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News and Comments - 2001-2002

Antique Map Price Record is being transformed into an electronic format.  The big news is that it will be continuing with updates on an annual basis under the direction of Jeremy Pool, operating as MapRecord Publications.

The History of Antique Map Price Record

For twenty years, Antique Map Price Record has been the resource of choice in tracking the antiquarian map market.  It was conceived by David C. Jolly, a convert from high technology at M.I.T. and a dealer in old maps.  The first volume was published in 1983. A look at the early editions will show how the series developed under his tutelage, starting with dot-matrix printing which is now considered primitive.  Descriptions and condition statements became more complete. Information was added, such as reviews of books pertaining to antique maps. David was one who moved to fill a need.  When he got tired of searching for maps from 18th century magazines, he compiled Maps of America in Periodicals before 1800, and later, the two volume set, Maps in British Periodicals, the definitive reference for this genre. In the early 1990's David became ill with an incurable form of cancer that eventually took his life. Just weeks prior to his death, David was traveling to out-of-town libraries, working on a new cartobibliography of Boston that has remained unpublished.

It was in these circumstances that David Jolly approached Jon Rosenthal, of Amherst Antiquarian Maps, to carry on the stewardship of the series. Kimmel Publications was established; the book title was simplified: Antique Map Price Record & Handbook. Working with his wife, Bernice, who became co-author, the series went through further evolutionary steps.  Most apparent was the refinement of the format which included a more readable typeface. All-important condition statements were more frequent.  Cartobibliographic references were included when given or known.  A "cumulative frequency of map-makers" tabulation made it easier to search previous volumes.  In the last three editions, auction records were included, with the caveat, however, that the nature and mission of map dealers and auctioneers are substantially different.

With knowledge that the early volumes of Antique Map Price Record contained valuable information and that the books from the Jolly era were out of print, Jon Rosenthal gave some thought to publishing a compendium volume.  Investigation proved that such a book would be not only a cumbersome thousands of pages, but expensive to produce.  Fortunately, two factors emerged to provide a solution.  First, rapidly advancing computer technology made possible the storage of huge amounts of information on an economical CD-ROM.  Second, Jeremy Pool, a software programmer and map collector, appeared and agreed to participate in developing a compendium CD-ROM.

It was decided that Antique Map Price Record would have an electronic future.  This edition will be a joint production.  Jon and Bernice Rosenthal have compiled and edited Volume 17 for 2001-2002.  Jeremy Pool has been working on the program and the standardization of the data over a twenty-year period. This means that information from the early Jolly days is easily comparable with current entries.

After publishing Antique Map Price Record for a decade, the Rosenthals have decided that the time has come to pass the torch.  Nothing could be more natural than for Jeremy Pool to carry on stewardship of the series.  He has worked with the Rosenthals for two years.  He has intimate knowledge of the methods, style and purpose of the series. He has developed the new electronic structure that vastly improves access to a wealth of information.  One may rest assured that he will bring new energy and ideas to the enterprise.  It is his intention to return to the annual frequency that was begun by David Jolly.  Jon Rosenthal will turn his attention to managing Amherst Antiquarian Maps.

An Organization for Antiquarian Map Dealers

As we get ready for release, we note early discussions regarding the formation of the International Antiquarian Map-Dealers Association ("IAMA"). Such an organization would parallel that of others such as ABAA, ILAB or ABA, the American, international and British associations of antiquarian booksellers, respectively.  IAMA would be a "not for profit" organization, with objectives of bringing recognition to the antiquarian map trade, enhancing public interest in the material, and promoting professional and ethical standards.  To these ends, a Code of Ethics is proposed that addresses such issues as the qualifications of its members, trade practices and the terms of trade, resolution of disputes, theft, and decorum among the members and with the public.  When underway, additional members would be added through sponsorship by those who could vouch for the qualifications of the applicant.

The antiquarian map trade could benefit from the existence of such an association. While the many map dealers are already members of the national and international book dealers associations, for some it is an awkward fit and other respected dealers simply don't qualify. The proposed IAMA could address problems that are peculiar to the map trade.  A particular need is the development of condition standards that begin to resemble those used in philately, numismatics and the book trade itself.  We have commented in the past that one dealer's "good" may be another dealer's "excellent". Although map fairs are being established on both sides of the Atlantic, many dealers have had to exhibit at book fairs and antique shows.  Antique maps should be recognized as a distinct genre that combines geography, history and the aesthetic.  Certainly, a good home is needed.

Name Change News

A feature of News and Comments during the David Jolly days was his reporting of changes in place names.  In recent years there have been plenty, starting with the breakup of the Soviet Union.  Nations shedding colonialism have taken on new identities.  The disintegration of Yugoslavia has bred a host of new countries - or perhaps not so new.  In fact the disappearance of Yugoslavia is now official.  It's "Serbia and Montenegro".  The initials themselves, "S&M" has inspired some unkind humor.  Apparently, it is a three-year pact, after which a civil divorce is possible.

In a century or two, anyone with a map showing Yugoslavia will know that it was printed between 1918, when the nation was formed from the debris of World War I, and 2002, when the name was finally dropped following near complete dismemberment.  While this may not seem to be of current significance, it may well be in the future.  Undated globes of the twentieth century, for example, are beginning to achieve noticeable value.  The period is strewn with name changes and border realignments that provide good clues to the vintage of maps and globes of the last century.  A useful tool would be a compilation of these changes over the last hundred years.

Reaching New Highs

It was reported that Herman Moll's A New and Exact Map of the Dominions of the King of Great Britain, familiarly known as "The Beaver Map", sold at Sotheby's in New York in January 2002 for $49,625 including premium.  One dealer who inspected it reported that it was in fair condition, with later wash color.  It had several repaired tears, but this is not uncommon for large Moll maps.  Nevertheless, the price of this map was over six times what any dealer in our records has ever asked.  How can that be explained?

Manuscripts may be a different story.  The original ink manuscript map of the Little Big Horn Custer battlefield site was sold by PBA Galleries (formerly Pacific Book Auction) for $51,750 along with related ephemera.  Unlike printed maps, manuscripts by definition are virtually unique, although in some cases copies are made.  So when bidders go at it, there is no second chance.

Well, that's not exactly true.  The original manuscript of the Mason-Dixon survey has been recycled.  Somewhere in the recesses of our memory is the recollection of its purchase by Malcolm Forbes, who collected almost anything, including suits of armor and toy battleships.  Forbes got the map at Christie's in 1982 for $396,000 including the buyer's premium, an unheard of amount for any map at that time.  In March 2002, back at Christies with the Forbes Collection of American Documents, the very same map sold for $556,000 including premium, considerably below the estimated hammer price of $800,000 to $1,200,000.  After commissions, that was not much of a run up for an investment over two decades.  At least the Forbes family didn't lose money on the deal.

We have hypothesized that collections of private individuals may well come on the market every generation or two as the interests of the heirs change.  With the Forbes family, it took twenty years. The moral of the story is that if you wait long enough, you may get another chance.  That is, if it isn't acquired by an institution that would have no reason to ever place it on the market again.

All of this raises the argument about whether maps are a good investment, or whether they should even be considered in that regard.  There is considerable evidence that the compounding rate of appreciation falls short of fairly conservative financial instruments.  Mark Babinski, a map collector, calculates that the Forbes family got a return of 1.173% per annum from the Mason-Dixon map.  A serious problem of maps for investment involves their illiquidity.  Whether sold to a dealer or at auction, the cost of the transaction is much greater than in the securities or the real estate markets.  A feature of Antique Map Price Record on a CD-ROM is the option to show prices in constant US dollars as gauged by the US Department of Labor Consumer Price Index.  We leave the conclusions to the user.  One possibility is that the perceived appreciation in value of antique maps is the incidental happy outcome of a non-monetary pleasure.

Departed Friends

Antique map dealers are generally a congenial bunch, but this does not preclude healthy competition in the trade.  Many of them visit one another in their homes, share a meal, and even stay over.  Since Volume 16 was published, we have lost some friends.

Howard Baron of High Ridge Books passed away suddenly.  We first met him while showing at one of our very first fairs in Hartford.  I recall he may have purchased an item from us at that time; no doubt it was a good deal, for Howard had been around the block by the time we started as map dealers in 1978.  He had a sharp eye for material, but there was also a gleam in his eye.  He was one of the first to recognize the special nature of separately printed maps such as pocket maps and wall maps.  The last time we saw him he was making the rounds of the tables at the Hartford fair, just as we would have expected.  He died just a few weeks later.  We will miss his presence as an elder in the map trade.

Clive Burden, always journeying out from his English hearth, was primarily a dealer's dealer who would travel America with his sheaves of loose maps stopping in to see novices and veterans alike.  He was charming and always of good humor.  In recent years, we knew he was battling disease; he approached it like a campaign and dispensed advice for others.  His lasting contribution is by surrogate, through his son Philip, who has authored the definitive reference, The Mapping of North America.  It is hard to imagine how Philip Burden could have produced such a landmark work without Clive's encouragement and resources.

Bob Ross was a gentleman if ever there was. On opposite coasts, we had only been on the phone with one another on commercial matters.  When he shared a lunch and spent an afternoon with us, awaiting an auction in our area, our conversation ranged far and wide. We learned that he had been an educator before turning to maps full time.  He brought that respect for knowledge to the trade.  With a friendly and warmhearted demeanor, he radiated integrity.  We were saddened to learn of his illness that quickly took him from us before his time.

The journey of our friends continues in our memory.
Jon & Bernice Rosenthal
Appeared in Volume 17 (2001-2002).

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