Antique Maps and Prints Can be Fascinating!
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People collect old coins, stamps, silver, furniture, and so on. Rarely
will you find someone who comes forward to claim a passion for antique
maps and prints! But if you have even the slightest interest in the places
and events of long ago, you could be heading towards the development of
a fascinating hobby.
Now, what exactly is an “antique map”? Considering that it is antique,
it is obviously related to something that is more than 100 years old.
Just imagine looking at a picture of what your town looked like that long
ago, or a country you emigrated from—what existed then, and what has changed
now! It is like a journey into the times of your ancestors without the
aid of a time machine!
Now, how were these maps prepared then? Well, there were three methods
(1) A wooden block would be cut in such a way that the area to be printed
would stand out against a plain background. Then, this projecting part
would be inked. The ink was plain, no specific colors were used. One such
map can be seen in the work of Munster (c1550).
(2) Later on, entered copper and steel engravings. These metal plates
had the image or map cut into them in reverse. Ink would be poured into
the grooves. Finally, these plates and sheets of paper would be placed
in a press. Clear pictures would now show up on the plates. Most of the
antique maps discovered in modern times are made from copper and steel.
Copper was popular from the early 1500s to around 1820. But because it
was a soft metal, the plates needed a repeat beating and repeat engraving.
People therefore welcomed the advent of steel in the early 1800s. The
metal was harder than copper, resulting in finer engravings and longer-lasting
maps. Steel totally replaced copper after 1830.
(3) A third method involved engraving on specially prepared stones. Known
as Lithography or surface printing, many gravitated towards it since the
work could be accomplished much faster. Also, costs came down. The artists
or map makers of the 1800s could directly draw the maps on these stones.
Maps of varied hues could be produced, but each color had to be set on
a different stone. The snag was that if the artists were not careful,
colors could overlap resulting in a fuzzy effect. Naturally, Lithography
could not overtake Steel engraving in popularity.
With the advent of industrialization after the 1880s, modern machines
took over Lithography and printing. Map-making became a mechanical practice.
The sizes of these maps were different—some large, some small. For our
understanding, we shall split them into three groups, based on how a single
sheet of paper can be folded.
If the map is printed on just one-eighth of a sheet, then it was an Octavo
(7? X 3?). Maps covering one quarter of a sheet were referred to as Quarto
(13? X 10?). The Folio dealt with a map printed on a complete sheet; the
measurements would be around 25? X 20?. Really wondrous are the miniature
maps that were brought out in the late 1500s and early 1600s. These had
measurements like 2.5? x 4.5?, referred to as sized 12mo or 16mo.
So, if you should manage to get an antique map at an affordable price,
ensure that it is matted and framed (easy to get it done) and offer it
a pride of place on your living room wall or somewhere in your workplace!