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News and Comments - 2004

Volume 19 continues some of the trends mentioned in last year's News and Comments.  The Price Record is continuing its annual schedule, with a new release each April.  Volume 19 adds 5,754 entries to the database, which now contains a total of 92,437 entries.  The new entries draw upon 61 catalogues from 37 different dealers and auction houses.  38.9% of the entries are from auction results (as opposed to dealer listings), slightly up from the 35.7% of last year.

Last year I expressed a desire to keep the Price Record international in its representation. (See News and Comments for 2003 for a discussion of this.)  The percentage of entries from US dealers and auction houses is down to 36.3% (from 46.0% last year), so I think this year's data have helped towards the goal of making the Price Record less USA-centric.  The current year's data come from dealers and auction houses in the UK, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, and the US.  Next year I hope to broaden this representation still more.  Any dealers out there from other countries who would like to have their catalogues represented in Volume 20, please get in touch with me!  I don't promise to include everything I receive (there is too much data out there to include everything), but I will give serious weight to catalogues which help give the Price Record a more global scope.  Of course I am limited to using catalogues in languages I can read, and that pretty much limits me to a selection of Western European languages.  (I did live for a time in Papua New Guinea, so if there are any catalogues out there written in Pidgin English, send them on!)

To some extent the issue of geographical representation of dealers is less an issue today than it ever was, thanks to the increasing use of the internet.  I can browse an on-line catalogue from a dealer on the opposite side of the globe as easily as that of a dealer in my own home town.  Nevertheless, it is still true that dealers often specialize in maps of their own part of the world, so one of the surest ways to guarantee a broad representation of maps across geographic areas is to draw from the catalogues of dealers who themselves come from a broad geographic distribution.

New Features

I appreciate the feedback that I have continued to get, and I've made a few changes to the CD-ROM in response to customer suggestions.

Errors!!!

The Antique Map Price Record's users have had the good fortune of having David Jolly and Jon Rosenthal, two very careful people, as the compilers/editors for the first 18 years.  Though I won't claim to be as a careful as my predecessors, I certainly aim to be as careful as possible.  Nevertheless, no one should be surprised that over the course of 20 years some errors have made their way into the database.  The errors, of course, are of two kinds: Those present in the original catalogues and copied by us, and those which we introduced through our own mistakes.  But who is responsible for an error is less important to the user of the Price Record than the fact of the error itself.

Given the inevitability of errors, one of the greatest advantages to the CD-ROM format, compared to the printed format, is that errors in previous volumes can be fixed.  (Of course, the practice of including an errata page in one volume to note errors in previous volumes is a standard procedure in the print world, and the Price Record did this up to and including Volume 14 in 1996. But unless a person carefully goes back and makes manuscript annotations in earlier volumes, it is clear that an errata sheet in a later volume will never be noticed by a person who is looking at information in an earlier volume.  It is like the corrections that newpaper editors put into one day's paper to correct mistakes from the previous day: How many readers go back and re-read yesterday's stories to re-think their responses in light of the corrections?)  As each issue of the CD contains all the past data, this is not an issue.  When an error is found, it can simply be fixed in the next edition of the CD. So an error made in 1983 and discovered in 2003 can still be fixed, and to all the world it appears as if the correct information had been entered back in 1983.

Among the errors fixed in this year's CD is an embarrassingly large mistaken price: A world map from the Ulm Ptolemy had been listed as offered for sale at $8,500.  This price, however, was only a map collector's dream!  A zero escaped from the editing process.  So this year that same entry is corrected to have its proper listing price: $85,000.  A good number of much less stunning mistakes have also been corrected.  The majority of these are corrections to mistakes that originated in the source catalogues.  These include things like typographical errors in title transcription, or, less commonly, in map-maker name (e.g. "Benard" when "Bernard" was the correct map-maker name for a particular map).  Occasionally a typo in a cartobibliographical reference is found and corrected, or an incorrect region identification is fixed (e.g., a map listed as showing Spanish Galicia turns out to really show that other Galicia, in Poland).   In general, I give considerable credence to what a catalogue says, and I will only correct a catalogue's information if I have convincing reference material at hand that supports making a change.  In some cases I will include a bracketed editorial comment ([Editor: ...]) if I think there is a reasonable question about some aspect of the descriptive information for an entry.

My predecessors (David and Jon) took the view that the Price Record is just what its name implies, a record of the offerings published by map dealers (as well as, in recent years, results of sales of maps sold at auction).  Eschewing the notion that the Price Record is a price guide, they saw their role as accurate transcribers of what dealers and auction houses publicly said about the material they handled.  Though I agree, by and large, with this approach, I may tend a little more in the direction of wanting the Price Record's information to be an accurate description of the items offered for sale or sold at auction, even when that information differs in some respects from the information provided by the dealers and auction houses.  It is in this spirit that I will correct certain mistakes and add additional information, so that the descriptive information is as accurate as possible, even if occasionally at variance with what is given in the original catalogue.  This is most of all true with regard to title transcriptions, where I will often provide a fuller title than given in a catalogue.  But it can occur in any part of the description.  (If a catalogue describes a 1541 Trechsel edition of a Fries map as having been published in Vienna, the Price Record will say that the map was published in Vienne.  Or if a catalogue mistakenly swaps the height and width dimensions for a map, I will swap them back in my listing.)  My goal is to have the Price Record be a record of the material offered by dealers or sold at auction, rather than a record of how that material was described.  This may be a rather fine distinction, and David, Jon, and I may actually not differ much on this, but there may be an ever-so-slight difference in emphasis.

Occasionally a catalogue supplies its own corrections: If a map is both described and pictured, the picture generally has more credibility than the descriptive text.  This applies particularly to the transcription of titles.  Descriptions of condition are less verifiable through an image, and only if there is a gross discrepancy between the image and the described condition will I avoid using the described condition.  For example, if a map is described as 'mint' or 'pristine' while its image shows torn edges and a wide, dark stripe of browning down its centerfold, I will not use the given description of condition. Actually, in such cases, I generally omit the item from the compilation, since the information presented is inconsistent.  The description could be correct and the image taken from a different, and poorer, example of the map (though this would be a strange sale's strategem for a dealer).  More likely the condition is simply incorrectly described, one hopes inadvertently. (If a catalogue is plagued by too many entries with these kinds of obvious inconsistencies, I will not use the catalogue in the compilation.)

One source for corrections is the publication of new cartobibliographies, which allow "old" data to be revisited and checked in light of the new reference material now available.  A good example for the current edition is the publication in 2003 of Volume 3 of Peter van der Krogt's Koeman's Atlantes Neerlandici. Among other atlases, this volume covers the many editions of the small atlases inspired by Ortelius's Theatrum (Epitome et al) and Mercator's Atlas (Atlas Minor et al).  I was able to revisit the hundreds of previous Price Record entries for maps from these various miniature atlases and, in most cases, to identify the particular map involved.  This allowed me to verify and, where necessary, correct title spelling, as well as to associate a new reference citation with particular entries.

Some of the past errors corrected in this year's CD were pointed out to me by dealers.  I welcome corrections to any errors in the data that people notice.  Over the coming years the database should get larger, richer (through the gradual addition of more cartobibliographical references to earlier entries) and more accurate.

Other Topics

Last year's News and Comments touched on the demise of Mercator's World.  More than a year later, the antiquarian map field still does not have a widely distributed magazine aimed at a similar audience, or one aimed at the somewhat narrower audience of Mercator's World's predecessor, The Map Collector.  Various map societies do have their publications, and the IMCoS Journal has recently been converted to a larger format, but a society journal is still pretty different, and reaches a much smaller audience, than a magazine sold by subscription or at newsstands.  MapForum.com has also announced its intention to become a quarterly printed journal (as opposed to its current incarnation as an irregular on-line publication).  So perhaps the current void will again be filled.

Jeremy Pool - February, 2004

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