FAQ'S

Below are some of the most popular questions about antique maps.

1. What is an antique map?
A map that is published and sold generally over 100 years ago. Usually they will be printed on paper, either from an engraved woodblock, copperplate or steelplate, or later, by lithography. A modern reproduction or copy of the original printed map is not a genuine antique map and will not be sold by us.
2. How big are the prints?
Alongside the description is a small graphic representing the approximate size of the map or print in comparison to the human face or figure. This is intended to give a 'feel' for the size of the image and proportions may vary. Under the graphic the dimensions give the approximate size of the printed area in centmetres. This size is not intended to be millimetre accurate and may include any titles or areas of text below the print or map. The actual paper size will usually be larger. 
3. What does 'Original colour' mean?
Generally maps are printed in black ink and not until the second half of the 19th Century was technology developed to print in colours. Until then colours had to be applied by hand, generally watercolour, ranging from simple outline colour to full ornamentation, but maps were often left uncoloured at publication. The term "original colour" means that the colouring was applied at the time of the original issue as opposed to later or modern colouring carried out to enhance an old map.
4. Does modern hand colour affect the value of an antique map?
Good hand colour can enhance the appearance of an old map and add to its desirability and value BUT bad colouring can spoil a map and reduce its value. Hand colouring is a skill and when applying watercolour to old maps consideration of the colouring style of the period and the tints and hues available to the colourist of the time is important.
5. How can you tell a genuine antique map from a reproduction?
The main clues in distinguishing an original from a reproduction are characteristics of the paper and the printing method. Paper ranging from Elizabethan hand made rag papers to Victorian pulp all have distinct features and can include watermarks added by the manufacturer to identify his paper and chain lines, a product of the manufacturing process. Copper and steel plate printing, the usual printing method on old maps, displays an extremely sharp line under a lens and is noticeably raised to the touch. The point at which the paper deforms over the plate edge forms a clear line (the plate mark). Modern paper and printing methods have their distinct characteristics which differ from those just described. All our maps are guaranteed genuine antique maps and are sold with a written guarantee and full decription of the map.
6. What is offsetting?
The term offsetting, when used to describe the condition of a map, refers to image "ghosting" where a faint reverse image of lines or text from a map can be seen. It often occurs on a folded map where a dark part of the engraved image such as a title cartouche appears in reverse on the other half of the map matching the position where it was once folded in the atlas. It is caused by residual evaporation of the printing ink, the paper being folded before the ink is completely dry and the evaporating ink staining the paper in contact with it. For this reason it also occurs on the backs or faces of maps when they were stacked after drying in the printers. Severe offsetting can be disfiguring but slight offsetting can be regarded as a characteristic of the printing process.
7. How important is condition?

Prices vary for the same printed map because no two printed maps are identical. There are a number of factors that affect printed maps in varying degrees. Here are a few:

Centrefold. Most large maps when published in atlases were folded in half with a guard pasted to the fold. This guard was bound into the book and allowed the map page to lay flat without diving into the binding obscuring detail and is not, of itself, to be considered a fault but for some maps that were published either folded or flat, the unfolded examples are preferred. The folded paper is weak, vulnerable to wear and easily damaged, particularly at the bottom and may have splits or tears and are commonly found with repairs.

Margins. The unprinted area surrounding the map varies greatly between publications, the 17th century Dutch publishing houses of Blaeu and Jansson for example, printed their maps with large generous margins but the small pocket atlases of the 18th century, in keeping with producing pocket volumes, often lacked an appreciable margin. Large margins protect the printed area of the map from nicks and tears at the vulnerable page edge including the centrefold. Margins may be reduced later in the life of the map as a result of trimming by the bookbinder in a rebinding or aesthetic preference by a picture framer.

Discolouration. Paper can be affected by many materials and substances. Atmospheric factors can affect any impurities in the paper causing browning or spotting (foxing) most usually on 19th century paper. Offsetting from the printing ink or early hand colouring can be unsightly. Early colour contained pigments that could adversely affect the paper, especially greens containing verdigris which can be a good indicator of original colour by the staining that can be seen on the back of the map but which can also cause damage. Inferior framing materials contain acids which can leach into the map, damaging the structure of the paper and browning the page - this can occur over the whole map when acidic backing materials have been used, and is also commonly found as a brown line around the map border from the inferior mount board. Framed maps can also be subject to fading, particluarly of the colouring if exposed to sunlight or UV.

Visible damage and repairs. It is always more desirable for maps to be undamaged and without repairs and such maps have higher value. For rarer maps some damage may be acceptable and becomes a question of degree balanced with the scarcity of the map.

8. Are maps taken from old books?

Antique printed maps may have been sold and published as loose sheet maps, in part issues by subscription, or bound in book or atlas form. Over the years maps can become damaged by use, neglect or accident and by far the most likely to survive are those that have been bound into a book or atlas, the book affording protection to the individual pages.


Many books and atlases have been 'broken' over the years for the maps and prints they contain. Most of us like to think that individual maps have been taken from atlases that will have been too expensive to repair but unfortunately that is not always the case. Arguments are made that all maps began as a loose sheet map before they were bound into books and while individual maps are affordable to most, many complete atlases are not, and the plates contained in them would therefore stay hidden on library shelves. 


It may always be a contentious issue but I confess to having gained great pleasure from antique maps and am grateful that they are out there and available to enjoy. 

9. What is meant by good margins?
Maps are printed from the plate on to a sheet of paper which may vary in size, the resulting un-printed area surrounding the map is referred to as the 'margin'.
It is often preferable to have large margins which afford protection to the actual printed area but many maps were printed with small margins to keep the publication to a small format for convenience.
The images on the website will not usually show the full margin as this may compromise the image detail but the description below will describe any unusually small or large margins,