.8 Insurance for map collections, by Hans Kok.

Map societies

See if there is a Map Society near you (especially if you live in the United States). Or see what is offered by the International Map Collectors' Society (IMCoS). They issue a series of practical aids for map collectors, Bulletins, with the Journal. These are by Hans Kok unless otherwise stated. There is a rolling publication programme, with subsequent mounting on the web. 1 Judging a map's condition (by Rodney Shirley). 2 Distinguishing fake from real. 3 Looking after antique maps and prints. 4 Photographing your maps. 5A Mounting maps and prints. 5B Framing maps and prints. 6 Small repairs to antique maps (by Hans Kok and Corinne Hillman). 7 Cataloguing map collections. 8 Insurance for map collections.

John Docktor's Calendar will give you the dates of upcoming society meetings. You will always be welcome.

Road maps

Pascal Pannetier's Histoire des cartes routières includes links, mostly relating to the USA, see LIEN (links) (also follow the 'Links' button on the website of the Road Map Collectors Association.

There is also an Internet list: Roadmaps-L and two societies: Road Map Collectors Association; and Association des Collectionneurs de Guides et Cartes Michelin [contact Denis Rivière: DENIS-RIVIERE(at)wanadoo.fr (NB. You need to replace (at) with the @ symbol)].

Pascal Pannetier runs a quarterly print journal, Route Nostalgie. For other information on road maps see under 'roads' on the 'Themes' page of 'Web Articles'. For images of road maps, see 'Web Images', select the appropriate geographical heading, and search [Ctrl+F] for 'roads'.

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