Final CD Edition - News and Comments
With Volume 26 the Price Record has added 5,210 new records, bringing the total number of records to 138,323. The new records draw on 63 different catalogues from 28 different dealers and auction houses. As with the last five volumes, new auction records outnumber new dealer records (75.7% of the new records added this year are auction results). Since the Price Record did not include any auction data for the first 13 volumes, the preponderance of data records still remains weighted, overall, towards dealers: 65.4% dealer records; 34.6% auction records. As mentioned in a prior year's News and Comments, the primary rationale in drawing more heavily from auction data was the opinion, expressed by a number of customers, that auction prices were more "real" than dealer prices. An auction price represents what somebody has actually paid to acquire a map, whereas a dealer price is just a published asking price, something which might be quite different from what a dealer actually ends up accepting as a purchase price (or, in the extreme, something which nobody would be willing to pay). Another factor, though, is that the AMPR has relied primarily on printed catalogues, and dealers have been producing fewer and fewer printed catalogues, whereas auction houses have, in general, continued to produce printed catalogues. The AMPR has incorporated some data from online sources, both from the web sites of dealers and the online sites of auction houses that don't produce printed catalogues (such as Old World Auctions and Paulus Swaen). But, to a considerable degree, the AMPR has continued to rely on printed catalogues, and this has also reinforced the trend towards a preponderance of new AMPR data coming from the auction market.
Volume 26 is the tenth edition of the Price Record in its digital format (CD-ROM, and since Vol. 25 also available as a USB flash drive). Ten years ago, the decision to switch from book format to CD-ROM format was not easily taken and was met with a considerable amount of grumbling. Though the advantages of a digital format were easy to see, there were still plenty of people - particularly in the somewhat more senior age range typical of map collectors - who either did not own a computer or, if they had one, did not much like using it. Today, the idea of printing a book-format version of the Price Record would seem quaint, to say the least, and most people would probably describe it is idiotic.
But in the digital age change proceeds quickly, and even the CD-ROM format of the AMPR may, in a few years time be on the verge of obsolescence. USB thumb drives seem more omnipresent these days, so making the AMPR available on a thumb drive was done in an attempt to keep current with the trends in personal computing. Of course, if my children or grandchildren were giving me their opinions, I’m sure that the preference would be for a version of the AMPR that runs on a smart phone. I offer no promises in that area, at least for now.
The Vol. 26 edition of the AMPR does include a number of enhancements to the Map Collection Manager software. Most noticeable are the addition of a "thumbnail banner" to the top of the collection list, allowing you to see map image thumbnails for the selected item in the list, without having to switch to the "Item Details" view. These thumbnails are clickable, allowing you to bring up larger image windows right from the collection list. Support has also been added for a number of new kinds of hyperlinks, letting you embed clickable links in your map descriptions, which, depending on the link type, will either bring up a page from the World Wide Web or will bring up footnote-style information at the bottom of the collection window. These new features are offshoots of the cartobibliography software that was developed over the last year (see the section, below, on Mer de l'Ouest).
I’m frequently asked about what trends I see in the antiquarian map trade, particularly in terms of prices. Mostly I defer from any grand statements, since grand statements seem mostly to obscure the more interesting and subtle changes that might be happening in particular corners of the market. But if I had to make a rough guess, I would say that in 2010 prices in the lower and mid sections of the market fell a bit (almost like a delayed reaction from the financial turmoil of 2008/2009), but that at the high end prices continued to rise. In the new Vol. 26 data one will find a record for the sale of the Abel Buell map of the United States, which set a price record for single maps sold at auction, going for over $2,000,000 (hammer price plus buyer's premium). In any event, the data on the AMPR are there, and anybody bent on exploring price or frequency-on-the-market patterns can export subsets of the data for further analysis in Excel or other analytical software packages.
While on the topic of exporting AMPR data, 2010 witnessed a quite unpleasant form of this: An English map dealer (and long-time purchaser of the Price Record) exported vast quantities of data from the AMPR, and then re-packaged it as a CD-ROM, offering it for sale as a supposedly new kind of resource for the map collector. Given that the AMPR is protected by both copyright and by an end-user license agreement (the latter expressly prohibiting the copying of data for inclusion in other commercial software or publications), this “new” CD-ROM offering was as illegal as it was misguided. A review of the CD-ROM appeared in the Winter, 2010 edition of The Portolan, along with a rebuttal from the CD’s creator and a further response from me. For anybody interested in the details, a complete analysis of the evidence behind the plagiarism accusation can be found at http://www.MapRecord.com/MapWorldDataCopying.pdf.
Publication announcement: Mer de l'Ouest by Don McGuirk
On a happier note on the publication front, in March, 2011 MapRecord Publications released a new cartobibliography by Don McGuirk: The Last Great Cartographic Myth: Mer de l'Ouest. Don had been a user of the map collection manager software that comes with the AMPR. He used it to catalogue his collection of maps that portray a fictional Sea of the West. This sea (Mer de l'Ouest on French maps, which were the first to introduce this "discovery") was an imagined extension of the navigable waters of the Pacific deep into the North American continent, at times nearly connecting the Pacific to Hudson Bay or the Great Lakes, thereby promising to provide the long sought for Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Sea of the West began appearing on maps in 1700 and could still be found on maps published a century later. Don wanted to turn his collection into a cartobibliography, and it occurred to him that the digital format provided by the AMPR's map collection manager was already very close to an "e-cartobibliography". He persuaded me to adapt the map collection manager and to create a version that really was a full cartobibliography, including text chapters and large amounts of digital imagery, in addition to the map-by-map listings, and to publish it in a USB thumb-drive format. More information about Don's cartobibliography can be found at www.MapRecord.com/MerOuest.html.
I suspect that there are others out there who might share with Don a desire to turn a catalogue of a carefully built map collection into a cartobibliography that can be shared with others. Now that the underlying cartobibliography software has been developed, the process of creating new works in this format is quite straightforward. Production and sales are handled by MapRecord Publications, and author royalty percentages are much, much higher than those offered by print publishers. I would be happy to talk to anyone who would like to explore the possibility of authoring an e-cartobibliography. Please contact Jeremy via his web site at www.maprecord.com.
Jeremy Pool - April, 2011
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