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NEWS and COMMENTS - 1996

Beginning with the next edition,


will be published biennially.  Volume 15 will be issued early in 1998.

We have been on a treadmill ever since taking over from David Jolly in late 1992 when he knew his illness would catch up with him.  We are neither as computer literate nor as meticulous as David was by nature, but we are no less demanding of precision and accuracy.

The extra time will enable us to integrate and fine tune computer software that should result in several improvements that are not generally noticed, such as greater accuracy, supplying references in greater numbers, and eliminating the redundancy of repeated offerings by the same dealer at about the same price.  At the same time we will be exploring possibilities of disseminating information electronically.  This might include establishing an internet site through which past entries could be made accessible as well as interim data that could be made available between hard-copy editions of the Price Record.  We will also be looking at the viability of issuing a comprehensive “millennium” CD-ROM.

It is our experience, that the computer screen has yet to be a substitute for a book in hand.  The next Antique Map Price Record & Handbook, coming early in ’98, will be not more that a few months off the annual cycle.

This year’s edition

The 1995 Price Record includes forty-six catalogues from twenty-six dealers.  There are 4,258 entries representing 645 map-makers, plus those in generic categories.  Total asking prices are about $3,700,000 for an average price of about $870 per map.  Both figures are up from last year.  At first glance, this probably represents a moderate increase in prices across the board, but could also be the result of sampling more upscale maps.

With Volume 11 in 1993, we introduced a frequency distribution table that enabled the reader to track down entries by a given map-maker in all previous editions since 1983.  Last year we folded Sketches of Map-Makers into the Cumulative Frequency Distribution.  In approaching Volume 14, this year, it became apparent that the combined table was becoming cumbersome.  It has been streamlined by consolidating the entries of David Jolly’s first ten editions into a single column, while retaining a separate column for each year by Kimmel Publications – 1993 through 1996.  If the distribution of entries is needed for 1983 through 1992, it will be found in Volumes 11, 12 and 13.  It should be noted that these are the only volumes that are still available from the publisher.

There has been some discussion of the typographical form used for map titles, starting in 1994.  They remain in capital letters, but in “small caps” with the initial letter of most words still in large caps, and all in bold type-face.  In general, articles, prepositions and conjunctions are entirely in small caps unless at the start of a title or after a period.  We realize that this approach does not adhere to any established bibliographical style, and the situation is murkier when it is applied to a variety of languages such as appear in antique map titles.

This year, we began to record the accents and diacritical marks found in many languages, however, the application is not uniform.  The backfiles inherited from David Jolly are not organized in this way and we explicitly shunned their use because they were not a part of the earlier software.  After starting with good intentions, we were dismayed to find that our own database (Alpha Software) and word processor (Microsoft Word) do not use an identical character set.  Please bear with us as we catch up.

A critical letter arrived asking why we don’t include catalogues from this dealer and that dealer.  Some well known dealers do not submit catalogues.  More dealers are using “bare-bones” stock lists that do not contain sufficient information to use in the Price Record.  Some dealers decline to be included because they feel that they are placed at a commercial disadvantage if their sources are aware of what they are asking for their stock.  If this is so, it is a misuse of the Price Record because it infers that someone is trying to tell a dealer how to run his business, whether his overhead is reasonable, what his markup should be, and how much he should profit.  Most antique map dealers are well informed specialists who have a perfect right to charge for intellectual capital, as would any other professional.

Farewell The Map Collector, Welcome Mercator’s World

This year saw the arrival of a new magazine of “maps, atlases, globes and charts”:  Mercator’s World, a bimonthly published by Aster Publishing Corporation (845 Willamette Street, Eugene, OR 97401, USA.)  Rumor had it and then a notice arrived about what we saw on the cover of the third issue, “Incorporating The Map Collector”.  While Map Collector Publications (48 High Street, Tring, Hertfordshire HP23 5BH, England) will continue to distribute books relating to antique maps, the magazine that we had come to know and respect over eighteen years will cease publication.

Antique Map Price Record is a record, not a “price guide”

We ran across an article in the inaugural issue of Mercator’s World criticizing a ‘price guide’ stating that “the public-knowledge price listed in the guide [was] worse than worthless”.  We didn’t imagine that the author could be referring to the Price Record until we noted that a particular map found its way from a dealer’s catalogue into said guide.  Since that’s what we do, we took another look.  Apparently an item similar to one that was listed for $12,000 changed hands privately for $40,000, and another at $70,000.  Less than a dozen people knew it.  And then another fetched £40,000 at a British auction.

We can’t say we know much about the private transactions, because the public does not have access to dealings among a small circle of high rollers.  What we do know is that when it was listed for $12,000, we assume the dealer was prepared to sell it at that price.  And we’ll take the author’s word that the auction price confirmed the increase even though we haven’t seen the record.  It turns out that in the first thirteen volumes of the Price Record (and it hasn’t been a ‘price guide’ since Volume 2, when David Jolly wisely changed the title) there have been only 13 entries that have been listed for $12,000.  Which one could it be?  Whichever it is, it’s not public knowledge.

Antique Map Price Record consolidates knowledge that is already public, but it is uneven and diffuse.  We try to compact it into a form in which entries can be compared with one another and through time, if one wishes.  We are not mind readers.  The caverns inhabited by small bands of “insiders” are not accessible to us.  And neither are they accessible to the public.

A $12,000 price tag might suggest to both seller and buyer that it’s not just your ordinary flea market flotsam.  And if its a relatively rare bird, a novice economic student can tell you that when supply is highly inelastic, price is determined by demand.  Get some bidders together at a well publicized auction and together they will construct a demand curve (at least for that day and place).  Volatility characterizes markets.  Real estate, commodities, and the stock market exhibit spikes and declines.  Why not maps?

What is equally remarkable is that one can find similar or identical maps in a given edition of the Price Record that have a spread of up to five times or more from least to most expensive.  We can’t explain it.  We just report it.  And we will let the market be the judge as to the value of Antique Map Price Record & Handbook.

IMCoS ’95 in San Francisco

The International Map Collectors’ Society Symposium made its quinquennial return to the United States in 1995.  Al Newman and his friends from the California Map Society made it a gracious time in the City-by-the-Bay for all who were there.  Some words from Robert Clancy, IMCoS Secretary, during the closing banquet caught our attention.  He spoke of bygone days when he could afford to buy significant antique maps on the salary of a medical intern.  He described price increases running ahead of inflation and pay raises, and wondered aloud where the next generation of collectors would be coming from.  The answer, he suggested, was in sparking their interest in readily affordable maps from the nineteenth century.  In an article in Mercator’s World, he suggested that these maps “record the fastest rate of discovery within ... Africa, Australia and America.”  They “are the ‘$100 maps’ hidden away in dealers’ drawers as the best kept secret of the antique map trade.”  See the map at the start of “News and Comments”.

IMCoS will meet this October 6-9 in Riga; in 1997 it’s Budapest, September 26-29.  The organization publishes a quarterly journal and holds an annual map fair.  Contact Harry Pearce, Hon. Sec., 29 Mount Ephraim Road, Streatham, London SW16 1NQ, England.

Map Societies

We continue to recommend regional map societies as venues of enlightenment and camaraderie that are often close at hand.  Most issue very interesting publications.  We suggest that the time is ripe to form a consortium that for a supplementary fee to their local society would distribute all the various newsletters to interested subscribers world wide.

Arizona Map Society; Jack Mount, sec., Science-Engineering Library, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson 85721.

Boston Map Society; David A. Cobb, Harvard Map Collection, Harvard College Library, Cambridge, MA 02138.

California Map Society; c/o Center for East Asian Studies, Stanford, CA 94395

Chicago Map Society; c/o Newberry Library, 60 West Walton St., Chicago, IL 60610-3380.

Map Society of British Columbia; P.O. Box 37109, 2930 Lonsdale Ave., North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Michigan Map Society; P.O. Box 1201, Ann Arbor, MI 48106

New York Map Society; c/o Map Division, The New York Public Library; Fifth Ave. & 42nd St., New York, NY 10018-2788

Northern Ohio Bibliographic Society, Map Interest Committee, Maureen Farrell, Map Collection, Cleveland Public Library, Map Collection, 325 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114-1271

Rocky Mountain Map Society; c/o Wes Brown, 1726 Hudson St., Denver, CO 80220.

Washington Map Society; c/o Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540

Symposia, Fairs and Periodicals

The Society for the History of Discoveries will hold their annual meeting in Portland, Maine on November 1-2, 1996.  Papers will be presented on “Columbus and Navigation”, “European Overseas Rivalry”, “Arctic Discovery” and charting the New England coast and discovering its interior.  Registration is $125.  Contact the Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine, PO Box 9301, Portland, ME 04104-9301.

The International Miami Map Fair is scheduled for February 1 and 2, 1997 at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida.  The fair, with its associated program, remains the only permanent event of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.  Sunny Florida in mid-winter is truly international, with dealers from seven countries participating last year.  (For information: Marcia J. Kanner, Historical Museum of Southern Florida, 101 W. Flagler St., Miami, FL 33130-1492)

“The Only Monthly Antique Map Fair in the World” continues its run at the Bonnington Hotel, Southampton Row, London.  Admission is free. Remaining 1996 dates are October 14, November 11 and December 9.  Further information available from 26 Kings Row, Cheltenham, GL52 6BG.

Cartomania is a semiannual (double quarterly) Newsletter of the Association of Map Memorabilia Collectors based at 8 Amherst Road, Pelham, MA 01002, USA.  Dues are $13.50 in the U.S. and Canada, (higher overseas)  All forms of cartography are addressed, with much coverage of more recent material.

The Internet

We have noticed that some dealers, map societies, and many institutions are beginning to make use of electronic media and communications.  It is a quick, succinct and inexpensive means of communication.  One can bring up and download images of maps for sale and in collections. The first trickle of dealer’s internet sites appears in this year’s Directory of Dealers.  The Boston Map Society uses E-mail to keep in touch with many of its members.  Institutions provide an abundance of information about their collections and services.

One example is the Harvard Map Collection Home Page (http://icg.harvard.edu/~maps/).  Try it and you will find links to an ever expanding array of related sites. Mercator’s World has been running a column listing web-sites relating to cartography – old and new.  Popular electronic communication is still in its infancy, however, and few dealers or collectors would be satisfied with anything less than the real thing.  One should guard against disappointment, for “tele-electronic” imagery is pale, even by photographic standards and much of what appears on the Internet is trivial – some of it trash.  A fear may be the onslaught of “junk E-mail”.  Nevertheless, the potential for disseminating information is enormous.

Dealers:  For the first time, in the dealer questionnaire we are asking about electronic access – E-mail and the World Wide Web.  Please avail yourselves of the opportunity to add this information to your listing.

Dealer listing is compressed

As has been our stated intention over the past two years, we have drastically culled the number of the dealers who have been listed in Antique Map Price Record & Handbook.  Indeed, we have received criticism for listing the deceased.  To be sure of inclusion, all dealers should return a questionnaire at least every two years.  We will maintain a listing if a dealer sends us a catalogue, if we see an advertisement in a map publication, or if we know otherwise that a dealer is active.  The result has been that the number of United States dealers has dropped from 276 to 192 and the international total, which now includes Canada, has fallen from 429 to 170.  The new listing is lean, it is solid.  We are grateful to anyone who can provide a correction.  We hope that dealers not on the list will make themselves known.  It’s free and you don’t have to buy anything.  Our mailing lists are still for sale, with running updates.

Stop thief!

An incredibly brazen tale of crime has emerged from the ranks of map dealers formerly listed in this publication.  We are grateful to a Maryland colleague for sending us a clipping from the December 16, 1995 Baltimore Sun which describes a trail of map thefts from Johns Hopkins, and possibly several other notable libraries, by a former Florida map dealer, posing as a Mr. Perry.  Antique Maps & Collectibles in Tamarac appeared to be a perfectly legitimate enterprise until it suddenly disapppeared from view.  The proprietors returned the 1995 dealer’s questionnaire as directed; they phoned in a correction in September ’95; they exhibited at the IMCoS map fair in October; they issued a mail auction catalogue of mostly small format items that was scheduled to close on November 24th (did anyone bid?  Did anyone pay?  Did anyone get anything?).  We apologize to our readers for including questionable characters in our dealer listing.  Needless to say, the name was removed from our records and mailing lists immediately.

Cataloguers: SPELLING is slipping!  You know who you are (we hope).  Fortunately, we do what we can to shield you from the public.  Sometimes the titles don’t even match the illustrations.  We correct them when we can read them.

Jon K. Rosenthal
Appeared in Volume 14 (1996).

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