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News and Comments - 2009

With Volume 24 the Price Record has added 5,860 new records, bringing the total number of records to 126,547. The new records draw on 68 different catalogues from 33 different dealers and auction houses. As with the last four volumes, new auction records outnumber new dealer records (63.7% 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: 74.5% dealer records; 25.5% auction records.

Certainly the biggest news from 2008, as it relates to the antiquarian map trade, is the much larger story of the global financial meltdown. It is hard to find a business activity anywhere that hasn't been affected - usually adversely - by the collapse of the financial system. The new data records added to the Price Record from auction and dealer listings in 2008 do not really reflect these changes: map prices appear to have remained steady through the period reported here. But I expect that next year (Vol. 25) the 2009 data will reflect the bad financial news from late 2008. I think a significant question, apart from the effect of the financial turmoil on map prices, is the effect on map dealers and auction houses. It seems likely that some map dealers, those for whom business has always been a bit precarious, may decide to withdraw from the trade. Newspapers are already reporting that auction houses have seen significant declines in the high-end art market, which is probably where most of their profits are generated. It remains to be seen how this will be reflected in their own need to cut back on expenses. I suspect we will see fewer lushly printed catalogs. And will a depressed market keep consignors away, or will the effect be the opposite: financial pressure pushing more people to sell their maps in order to raise cash? Time will tell.

Outside the commercial arena, the economy will also certainly affect the non-profit institutions - universities, libraries and museums - that house significant map collections and that provide map lovers with the research facilities they depend upon. Recently newspapers reported that Brandeis University is planning to close its art museum and sell off its entire art collection. (Follow-up stories indicated that the howl of protest in response to the Brandeis announcment may have stopped the sale of the art and, perhaps, given a breath of hope to the museum's survival.) I wonder, can map collections be far behind?

I'm happy to report that despite the ugly financial news, MapRecord Publications has maintained the same price for the Antique Map Price Record since its first publication in CD form. That's eight editions in eight years with no price increase: An update to the Price Record still costs just $50. Back in 2003, an update to Imago Mundi also cost $50. Two years later it cost $66 and in subsequent years the price went from $71 to $76 to $81 and, this year, to $86. I would certainly never be without my Imago Mundi subscription, but the steady price increase is in pretty sharp contrast to the Price Record.

Good-bye to the Macintosh

As reported last year, Volume 23 was the last edition to be issued in both MS/Windows and Macintosh versions. Starting this year, only the Windows version of the Price Record will be produced. I regret having to do this, but, as I explained last year, the cost of doing a Macintosh version is prohibitive. The prior Mac version of the Price Record was designed and built for OS/9, the so-called "Classic Mac" operating system. When Apple launched the completely new OS/X operating system, they initially supported older OS/9 programs by including OS/9 capability along with the OS/X release. This allowed users to run programs built for either OS/9 or OS/X. But a few years Apple discontinued support for OS/9, and every new Macintosh computer that is sold is one less computer on which OS/9 programs (such as the Price Record) can run. It is creating an OS/X version of the Price Record that is the problem, as this would require an extremely long and expensive development effort. As it is, only 10% of the Price Record's customers run on a Mac, so there is simply no financial justification to undertake the production of an OS/X version.

The bright light in this otherwise dark tunnel is that newer Macintosh computers can run not only Apple software, they can also run MS/Windows software. (This requires purchasing a Windows operating system and, usually, an additional piece of software, such as Parallels (www.parallels.com), to seamlessly manage the concurrent running of Mac and Windows programs on the same computer.) Therefore Mac users can still run the Price Record, by running the Windows version on their Mac. Several users have reported doing this with no problems.

Personally speaking, I will miss the Macintosh. I have always found it a more elegant and friendly environment than Windows. But it's hard to argue with the market.

More Images

Volume 24 contains many more links to reference images than prior versions. 32,285 records (over 1/4 of the total) now have reference image links. By far the largest number of the new links are to the high-resolution, zoomable images of the Ryhiner Collection, mounted online by the Universitätsbibliothek in Bern, Switzerland. This is an amazing online resource for map images from European atlases of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

The increase in image links is a step towards a goal of having the Price Record CD-ROM serve as a sort of "union catalogue" of high-resolution, zoomable map images on the web. Instead of jumping from one collection's web site to the next, you can use the Price Record to locate a map whose image you want to examine and, if any of the records returned include an image link (which you can immediately tell by the presence of a camera icon at the left-hand side of the row in the list of returned records), then you can go the record's Item Details and simply click on the image link to bring up a browser and take you right to the map image, whereever it is hosted.

After the Ryhiner Collection, the largest number of image links are to maps in the David Rumsey Collection. Though the David Rumsey Collection is a magnificent source for online map images, in past years a number of Price Record customers reported problems when clicking on a link to a Rumsey Collection image. These problems were due to the way the Rumsey Collection used your web browser to display map images; some browsers interacted badly with the Rumsey server. Several months back the Rumsey site completely re-wrote the way their server delivers images to your web browser, and I am confident that all users will now find that links to Rumsey Collection images will work as smoothly as links to images from all other collections.

This year, for the first time, the AMPR is linking to images from a commercial online repository of zoomable map images. This is the image archive maintained by the Paulus Swaen auction site. Pierre Joppen, who runs the Swaen auction site, met the three criteria that the AMPR requires for use of images: (1) the maps are scanned at high-resolution; (2) the online images are zoomable; and (3) the URL (web address) for each image is stable and the maintainer of the site intends to keep the images permanently accessible. For this year, the Swaen site's digital images are only linked to by AMPR records from Swaen auctions. In other words, these images aren't being used as generic "reference images", and other AMPR records for the same map are not, at this point, given reference image links to the Swaen images. However, on the plus side, these Swaen image links, when present, are to images of the actual copy of the map described in the AMPR record. So they may be better thought of as "actual map images" rather than "reference images". (Nevertheless, on the Item Details page these Swaen image links are still called "Reference Images".)

Any other dealers or auction houses whose data have been used in the Price Record are invited to participate in this expanded use of online images. If you maintain an image repository that meets the three conditions described above (high-resolution; zoomable; stable and permanent URL addresses), then we will gladly add links to these images from the corresponding data records in future editions of the Price Record. Please get in touch with us if you would like to participate in this offer.

Other Changes

A few small improvements have been made to the Price Record program and to the Map Collection Manager, but none of these are very significant. Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of a Preferences dialog, accessed from the File menu of the main Price Record search-screen window. Most preferences that affect how the program works (e.g. what fields to display in the list, what size font to use, what sort order to use, etc.) are handled already by separate individual menu items. But there were a few slightly more arcane preferences for which no menu choice existed. The Help pages or the online Technical Support pages (at www.MapRecord.com) described how you could modify these less frequently used preferences by locating the preferences file on your disk and editing it with a text editor. This was not a very friendly approach, even if few users ever needed to bother with it. With the new Preferences dialog, these preferences can be readily examined and modified from within the program.

One other tiny change: A keyboard short-cut (Ctrl-O) has been added on the search screen window for the menu command that closes all open results windows. Going to the search screen and typing Ctrl-O followed by Ctrl-K will return your search window to its initial state, by closing all open results windows and clearing out all the fields on the search screen. Why "O"? The obvious choice, "C" (for "close"), already had a standard meaning (Ctrl-C is the standard keyboard short-cut for "Copy"), and I couldn't think of another sensible letter. So, think "O" for "obliterate". Or think of "OK" for the two-key sequence Ctrl-O, Ctrl-K, to set your Price Record back to its original state, all ready and OK for a new search.

Jeremy Pool - March, 2009

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