Maps are snapshots of world history. They record the result of battles, migrations and the birth of new nations. Enthusiasts collect maps for various reasons. The mind, the eye, and the heart all play a role in making new acquisitions.
For serious scholars, maps are crucial documents that present reality on the ground at a particular date. They reveal the borderlines in a year of conflict or the growth of cities during and after a period of global exploration. Rarity is more important than condition; a single example may reveal information that was previously unknown to anyone.
Maps can be as ornamental as they are informative. Cartographers were not content with just the ground plan; artists added ornamental borders, stately personifications of a city or state, and even mythological monsters swimming in the oceans.
Maps hold extra visual appeal when displayed in groups of three or four. Maps can reveal details of the place and time when ancestors were born or record pleasant details of special events – a honeymoon in France, gap year in New Zealand, anniversary cruise to Alaska – a map that recalls a special memory will bring a smile every time you walk past it.
Cuba with Havana Inset
Thanks to improved diplomatic relations, a new wave of American travelers is discovering the rich cultural heritage of the island-nation of Cuba. The date of the map shown above – 1902 – was a crucial year for the country; American occupation had ended and a free Republic of Cuba was born.
Map of North America
This 1850 Map of North America by Thomas Cowperthwait is a colorful lesson in global spheres of influence. Canada remained a British possession until 1867, and Russia ruled Alaska until Seward’s purchase of the territory that same year. The Southwestern United States were still in transition. Texas declared statehood in 1845 and California in 1850, but Arizona and New Mexico would remain Mexican territories until 1912.
Map of France
Maps approach their subjects with different objectives. This 1829 Malte-Brun Map of France indicates not only the region’s settlements and topography, but also its political divisions.
Map of the Low Countries
Anyone with ancestry from Belgium, the Netherlands or Luxembourg can trace family history on this detailed Map of the Low Countries with counties carefully outlined in color. An elaborate cartouche depicts the heraldic shields of the 17 provinces, as well as Neptune and Hermes with a globe illustrating the Dutch East Indies. The 1753 map was printed by Homann, Nurnberg.
Map of Virginia
This map from G.W. Colton was printed in 1855 and shows Virginia as it looked before West Virginia became a separate state and six years before the beginning of the Civil War. Its insets depict the cities of Richmond and Norfolk.
Map of Northern Russia
This attractive 1792 de L’Isle map covers northern Russia, from the Arctic Ocean and Finland to just beyond the Petzora River. It highlights in detail the topography, along with numerous villages, towns and roads. Its colorful cartouche features putti and a variety of scientific instruments. This important map of the European portion of the Russian Empire of the late 16th century is a testament to how much change has occurred in the area that eventually became the Soviet Union.
If you’ve purchased a map that is not already framed, it is wise to choose a frame shop with experience in mounting fragile documents. Once preserved with acid-free materials and sun-resistant glass, your map becomes a handsome virtual time capsule of geographic history to adorn your home or office.
By Karla Klein Albertson