antiquarian, historical maps of the world, prints, engravings, views, antique maps of the world

ANTIQUE MAPS and PRINTS


A BRIEF HISTORY OF CARTOGRAPHY

AND HOW EARLY MAPS WERE MADE and PRINTED

engraving of medieval printer at work

This Page is provided as a REFERENCE RESOURCE - it is NOT an Inventory.
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Our stock comprises over 250.000 genuine original antiquarian maps and authentic historical engravings, printed at the dates stated. We do NOT deal in modern reproductions.

The fascination of old maps and prints lies in the their unique ability to reflect the history of the world and times of your ancestors, as well as your own special interests.

You can aspire to an exceptionally scarce and superbly coloured 17th century plan of the town in which you were born, or from which your family emigrated. Also, to an equally interesting view of the city you now live in, as it was 100 or more years ago.

All can be beautifully matted and framed, to provide outstanding wall decoration to enhance your home or work place and at the same time give endless interest and pleasure.

Over the centuries, the exceptional genius of many of the foremost artists of each generation was meticulously engraved and printed.

What other legacy from the past is still available today at such affordable prices ?


If you are new to the world of antique maps and prints, we hope you will find these few pages provide some interesting and straightforward background information, which will enable you to embark on a hobby which can be so rewarding.

THE VERY EARLIEST MAPS

The first known 'map' dates from around 6000 years BC. A wall painting that was discovered in Turkey.

The early Egyptians produced plans and maps on papyrus.

Claudius PTOLEMY, a Greek mathematician, having collated all know information, produced his Geografia in about 150 AD, which was to form the basis for much of the subsequent mapping for over a 1000 years. It seems likely that later geographers used Ptolemy's text to combine the growing fund of knowledge of the world, as the early explorers, Columbus, Cabot, Magellan and so many others, set out across the oceans. Their discoveries were incorporated into maps continuing the tenets of Ptolemy as late as, for instance, 1513 - see MAP OF AMERICA


THE 15TH CENTURY - THE INVENTION OF PRINTING

Although some very early medieval manuscript maps still exist, it is only with the invention of printing in Germany (Gutenberg) and England (Caxton), that technology advanced to the stage that it became possible to produce more than just one copy of any document.

For more detailed information, visit

THE HISTORY OF PRINTING

THE PRINTING REVOLUTION

A Brief History of English Lexicography


THE 16TH CENTURY

By the year 1500, considerable advances had been made in methods of surveying and new instruments of measurement had been invented. Interesting links include

Antique astronomical instruments in Italy

THE HISTORY OF SURVEYING

Maps by such as Sebastian MUNSTER in his Geographia, still followed the basic precepts of Ptolemy.

It was not until 1569, with the publication of Gerard MERCATOR's first maps on what is still referred to as Mercator's Projection, that any major advance was made. (See also, a further example of MERCATOR AMERICAS - 1595.) This was further improved in 1570, when Abraham Ortelius published Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, which, for the first time, included maps based on the best available purely contemporary information. The break from Ptolemy had finally been made.


THE 17TH CENTURY

As knowledge gradually improved, the quality of the maps was raised to that of an art form, notably the BLAEU family, based in Amsterdam. Willem Janszoon BLAEU (1571-1638) founded the business and developed his ambition to publish an Atlas which was to encompass the whole world. It was his son, John, who finally saw the publication of Atlas Maior in 1662.

It contained nearly 600 superb, highly decorative maps. The work of 2 generations, which has never been surpassed or equalled.

BLAEU ASIA NOVITER DELINEATA - Circa 1635

This is a fine example of the cartographers art.

In 1672, there was a devasting fire which destroyed the Blaeu printing works and most of the 'plates' from which the maps had been printed. The few that were salvaged, were dispersed among other cartographers of the time.

Gross inaccuracies in maps still existed. Perhaps one of the most fascinating and highly collectible of these were maps which showed California as an island. Even Blaeu's maps showed this and the error continued on many maps into the next century, see Hermann MOLL - Americas of 1717 or John SENEX North America of 1744

Another fine illustration of the cartographer's art, is the c.1670 de WIT world map, which incidentally, shows California as a large island.

ANOTHER INTERESTING LINK TO MANY SCANNED IMAGES OF 16/17TH CENTURY MAPS IS

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology Library


THE 18TH CENTURY

The century which saw the Industrial Revolution brought ever increasing trade throughout the world. Rising prosperity created a new middle class, who were able to afford such luxuries as Books and Atlases. The thirst for knowledge of the world created a demand, which was satisfied by the geographers and cartographers of the time. It became fashionable for the great and the good to 'subscribe' to the cost of publication of new books, in modern parlance, they were 'sponsors', who undoubtedly shared in the profits of each enterprise.

The traditions of the 17th Century were continued, by such a Johann Baptist HOMANN and many others. The fund of knowledge improved and maps continued to be produced that were also works of art.

By the late 18th century, the large folio maps with their superbly engraved decorative cartouches, were giving way to maps with smaller features. Compare the decoration on this Homann plan of BATAVIA c.1733 to that of the Thomas KITCHIN Map of Canada/Newfoundland of c.1765. For further illustrations of Kitchin's work, see our KITCHIN FEATURE PAGE. Already the 'market' was demanding information with more emphasis on up to date accuracy and less on the artistic embellishments which had characterised the work of the principal cartographers for nearly 200 years.


THE 19TH CENTURY

Ever since the time of Mercator and Ortelius, maps had been engraved onto Copper Plates. The introduction of Steel engraving in the early years of the 19th century gathered pace and by 1830, all maps and prints were engraved onto steel. Steel being much harder wearing than copper, meant each map or print could be produced in larger quantities. Railways/railroads were expanding rapidly throughout the world, travel become possible for more people and in much shorter times. Cartographers vied with each other to produce up to date maps, showing the latest extensions to the network. With a few notable exceptions, such as Thomas MOULE's English County Maps of c.1840, John TALLIS's maps of the word of c.1850 and, in the U.S. JOHNSON'S Family Atlas of c.1865, maps shed the remaining decorative features and became almost entirely factual. However, even the late 19th Century maps retain a considerable interest for collectors. They reflect the city boundaries and suburbs as they were over 100 years ago and it is fascinating to follow the expansion of cities and towns into the modern era.


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