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HiBCoR Map Grading System


A grading system can help the starting collector to set his focus.
A grading system with condition codes are in the past introduced by Graham Arader in 1979.
Rodney Shirly used a Rarity Index system for world maps in his highly recommended referencework The Mapping of the World, published in 1984.
The Antique Map Price Record & Handbook, used a condition classification system and in 1998 introduced a Cummulative frequency distribution of map-makers, giving more insight in the rarity of maps by different map makers.

In a nutshell, four key items determine a map's value: historical importance, beauty, condition and--last in Graham Arader's estimation--rarity. "I would call [rarity] 'the refuge of the ignorant dealer,' the uneducated dealer who reaches for this word to suck an unwary collector into his grasp," he says.
"If it's 'rare,' extremely rare, and it has no historical importance; [or] it's ugly; and it's been restored and it has no margins and there's a tear in it--who cares? Why would you want it?
So 'rarity' is important [only] if the other three categories are [met]."


We realize that such a grading system is subjective and to some extent and vary between the types of maps graded.
Much can be said about the grade of Beauty but the scale of Rarity becomes more clearer with the numerous recently published reference books, who are stating their sources and the number of copies found.
The Condition of old maps however can and should be standarized, we sincerely hope that HiBCoR can set the standard. Unnessesary to say that the system will use the same high standards of description and notification of faults as we are doing as since 30 years in trade.

Overall grading

HiBCoR grades a map in a scale of 1 to 10. This valuation is based by the combination of Historical significance, Beauty, Condition and Rarity.
As a result an extremely rare map in poor condition still grades higher than a common map in very good condition.
The grading is also reflected in the price, and a map in fine original colours grades higher than one in modern colours and valuates double in price !

In the Gallery view you are able to filter the shown items by grading. Select the number of stars you desire. You are able to filter those items with the exact number of stars, or including those lesser or greater. This option will be available soon on other pages. !

Try the following sample for world maps:

H!BCoR*** Filter:

Feel free switching inbetween maps graded to 5 stars or 10 stars. You will notice how limited the supply is for 8 and higher graded items.

H!BCoR***  grades the maps as follows: Historical significance, Beauty, Condition and Rarity.


Historical significance

As to a map's historical significance, the potential collector wants to determine if the map in question is a "breakthrough map," as Manasek wrote in Mercator's World. He notes that this can be answered by asking: "Was it made by an important mapmaker? Does it show, for the first time, a radically different or improved image? Is it linked to political events, essentially a cartopolitical statement of significance?"

Round 150 A.D., Ptolemy published an eight-volume book, Geographia, that contained a world map, 26 regional maps and many smaller ones. No original copies of this book or his maps survive, but maps based on Ptolemy's theories were the first to come off the Renaissance's printing presses, and his calculations of the circumference of the world influenced mapmakers and geographic thought well into the 1700s.

The period from the mid-1500s to the 1680s is often called mapmaking's "Golden Age," an era when Dutch and Flemish cartographers turned out especially exquisite examples of the mapmaker's art. Late-nineteenth-century maps however now fall into the more than 100 years old "antique" category.

Maps that feature the misconceptions, mistakes and wild imaginings of the past: California depicted as an island (a belief that persisted for more than 100 years); sea monsters spouting above the waves and strange beasts lumbering over uncharted terrain; bizarre races as weird as any imagined aliens--people born with their heads set into their chests or ears large enough to sleep in.

The number of specialist map collecting books has grown quickly in the past 20 years. These reference books are a great tool for new discoveries. "Unrecorded" maps or states do come to light after such a book has been published. Richard and Penelope Betz and Philip Burden are publishing their addendas on their websites. There are new "discoveries" in the field of antique maps all the time.  According to the dealer/collector Barry Ruderman : "Finding an unrecorded map or identifying previously unrecorded or under-appreciated information on a map is one of the great joys of collecting." 

Historical importance
  Key map
  Very important
  Direct derived
  50 years after first publication
  more than 100 years after first publication



With respect to a map's "beauty"--"Was the mapmaker talented? Did he make a beautiful map, with beautiful baroque, rococo, mannerist or Renaissance cartouches [or] designs? How well is the map engraved? How good is the calligraphy on the map? Is it good to look at?" Basically, the new collector has to "learn the aesthetic values" other map collectors prize, according to Arader's system.

  Very decorative
  Not so decorative
  Not artistic at all


Early maps are often decorated with monsters, scrollwork, decorative borders, sailing ships, putti, etc making them more tempting for the buyer, and consequently sell for a premium.



The condition of an antique map affect its value, but given the fact that they are printed on such a fragile medium as paper, sometimes the mere fact that they still exist is amazing. The condition is always very important, but how important it is depends on several factors.
Most maps offered for sale are disclosed from an bound atlas. Many of these maps have the original binding slip still on the reverse, or signs are still visible. Usually the folio sized map has a center fold, if not bound in plano format. This type of map is often found in very good condition. A small split in the lower part of the centerfold is often the case.
Wall maps and broadsheet maps were generally exposed to heavy use. The allowance for condition is higher for such maps.
In the 18th century many prints were cut to the plate mark, this was also done for maps to fit in larger size "made to order" atlases. The map was than cut and pasted on a larger sheet or margis were added. Often the Laferi-school maps are published like this, and uncut copies are extremely rare.

The following  imperfections should be mentioned in the condition report:
Colour Oxidization w/o damage
Colour Oxidization w/damage or loss of paper.
Paper Toned / Acidified
Tears in Margin
Tears in Printed Image
Foxing in Margins
Foxing in Printed Image
Fold Split in Margin
Fold Split in Printed Image
Marginal Soiling
Soiling within image
Colour Retouched
Worm Holes
Loss of Printed Image
Restoration to Margins
Restoration/Facsimile within printed image
Other Damage (should be explained)
Other Loss of Image (should be explained)  


Several types of stains plague maps. Ink, candle wax or even wine can be spilled on a map. Water leave stains by redistributing soluble material in the paper. Browning caused by oxidation, tends to occur at the center fold, where paste contacts the paper.
Sometimes the entire paper browns. Mildew spots, called foxing, also occurs. Stains in the printed area are more serious than stains in the blank margin.
Stains affect the value of a decorative map more than a rare or purely historical map.

Many rare items becoming increasingly difficult to locate on the market, and minor restorations are much less of an issue. Minor repaired tears reduce the value of a map, however significant facsimile addition or more serious tears may reduce the value with 40 to 60%

Neatly repaired centerfold splits, marginal tears or small wormholes, do not influence the value of a map to a very large extent," Manasek wrote. "But whole areas replaced in facsimile, replaced margins, loss of image by trimming, heavy staining or water damage all reduce the price of a map. In the present market, a heavily damaged and repaired Blaeu Americas may not be a bargain for $4,000. A superb example for $10,000 is."



Printed maps, either by wood block, copper- or steel engraving were usualy bound into an atlas, and a larger number was sold black and white.
A substantial number however was coloured by hand, and a very small number even hightened with gold or silver. As many atlases produced during the 16th - 17th century were produced for rich merchants, nobleman and collectors, many of these atlases where coloured for decorative reason.
The fact that colours makes the map more readable was best understood in the 18th century. Mapmakers like Homann, Seutter, Schenk, Valck, Covens and Mortier, offered their atlases allmost exclusively coloured.
Typically the countries are coloured in full body colour, and cartouches left uncoloured. Map-makers have long known that four colours (green, yellow, orange, and pink) are sufficient to colour a map.
We see that the fashion of colouring maps was following the changing style of engraving. The early Lafreri type maps are usually not coloured. But starting with the maps of Ortelius, Mercator and the Jode the maps have a border colour with wash colour for the regions.
During the early 17th century, typically the border lines are in bold colours, also the cartouches have lesser colour use and are boldly applied. (J.Hondius, Plancius, C.J.Visscher, Speed).
The copper engraving became more finer, as the maps became more detailed and the cartouches more profane, the colouring became more delicate and finer.

Various materials were used as size to prevent the paper absorbing the colour too rapidly or unevenly, white of egg being the most common.
Judging from books on the subject, some colourists went to great lengths to obtain the correct colour, the constituents coming from all over the world and taking several days to prepare.
These colours are generally remarkably good, retaining their brilliance and showing little sign of fading since they were applied.
The greens can cause some trouble: they were made from verdigris which in time rots through the paper to the extent of disintegration.

Detecting old versus new colouring.
From the colour pigments applied on coloured maps, usually the green shows oxidation on the back. Renecaince colourists made the  green colour using Sulfuric acid or Copper in the form of verdigris mixed with wax was used to make the green colour. The oxidation refers to the chemical changes that a substance undergoes when it is exposed to the elements. The color change that results from copper's oxidation tends to be a darkening to a deeper brown or rust color. In the first place the paper will darken, afterwards the colour itself. Oxidation leads to the corrosion and corruption of the paper. In most cases the oxidation on the verso is visible with the eye. When thick and very good paper quality was used oxidation is not allways visible on the verso.

The most commonly used lighting tool to detect oxidationon is a long-wave ultraviolet lamp in the 365 nanometer range. At this wavelength, many materials absorb invisible ultraviolet energy and transform this energy to visible colored light, easily distinguished by the human eye. The test can be done in a dark area or room by y holding the UV lampt o the verso of the map. Typically the area who has green applied will absorbed without emission, making these areas appear quite dark in contrast to the fluorescent areas.
Certain pigments also have signature fluorescences: -madder or alizarin red show pink in UV, for instance, a zinc white (which has been used since the nineteenth century appears yellow. Iron gall ink, a common brown writting and drawing ink used from medieval times through the 19th century, when faded from visibility, remains detectable under ultraviolet light.
Ultraviolet (UV) light causes old paper to fluoresces faintly whitish, yellowish or grayish, but modern paper glows bright bluish white. Mildew (foxing) appears yellowish and makes water stains easy to recognize. Old vellum appears yellowish white or ivory, but modern vellum appears bluish white.
During World War II, airplanes used maps written in UV fluorescent ink. During dangerous battle situations, the navigator could read the map without illuminating the cockpit.

Colour pigments used

Colour pigments used are :
A greenish blue pigment named after the Persian word "lazhward" meaning "blue", it is chemically close to the green colourant malachite. Azurite was known from Ancient times and became extremely popular during the Middle Ages and Renaissance era, as Egyptian Blue declined. Used in oil painting, it performed best as a water-based pigment and was often employed in Tempera paint under an oil glaze. Superceded by Prussian blue in the early 18th century, and rendered obsolete after the synthesisation of Ultramarine and the development of Cobalt Blue.

Copper Resinate
Known since the mid-Byzantine era (c.800 CE), this is a transparent jade-green glaze made by dissolving copper salts in Venice turpentine. It was used particularly by Post-Renaissance 16th-century Italian oil painters, to colour foliage. It was commonly combined with azurite paint, and layered over lead white or lead-tin yellow pigments.

A red colourant originally made in India, which gave rise to the term "Lake", meaning any transparent dye-based colour precipitated on an inert pigment base, used for glazing. During the High Renaissance in Italy, Lac was the third most expensive pigment (after gold and Ultramarine), but most artists thought it worth the expense. Lapis Lazuli (Ultramarine) The source of the fabulous, absolutely permanent and non-toxic natural blue pigment Ultramarine, the precious stone Lapis Lazuli is found in Central Asia, notably Afghanistan. It was employed in Ancient times as a simple ground up mineral (Lapis Lazuli or Lazuline Blue) with weak colour power. Then Persian craftsmen discovered a means of extracting the colouring agent, creating at a stroke a hugely important art material. Ultramarine arrived in Venice on Arab boats, during the Renaissance, and was named the pigment from overseas ("ultra marine"). Such was its brilliance that it rapidly attained a price that only princes and large wealthy religious organizations could afford it. Although strongly associated with Renaissance art, it is still widely used by contemporary painters, especially since prices and supply have improved. Synthetic Ultramarine is chemically identical, although typically appears in a more reddish shade. However its far lower price will no doubt ensure that genuine Ultramarine remains in limited usage.

Lead-Tin Yellow
A highly stable bright opaque yellow was used from around 1250 until the mid-17th century, when its use ceased abruptly for no obvious reason. Experts believe that its formula might have been lost due to the death of its producer. Very popular with Renaissance painters, who used it in foliage along with earth pigments, Lead-Tin Yellow seems to have many of the attributes of modern Cadmium Yellow, but little was known about it until the 1940s. Since then it has enjoyed a modest recovery.

A natural plant colourant obtained from Madder plants in a process dating back to Antiquity. It was brought back to Europe during the time of the Crusades. It was one of the most stable natural pigments. Dyes derived from the root of the Madder plant were used in ancient Egypt for colouring textiles. Later natural madder pigments were used by 15th and 16th-century painters. After a synthetic version was invented in 1868 by the German chemists, Grabe and Lieberman, natural production virtually ceased.

Natural Ultramarine, made from the precious stone Lapis Lazuli, was (and remains) one of the world's most expensive artists' pigments. A cool deep blue hue, it was first used in 6th century Afghanistan, and the pigment achieved its zenith during the Italian Renaissance as it harmonized perfectly with the vermilion and gold of illuminated manuscripts and Italian panel painting. However, being vulnerable to even minute traces of mineral acids and acid vapours, it was only used for frescoes when it was applied "secco" (when the pigment was mixed with a binding medium and applied over dry plaster) as in Giotto di Bondone's famous fresco cycle in the Cappella degli Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Ultramarine was finally synthesized independently by both the Frenchman Jean Baptiste Guimet and the German chemist Christian Gottlob Gmelin in the late 1820s/ early-1830s. The artificial colourant was non-toxic and as permanent as the natural variety but darker and less azure. It was formulated for both oil and watercolour paints.

A common synthetic green pigment used from Classical Antiquity until the 19th century, it was the most vibrant green available during the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Its relative transparency led to it being frequently combined with lead white or lead-tin yellow, or used as a glaze. The name derives from the Old French word "vertegrez", meaning "green of Greece". Its use declined sharply from the 18th century onwards.

Vermilion (Vermillion)
An orange-ish red pigment with fine hiding power and good permanence, but high toxicity. Natural Vermilion, known to the Romans as Minium, comes from the mineral ore Cinnabar (see above), and the name Vermilion is most commonly used to describe the synthetic version of the pigment, which nowadays is usually obtained by reacting mercury with molten sulfur. In Antiquity, Vermilion/Cinnabar was highly prized, being ten times more expensive than red ochre. Later it was an important colourant in illuminated manuscripts, although it remained prohibitively expensive until the 14th century when a synthetic version was first produced. Vermilion was the traditional red pigment in Chinese art, and is the colourant used in Chinese red lacquer. Today, Vermilion has been replaced in painting by the pigment cadmium red.

Close colour pigments

Different centuries, different countries; different colouring.
The 1-th century used body colours, but the 1èth century colourist prefered out-line colour. The Germans used full body colour, with uncoloured cartouches.

Samples of colouring

15th century colouring. Harmann Schedel world map from the Nuremberg Chronicle.

16th century full colouring, typically Ortelius, De Jode. Note the sister of Ortelius, Anna, seems to be a well known map colourist. Also Ortelius has coloured maps himselve in his early days.

######### ######### #########

Early 17th Century Dutch colouring, applied before 1640 (Border colours are applied much bolder than in the second half of the 17th century. Typically by C.J.CVisscher and J.Hondius.)

Dutch colouring applied after 1640 ( Border lines are now much finer and more delicatly applied.)

A master colourist like Dirk Jansz Van Santen (1637/38-1708) worked for Kings and rich merchants.
His manner is signified by rich and exotic colour combinations, added elements such as flowers to clothing, marbling to masonry. Goedings : "Van Santen applied transparent and opaque colours at the same time in both mixed and pure tints. He often painted the whole surface of the map or illustration, transforming the graphic light and dark contrasts into colour.
He applied his characteristic shiny varnish, this had the effect of brightening the colour, frequently making use of the same colour progression."
Atlases and books coloured by van Santen are found in the libraries of the most prominent collectors of the golden age of Dutch cartography ". Bibles and atlases, bound in deluxe bindings by Albert Magnus (1642-1689) and decorated by van Santen were considered gifts worthy of princes. Travelers and poets wrote about this work" (Goedings).
More about Dirk Jansz van Santen

Other famous Dutch colourists are Frans Koerten, (1603-1668), illuminator, bookseller and collector, whose stock and private collection was sold at auction in Amsterdam in 1668 but also the engraver and publisher of prints.

#########Mrs. Anna Beek of the Hague. She enlarged prints, originally published by Hogenberg or Merian, and coloured them in pastel colours, adding extensive clouds and brilliant yellow borders. The height of the print is enlarged with c.8cm (3 inches). This way of enlarging prints is also known from the famous Van der Hem/Prinz Eugen Atlas and those in the former Royal print-collection kept in Jemniste in Czechoslovakia.

Mid 18th century colouring. (Full body colour and uncoloured cartouches.)

Close colour samples

A map in original colour will sell for more than double the price of the same map uncoloured or with recently applied colours.
All reputable dealers can distinguish between old, later and modern colour in almost all cases and they note if a map is in original, later or recent colours.
Now-a-days it is becomming a chalange finding maps in original colours. Many uncoloured maps are being coloured to make them more sellable.
Please note that an uncoloured copy in a strong and dark impression is a pleasure looking at.
Early imprints are recognazable at the plate tone. The engravers of the the 16th century are one of the greatest engravers ever. Samples are Jodocus Hondius, van Langren, Cleas Jansz. Visscher, Petrus Karius, Franz Hogenberg.

Certain maps were not coloured at the time of publication. Most editions of Robert Dudley's sea charts and Vincenzo Coronelli's maps are examples of maps which were usually not issued in colour. Most collectors looking for these maps expect to buy them without colour and would find modern coloured examples less valuable than uncoloured examples.

Several already in their days well respected colourists did exist. The most well know colourist was Dirk Jansz. Van Santen, who coloured the well known Atlas Vander Hem. Other colourists are Frans Koerten, David Reerigh, Anna Beek. Many of them used lavishly gold and silver to highlight titles and cartouches.

As to whether colour or black and white looks better (or is worth more), that is a personal preference.

HiBCoR uses the following colour key :
Original colour = Item has been coloured at the time of publication.
Later colour = Item has been coloured after the time of publication, but before end of 20st century.
Coloured = The colours have been applied in the 20th century or later.
Original out-line colours = Map has only border colours and is applied during publication.
Original full body colour = Map has full body colour, typically used during the 18th century by publishers like Homann, Seutter, Lotter, etc. Typically cartouches are left uncoloured. If a cartouche has recent colour addition, this need to be indicated (Cartouche with later colour addition).


The art of paper making evolved significantly between the time of the first printed map and modern times. Until the early 19th Century, most maps were printed on hand made paper. Early paper was made by combining the pulp from rags with a liquid formula, spreading the wet pulp over chains and laying the pulp out to dry.
Watermarks on the paper can be helpful in dating--but often mapmaking houses laid in huge stocks of paper and kept producing maps from particular batches for up to 40 or 50 years at a stretch.
By the late 18th Century, there were widely varying degrees of paper quality. The quality of paper used for certain cheap mass produced British "Magazine" maps is very different from the thick high quality paper which was used by the top London / Amsterdam mapmakers. Certain late 18th Century French mapmakers used a paper with a blue-green hue. 
Beginning in the early 19th Century, machine made paper was becoming more prevalent and the content of the paper was evolving away from rag and cloth. By the mid-19th Century, cheaper machine made paper was employed by some publishers and during this period and through the end of the 19th Century, some maps are characterized by a brittle quality, caused by a higher acidic content in the paper.

References to paper making

Reference books
Barrett, Timothy. "Early European Papers/Contemporary Conservation Papers." The Paper Conservator, 1989, Vol. 13.
Barrow, W.J., Research Laboratory. Physical and Chemical Properties of Book Paper, 1507-1949. (Permanence/Durability of the Book--VII) Richmond, Virginia: Barrow Research Laboratory, 1974.
Beckmann, Johann A. "Anleitung zur Technologie." 4th edition from 1796, in: Karl Keim, Das Papier, 2nd edition. Otto Blersch Verlag, Stuttgart, 1956.
Chambers, E. Cyclopedia or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. London, 1784.
Church, A. H. The Chemistry of Paints and Painting. Seeley and Co. Ltd., London, 1901.
Daniels, Vincent. "The Elimination of Bleaching Agents from Paper." The Paper Conservator, Journal of the IIC United Kingdom Group Paper Group, 1976, Vol. 1.
Davis, Charles T. The Manufacture of Paper. Philadelphia, 1886.
Gess, J. M. et al. "The Strong Bond/Weak Bond Theory of Sizing." Tappi Journal, January 1991.
Gess, J. M. "Rosin Sizing of Papermaking Fibers," Tappi Journal, July 1989.
Grant, J. A Laboratory Handbook of Pulp and Paper Manufacture, 2nd edition. Edward Arnold & Co., 1944.
Hofmann, Carl. Praktisches Handbuch der Papier Fabrikation. Verlag der Papierzeitung, Berlin, 1891. Vol. 2.
Jenner, Thomas. A Book of Drawing, Limning, Washing or Colouring of Maps and Prints. Printed by Simmons for Jenner, London, 1652.
Kragh, A. M. "The Effect of Aluminum Sulphate and other Polyvalent Metals on the Viscosity of Gelatin Solutions." Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, June 8, 1957.
Lalande, Joseph de. The Art of Papermaking (1761), transl. by R. Atkinson. County Clare, Ireland: Ashling Press, 1976.
Libby, C. Earl. Pulp and Paper Science and Technology, Vol. II. McGraw-Hill, New York, no date (probably 1960s).
The Manufacture of Pulp and Paper, Vol. III. (Joint Executive Committee on Vocational Education Representing the Pulp and Paper Industry of the United States and Canada) McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1922.
Rance, H. F. The Raw Materials and Processing of Papermaking. Handbook of Paper Science, Vol. 1. Elsevier, New York, 1980.
Reynolds, W. F. et al. "The Effect of Alum and pH on Sheet Acidity." Tappi, Vol. 46, No. 7, 1963.
Schaefer, Terry T., et al. "Effect of Aging on an Aqueously Light Bleached, Mixed Pulp Paper." The Book and Paper Group Annual, Vol. 10. American Institute for Conservation, Washington, D.C., 1991.
Singer, Charles. The Earliest Chemical Industry: An Essay in the Historical Relations of Economics and Technology Illustrated from the Alum Trade. 1st edition. The Folio Society, London, 1948.
Tomlinson, Charles (ed.). Cyclopedia of Useful Arts, Mechanical and Chemical Manufactures, Mining, and Engineering. London, 1862.
Ure, Andrew. A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines, Vol. 1. Appleton & Co., New York, 1866.
Wilson, William K. et al., "The Effect of Magnesium Bicarbonate." Preservation of Textiles and Paper of Historic and Artistic Value II. J. C. Williams, ed. (Advances in Chemistry Series, 193) American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C., 1981.
Witham, G. S. Modern Pulp and Paper Making. Chemical Catalog Company, New York, 1920.
Zimmermann, Samuel. Von Gehaimnuß verborgner Künsten/ New Titularbuech Das ist/ wie man ainer Jeden Person/ sey was Wurdigkait sie wolle/ in zwen Thail gethailt/ sambt etlichen hinzugethanen fürtreffentlichen Gehaimnussen/ verborgenen Mechanischen Apochryphischen und gleichsam Übernatürlichen Künsten/ des Lesen und die Schreiberey betreffend/ Desgleichen vor niemals in Truck aussgangen. Ingolstadt, 1579.

Web Refernces



Folds & Centerfolds
Most maps offered for sale are disclosed from an bound atlas. Many of these folio-size maps have the original binding slip (a guard) still on the verso, or signs are still visible. Usually the folio sized map has a center fold, if not bound in a plano format atlas. The map is normally glued to the guard, and the guard was sewn into the binding. By this way the map is not damaged by the sewing thread, and the map can be viewed flat. When looking at an atlas the viewer usually sees "compensation guards". These empty guards are equal to the anticipated thickness and are sewn with the book intended to prevent gaping of the boards.


Plate Marks & imprint.
Once printing techniques were developed, many reproductions could be made from one original map. Chinese printmakers were producing maps on handmade paper using wood block printing techniques over 1,800 years ago. The Europeans developed the printing press and movable type in the 1400s, and maps became more common and more accessible. Many Ptolomaic maps are printed in wood block, one of the most successful was Sebastian Münster of Basle. Curiously the first printed atlas, the ‘Geographia’ was made in copper engraving, probably engraved by Taddeo Crivelli, and was issued in Bologna in 1477. Only in the maddle of the 16th century the engravers of Rome started using again the copper engraving to produce their maps. In the 19th century steel took over from copper and (chromo)lithography was used to print maps.
The copper engraved maps are characterized by plate marks, showing the impression of the printing plate on the paper when the map was printed. Quit often little remains of ink are vissible in the plate mark. Inexpensive reproductions can be readily identified by either the lack of a plate mark or a plate mark that is too far from the neatline.
With the introduction of the atlas by Ortelius (1570) the map was companied by text, usually printed on the verso of the map. Maps published by Ortelius, Mercator, Speed, Braun & Hogenberg, Blaeu, Hondius, Jansson(ius) have text on the verso of the map. Sea atlases did not carry text as they usually were accompanied by rutters.
There are examples of each of these map makers maps without text on the verso and they are either early proof states, bound in composite atlases or later reprints). Interestingly there was a active interchange between the Dutch publishers and Paris. Many maps by Hondius, Jansson but also Blaeu or found in French composite atlases made in the 17th century. The maps in these atlases never carried text on the verso.
From the end of the 17th century atlases did no longer carry text. Therefor maps by N.Visscher, de Wit, Covens & Mortier, Homann, Seutter do no longer carry text.

The lack of a centerfold, plate imprint and lack of text on the verso of these maps is a good indicator that a map is a reproduction.

If the impression is strong and clear, the map could be from an early edition; a weak impression probably would indicate the opposite.


Minor repairs of a flaws, a small tear, a wormhole, minor staining or foxing, a narrow margin, or some other imperfection to antique maps are becoming increasingly common. 

  Very good
  Poor; Sold as is




How rare is the map, how often did it appear on the market ?

Marcel van de Broecke made calculations on the number of copies printed for each atlas published by Ortelius.
Because of the fact that the book keeping of the publishing house Plantijn was kept he was able to calculate the number of copies printed for each edition. We see that certain text editions, and therefor states of the coperplates, are more rare than other. Spanish and English text editions are among the rarest.
For similar maps, the maker can strongly influence the price. David Jolly gives the following example "Ortelius and de Jode both produced similar maps at about the same time. However, Ortelius produced far more editions of his atlas, making de Jode maps scarce by comparison. Thus, de Jode maps appear far less frequently on the market.
With similar demand, this result in comparable maps from de Jode's atlas being more expensive than those of Ortelius."
Ortelius' maps are as a general rule more decorative than those by de Jode; thus rarity grades above beauty.


An exceptionally rare and important map. Only a few examples known and these are usually in institutional libraries.
Very rare. Only several examples known in private and public collections. Hardly available in the open market.
Rare. A map which is rarely offered by dealers or obtained at auction.
Scarce. A map which is very infrequently available in the open market. Such maps are offered by dealers or auction houses, perhaps once every 1-3 year a copy turns up.
Uncommon. A map which is infrequently available in the open market. Typically maps from the 16-18th century, maps from atlases published by Ortelius, Blaeu, Hondius, Visscher, Speed.
Common. Freely available in the open market. Printed in large quantities. Often steel engravings from the 19th century.



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Author: Paulus Swaen ©2016