Maps Still Hold Their Appeal

GPS has made navigating easier than ever before, which has made some feel that maps are antiquated relics of a bygone era. Well, they’re still popular, they’re still selling, and they’re still worth getting, even in the digital age, due to maps being more than just relics, they’re art too.

Antique illustrated maps do more than just look pretty, they say much about the world; how it was, how it is, and how we saw it in the past. You’ve seen old maps from the past, haven’t you? These old pieces have bits that showed off all the fantastical creatures that people believed resided in the uncharted corners of the Earth.

They’re a symbol of humanity’s desire to learn more and explore, and they show how human history changed over the course of centuries, each map being a period piece that showed how politics, religion, culture, and, of course, geography, was during its time.

On a more mundane level, Director Massimo De Martini, of the Altea Gallery in London, says that old maps, like illustrated maps, are in demand because they’re also art. They’re easily identifiable regardless of one’s expertise, and make for great conversation pieces. Some art pieces might be misinterpreted, but old maps aren’t as prone to such issues.

The Altea Gallery has several expensive maps, with the Ulm edition of Ptolemy’s Geographica. First printed in 1486, the map is valued at about £35,000, and depicts the recognizable silhouette of the Arabia Felix. A polymath, Claudius Ptolemy compiled all the knowledge of the 2nd-centure Roman Empire into an eight-volume atlas, which was one of the first of its kind to use latitude and longitude.

For those of you wondering why someone would fork over thousands for a map, Old World Auctions founder Eliane Dotson explains, noting that there’s plenty of reasons why people spend so much on maps, like nostalgia, as maps remind them of the times they travelled and saw the world. For others, their fascination with the age of exploration drives them to the maps, while others get them to see how a specific place how it grew over the years.

Sammy Berk, History in Your Hands VP; a non-profit committed to providing educational institutions with historical objects to aid in the study of US history, believes that everyone in the world wants a map of their own, because everyone hails from somewhere, or has a place that’s special to them.


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