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The following are normally used to describe each map:

Map Maker:   This is the person most often associated with a particular map based on custom.

Location of Publication
:   The city where the map (and its atlas) was printed.

Date:   Where a map can be precisely dated, that date is used. Often, the first publication date of the described map will be cited followed by the actual date of the map being described. E.g. If the map first appeared in 1606 and the map being described is from 1612, then the listing would be (1606) 1612. Where the map date is approximate, then c. (circa) is used.

Popular Map Title
:   A quick identification title for a map is sometimes used. E.g. "Munster’s Upside Down Europe".

   The title is given verbatim, often in full or, if too long, with sufficient wording to easily identify the map. (……) indicate if a portion of the title is omitted.

Printing Process
:   Generally, a woodblock print, a copperplate or steel plate engraved print, or a lithograph.

   If the color was applied at the time of printing, then original color will be used. This original color may be in full body color or in outline color, If there is doubt about the age of the color, then colored, full body color, or fine handcoloring will be used. No attempt is made to describe color as either early or modern. Sometimes, if a cartouche was traditionally left uncolored (as for example, Homann’s maps), that will be mentioned.

Maps were originally colored for esthetic reasons and to improve readability.  Original colors most often used were green, pink, orange & yellow for political sub-divisions, red to identify cities and towns, green for forests, brown for mountains, and blue for seas, Many maps were not colored before they were bound into an atlas or book.

Often, uncolored maps have had color added at some time after the maps were removed from their atlases.  If uncolored maps had color applied in a skillful and historically accurate manner, it is often difficult to distinguish these maps from original color maps.  Skillfully applied modern color enhances the beauty and thus the value of many maps.

Many people assume that original color maps are more finely colored than maps colored in more recent times.  This is often not true.  We find that modern color or the re-touching of original color is generally more carefully applied than the application of original color. Original map colorists were often paid on a piecework basis, thus they often rushed, occasionally omitting or mis-applying some color. In fact, we often use the fineness of the application as an indicator of modern color when we are not completely certain if a map has original or modern color.  Also over time, original color maps often can have some oxidation, smudging, or sticking of the folded pages.

   The dimensions are given in millimeters from neatline to neatline. First the height and then the width is given. There are often dimensional variations among the exact same maps due to paper shrinkage or expansion.

Narrative:   Information such as the map’s special features, cartographic importance, etc. are mentioned in the map narrative.

Reference:   Where ever possible, a common carto-bibiographic reference is used to enable interested persons to obtain further information on the described map.

Condition:   Nothing is more subjective than describing map condition. Even though all the maps are in at least reasonable collectible condition, information on map condition and especially flaws are mentioned. Where flaws are noted, subsequent repairs are mentioned. The following is a summary of the system of describing map condition:
Very Fine - The highest classification we use. These maps are clean and bright with a strong map image.
•  Fine - These maps generally have a clean, sharp image. Paper quality and margin size may vary somewhat. These maps may have some minor flaws (stichholes, wormholes, minor age toning, minor centerfold or other separations not effecting map image) often depending on print date. E.g. many early 16th century maps such as those by Munster were often printed on poor quality paper; some early map-makers had their map margins closely shaved, etc.
•  Very Good - No significant imperfections. Flaws and repairs are noted.
•  Good - Noticeable imperfections but still in a collectible condition. Foxing, weak map image, and/or long separations are mentioned.

Cost:   Many factors determine the price of a map such as:

  • Condition:  Condition often is most important (unless a map is rare and/or represents a highly sought after region), though an unthinking attention to condition can cause you to miss some interesting maps that, in all other ways, appeal to you.

  • Scarcity:  If other factors that effect cost are present, a map's scarcity will effect the cost.  However, scarcity by itself does not always directly equate to cost.

  • Region depicted:  Usually maps of the Americas and world maps are the most expensive simply because the largest numbers of people collect maps from these regions thus effecting supply and demand.  Also, maps of certain vacation destinations (Caribbean, Bermuda, Malta, etc.) also have large numbers of collectors.  Probably the most undervalued pre-1700 maps are maps of regions of Europe, Africa, and Asia by Ortelius, Mercator, Blaeu, and Hondius.  These are often beautiful and interesting maps. 

  • Historical importance:  Sometimes a particular map may show the first appearance of a certain event such as the change of a region's rule from one colonial power to another.  This can effect cost.

  • Mapmaker:  Maps by Ortelius, Mercator, Blaeu, and  Hondius appeal to a large number of people and thus are widely collected increasing demand.

  • Esthetics and various intangibles:  Particularly beautiful color, large cartouches, sea monsters, ships, and other decorative elements all can increase those interested in certain maps thus increasing the cost of these maps.  An example of this is Abraham Ortelius' map of Islandia (Iceland)..

Some Last Words of Advice:   We suggest you buy what appeals to you personally.  Acquire reference books and make an effort to learn as much as possible about your maps (what they show, what is omitted, why, etc.) and the maps' makers.  Join a map society, discuss map collecting with dealers and fellow collectors, and attend talks & symposia on antique maps.  Following these simple guidelines will give you many years of pleasure with your maps.


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Hemispheres Antique Maps & Prints
Dr. Richard L. & Penelope W. Betz
Phone: 603-446-7181