Bryars & Bryars Antiquarian Books Maps & Prints
rare and antiquarian books, maps and prints:
specialising in early printing, classical texts and translations, atlases and books with maps, early maps of all regions, illustrated travels, and antique topographical and natural history prints.
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Tim Bryars Antiquarian and Rare Books, Atlases, Antique Maps and Prints
Tim Bryars opened his antiquarian book and map shop at 8 Cecil Court in the Summer of 2004. Our company specialises in rare and antiquarian books, maps and prints, particularly atlases and original antique maps of all parts of the world printed circa 1500-1900, a golden age of discovery and decorative map-making; we always carry a selection of separately issued and folding maps. We also sell early printed books, classical texts and translations, history, literature and travels, and offer a range of antique topographical and natural history prints. The price range is enormous, anything from £30-£30,000, but please note that we only offer original material and do not deal with facsimiles or reproductions.
Tim Bryars is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ABA), the oldest trade organisation of its kind in the world (founded in 1906) with a strict code of good practice which members adhere to. Tim is currently a member of the ABA Council. Through the ABA we are also members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and Tim Bryars is also a Fellow of the Rare Book Society, founded recently to promote high standards of bibliographical description and knowledge of all aspects of the booktrade through internet-based courses. Tim Bryars is also a joint organiser, with Rainer Voigt and Massimo de Martini, of the London Map Fair. The fair is the largest specialist event of its kind in Europe, held at the Royal Geographical Society each June with accompanying lectures and events. Full details of all these organizations and fairs can be found on our links page.
Traditional ground-floor bookshops like ours allow for browsing and face-to-face discussion, and the chance to examine original material at first hand – all valuable opportunities which we would encourage customers to take up whenever possible. If you make a good impression you might even be offered coffee. We welcome new collectors and also gift enquiries. We regularly supply corporate gifts, leaving presents, wedding presents and we can help find something special for a first wedding anniversary (paper). The more advance warning you can give us the better, especially if we have to track down something especially recherché. We don’t have a jar for tips, but we have yet to reject a well intentioned bottle of wine or vintage port.
Cecil Court now boasts London’s greatest concentration of specialist book, map and print shops. It’s been the new Booksellers’ Row since between the wars, after the early film companies of ‘Flicker Alley’ days moved out. Today, nearly every shop offers printed material in one form or another, from theatre posters to modern first editions, which makes it a unique place in London to go shopping. Renowned worldwide among collectors, institutional librarians and members of the booktrade, Cecil Court itself is a picturesque pedestrian passage, linking Charing Cross Road with St Martin’s Lane. We are right in the heart of London’s Theatreland, a stone’s throw from the galleries of Trafalgar Square and the cinemas of Leicester Square. The bookshop frontages have hardly changed since the Court was rebuilt in the 1890s – booksellers being a fairly conservative lot (with a small ‘c’ of course). You can reach the Cecil court website to find out more from our links page.
Tim Bryars is currently Secretary of the Cecil Court Association (David Drummond is Chairman) and would be happy to help with any general enquiries about the street; he would also be very pleased to hear from anyone with memories or ephemera relating to Cecil Court.
Tim Bryars was formerly a director and co-owner of Paralos Ltd, located near Oxford Circus, where he worked with a similar array of antique books, maps and prints. The company was split amicably after the June bookfairs in 2004, and his friends and colleagues Panagiotis Chantziaras and Louise Bryan now work from a magnificent gallery, also called Paralos, in central Athens. Their stock of Greek material is unrivalled but won’t be found online: any collectors passing through should certainly make a point of calling in. They are ABA members and contact details can be found on the ABA website.
The shop has already proved to be a great place to meet new faces and to encourage new collectors. As I mentioned above, if you can visit us in London or have access to early books and maps closer to home, there is no substitute for handling original material, especially if you are just starting out. However, we take the internet side of our business extremely seriously. We will endeavour to respond to emails as soon as possible and have tried to make the website as easy to browse and as safe to order from as possible. It isn’t always easy to discover how to begin a collection, and on our help page we have written fairly detailed introductory notes about the kind of material we have, how we have described it, who printed it and where you can read more about it. Our antique books, maps and prints are browsable by category, but there is also a quicksearch option always available at the foot of the screen, and an advanced search facility where it is possible to search by almost any criteria, for example by map-maker, printer, date or title. We do not issue printed catalogues, but we keep a current catalogue online, regularly updating it by adding and removing our antique maps and books as we find them or sell them. So that people do not have to browse through pages of antique books and maps which they have already seen we have a ‘what’s new’ page where it is possible to view recent additions, including antiquarian books or maps added since the site was last visited. The site is fully illustrated and we can send more images on request. When you have found what you are looking for it is possible to order immediately by clicking on the shopping trolley icon to the right of each item; sending payment details is fully secure.
We have an extensive stock of antiquarian books and an ever expanding number of portfolios of antique maps and prints, so we never have our entire stock online. For that reason we welcome enquiries for particular antique books or maps which fall within our specialist fields. We also buy antiquarian books, maps and prints in any quantity.
One final thing I should like to do on this page where we have been describing what we do as a company is to define what we mean by ‘classics’, a term which is used variously these days to cover anything from Homer to Dickens. We specialise in Greek and Latin classics, and use that term to cover all aspects of ancient writing. The scope is enormous, covering most of the arts and sciences that we know today. Sometimes the distinctions between disciplines were a little more blurred in the ancient world. For example, Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) saw no contradiction in writing about astronomy and astrology in the same work, and also composed the seminal classical work of geography. With that in mind we have divided the classics into categories as best we can, so that on the Tim Bryars Ltd website it is easier to find the great works of classical literature by the likes of such poets as Virgil and Catullus, historians Herodotus, Livy, Thucydides and Tacitus, and classical philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and Lucretius. We also try to stock antiquarian editions of some of the more obscure classical authors, including ancient novels by Heliodorus and Petronius, ancient medical writers such as Dioscorides Hippocrates and Galen, other classical scientific works such as those on astronomy by Aratus, Manilius and Ptolemy, ancient travellers and geographers such as Pausanius and Strabo, and a whole ranbge of very specific texts which can best be described as technical, including works on ancient warfare by Vegetius and others, or such compilations as ‘de re rustica’, a collection of ancient texts on animal husbandry and agriculture. We also try to offer interesting but spurious works, such as the ancient forgeries of the letters of Phalaris or the supposed eye-witness accounts of the Trojan War by Dares and Dictys Cretensis. We have a section for Bibles and theology, where we list works by ancient theologians including many of the early fathers.
This part of the site is for the novice collector, or for anyone else who wants to know more about the material we are offering or the ways in which we describe it. We want to make the site as accessible as possible. By hovering the mouse above a highlighted keyword in a description, a brief definition of the word will appear in the tool-bar at the foot of the screen. By clicking on the word you will be able to access a full definition, or you can simply scroll down this part of the site.
We think that building a collection of books, maps or prints – or even choosing one as a present – must seem daunting at first. There is a tremendous array of printed material available to choose from, and the terminology used to describe it can seem dry, if not incomprehensible. In writing this we want to demystify things as much as we can. We have put together a few notes suggesting ways in which a collection might be themed, and introducing some of the most important printers, editors and cartographers that we deal with. We have also explained the terminology we use, and why we need to use it, and we have given details of general bibliographies and background reading together with information about more specific reference material where appropriate.
We hope that this will answer many of the general questions which you might have, but we make no claims to be comprehensive. If we can be of further assistance, then please contact us directly, and we will respond to you as soon as possible.
Very general points
If you have read this far, then the idea of owning something old probably appeals to you already, and you see some merit in reading a book in the first edition (like one of its original readers), rather than as a modern paperback; or owning an original map by Ortelius rather than a photocopy. There are, however, many different ways of theming a collection (some more eccentric than others).
Book collectors often collect books by a specific author or group of authors, or of a particular genre: for example classical literature or voyages and travels. Alternatively they may concentrate on particular printers or periods and places of printing. One might choose to build up a library of scholarly printing by Froben or the Aldine Press, or one might be more drawn to fine typography such as that by the Birmingham printer Baskerville, or maybe sixteenth century printing from Venice. Other collectors are more interested by early or fine bindings, or by a book’s provenance – ie. who has left notes, signatures or bookplates in the volume.
The ideas behind theming a collection of maps or prints are in some ways very similar. Map collectors are often interested in particular regions, but also in map-makers (cartographers) and the scholarly as well as the decorative merits of a particular map. By looking through a portfolio of maps, it is often possible to gain an impression of how man’s knowledge of the world he lives in has developed. Collectors of prints, similarly, often theme collections around particular artists, subjects or printing techniques.
Earlier, we mentioned the terminology used to describe printed material. The words may seem dry or technical, but they protect both the buyer and the seller. Bibliographical terminology is concise, and it enables one to visualise an item without actually handling it. Most of our books and maps were printed and bound or coloured by hand, so that no two copies are exactly alike. We always try to acquire ‘good’ copies, although of course what is acceptable in terms of condition varies with the type and relative scarcity of each item. For example an ephemeral item, say a chapbook or a children’s book, would not have been so well looked after, and would often survive in relatively worse condition than an expensive plate book or an example of fine typography. We describe all significant faults, and we try to avoid vague and cosmetic phrases such as ‘very good’ (unless it is so good that we just can’t resist it), so that sometimes our material may sound worse than it actually is.
In order to understand more fully why one old book is more important or interesting than another, and in order to make sure that it is all there, it is often a good idea to do some background reading first and double check the collation and the edition in the appropriate bibliographies if possible.
We deal with quite a lot of early printing. One very good book to begin with is Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin’s ‘The Coming of the Book’, which gives a good overview of the personalities and techniques involved within the context of the impact of the printed book on society. Elizabeth Eisenstein’s ‘The Printing Press as an Agent of Change’ is also useful background reading. Another speciality of ours is classical literature, and the best and most readable modern introduction to the subject is probably ‘Scribes and Scholars: A Guide to the Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature’ by L.D. Reynolds and N.G. Wilson (third edition). Dibdin’s ‘Introduction to the Knowledge of Rare and Valuable Editions of the Greek and Latin Classics’ (4th edition 1829, but reprinted by Georg Olms) is not 100% reliable, and one may not share all of the author’s opinions, but it is still the only critical bibliography in English which addresses most of the important editions. Sandys ‘History of Classical Scholarship’ provides detailed if sometimes turgid reference. For something more polemical to read in bed, try Wilamowitz-Moellendorff’s ‘History of Classical Scholarship’.
You may well see cryptic references to bibliographies at the foot of booksellers’ descriptions. This means that the bookseller has identified his copy of the book with the entry in the bibliography. The most useful first point of bibliographical reference would probably be Brunet’s very general ‘Manuel du Libraire’, printed in Paris between 1860 and 1878, but reprinted on numerous occasions. Graesse published a similar work, which repeats a lot of the same information, but also plugs a few gaps. If you decide to use either of them, be prepared to brush up on you bibliographical French. Adams compiled a monumental ‘Catalogue of Books printed on the Continent of Europe 1501-1600 in Cambridge Libraries’. While it is true that most of the principal works printed on the continent in the sixteenth-century are in one Cambridge library or another, not every edition is there, and claiming that a book is not in Adams does not guarantee its rarity. It would be more interesting if it were not found in the British Library Catalogue (BMC).
When one describes a book, one uses all sorts of terminology. A really useful book to have to hand when reading descriptions is John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors. The introductions to bibliography by McKerrow and Gaskell can also be useful.
Our descriptions follow a set pattern. First of all we identify the book. We give the name of the author (if known), the title, any further relevant information about the edition and the imprint: the printer, place and date of printing. All of this is quoted verbatim from the title page. If we miss anything out (some title pages can be very wordy) then we make this clear by using square brackets with three full stops inside. If some of the information we include is not taken from the title-page, then we indicate the fact by quoting it within square brackets. This does not happen very often, and then mostly applies to early printed books. The title-page was originally a mere protective cover, because new books were transported unbound for reasons of economy. By the early sixteenth-century most title-pages contained the information that we would expect to see on them today, but in some books information about the printer and sometimes the author was still included at the end, where it is called the colophon.
The physical appearance of the book is described next. This begins by identifying the format, which is about the way in which the book has been put together, and which determines its eventual size. The format can help to identify the edition (which is why it is not adequate simply to measure a book). For example the first edition, an illustrated or a scholarly edition of an important work might be printed in a large and prestigious folio format, whereas the second edition might be compressed to half the size. There is a short answer and a long answer to the question: ‘what is format?’. The short answer is that Folios are normally big books, 4tos are smaller and squarer, 8vos smaller still, and so on. The long answer follows: think of a book as being made up of much larger sheets of paper which have then had a number of different pages printed upon them before being folded over and eventually bound and cut, so that they open properly. The number of times that the sheet has been folded determines the format. Because the size of the original sheet may vary considerably (and the amount of margin trimmed away by the binder also varies) there are no exact measurements, but a folio is normally the largest size, as the sheets have only been folded once, creating a gathering of two leaves. (A leaf has two pages, one printed on the front and one on the back, called the recto and verso.) Don’t be confused by folios in sixes, or eights or tens, or any other number: the printer sometimes constructed a book in such a way that folio sheets were put on top of each other instead of being laid side by side, to save on stitching when the book was bound. Quarto (abbreviated 4to) is the next size down from folio, and the sheet has been folded again to make a gathering of four leaves. Octavo (8vo) is smaller still, with eight leaves, and duodecimo (normally abbreviated to 12mo) smaller again. One can keep on going beyond even 16mo and 24mo, which are really very small books indeed. The size of a gathering (and therefore the format) can be most easily identified by using the signature, which was put at the foot at the page to help the binder, and which is normally a letter or letters in a sequence, followed by a number. For example, gathering A in an 8vo would contain eight leaves (A1-8), and would be followed by gathering B.
The next information to be given is the collation, which gives the number of pages and plates (illustrations on separate leaves, often outside the main pagination). In early books in particular the leaves rather than the pages are numbered, in which case we use the prefix ff. rather than pp., for pages. Sometimes no pagination was used at all, in which case we often collate by signature, say A-Z8 for a very simple 8vo. Often the main body of text was printed before the preliminary leaves (title-pages, dedications &c.;) so that preliminary leaves are numbered separately, often in roman numerals. It is not uncommon for preliminary leaves and indexes to be un-numbered altogether, in which case the number of pages is given in roman numerals, but within square brackets. So an octavo book with 8 numbered preliminary leaves, 192 pages of text and 24 un-numbered pages of index would collate: 8vo. pp. xvi, 192, [xxiv]. If there were two volumes or more in the set, then the end of each volume would be marked by a semi-colon instead of a full stop. It is very straightforward really!
The internal description of the book follows at this point. Here one mentions anything of interest about the way in which the book has been printed. One might draw attention to printing in two colours for example (most commonly in red and black), which is a sign of quality as the sheet had to be run through the press twice. One might also discuss engraved initial letters or other illustrations in the text, and one would mention any hand-written annotations. Early notes, often in the margin (and called marginalia) can enhance the interest of a book – especially if they were written by anyone significant.
Condition is very important, and we mention all significant faults, including worming (worm-holes or tracks), waterstaining, foxing, spotting or browning (toning), and with an indication as to whether these faults are minor (eg the waterstaining is light) or more severe. We would rarely buy a poor copy, but assessing condition is subjective. Early papers are linen based (made from well-rotted rags) and often of excellent quality, but books face many perils, and few look quite as fresh as they did five hundred years ago. One of the worst faults concerns loss of text. A book which is lacking a leaf of text loses a good part of its value, and even lacking a few words or letters of text is significant.
The binding is the last physical aspect of the book to be considered. Edition binding in cloth, with which we are familiar today, began in the 1820s. All books before then, and many since, were bound individually by hand, and no two are identical. One has to decide when the binding was put on the book – early or fine binding being more desirable than recent ones. The quality of modern bindings varies considerably. It took us some time to find us a binder who we were happy with. Our binder has an excellent reference library, and a collection of bindings which he began to assemble when the great English country house libraries were dispersed in the 1960s. He also has an excellent eye for early books, matching leathers and endpapers, and (perhaps most importantly) he has a splendid array of tools. Most older books are bound either wholly or in part in leather of one sort or another, which has been stretched over pasteboard. Some early books have wooden boards underneath the leather – a leftover from an age when manuscripts were written on vellum, which then had to be kept pressed firmly in place to stop it warping. Some bindings have been strengthened with very thin, flexible boards, or with no boards at all, and the bindings are then referred to as being limp, or as wrappers. The most common leather used in binding books is calf. Calf is a smooth leather which can be dyed, but which is often left brown. Another common leather is vellum, which is normally the untanned skin of a calf, and which is white in colour. It is very hardwearing, as is pigskin, which is discernable from vellum because of its coarse grain (one can often see where the bristles were!). Morocco, or goatskin, gradually became a popular leather for luxury bindings. It has a distinctive grain which can be trained in a variety of ways (crushed, straight-grained &c.;), and is often richly dyed and richly gilt. A cheap leather often used for binding cheaper books is sheep, which also has a distinctive grain, and which is prone to wear. A scholar might well have had his text-books bound in sheep, and he would rarely have had his bindings lavishly decorated. A binder presses tools onto the leather to decorate the binding. If he presses them straight onto the leather then the tooling is ‘blind’, but if he presses them through a sheet of gold leaf, then the tooling is in ‘gilt’. The style of decoration gives the best clues as to the age of the binding. We discuss any damage or restoration. Joints, corners and headcaps (protecting the top and the bottom of the spine) are the most prone to wear through the day-to-day use of a book, and have often been renewed with more or less skill. The idea of re-backing a book but preserving the original spine by lifting it and laying it down again is a relatively recent one. It is an operation which requires considerable skill, particularly with closed-backed books (where the backstrip is pasted directly onto the spine), which was the normal method used to bind books before the end of the eighteenth-century. At the end of the eighteenth-century it also became common to cover only part of the boards with leather – usually the corners and the spine. The rest of the covers are normally covered with marbled or plain paper or with cloth. Where this is the case the binding is referred to as being in ‘half calf’ or ‘half morocco’. A quarter binding is where only the spine has been covered in leather.
Aldus (Venice): Aldus Manutius (Manuzio), like many of his contemporaries (including William Caxton) became a printer when already middle aged. One of his ambitions was to print the great works of literature in the original language for the first time, and he went to Venice to do so. Venice was an obvious choice. There were Greek-speaking refugees from Constantinople there, and as Venice was the trading capital of the world there was an abundance of capital available for new enterprises such as printing, which was very capital intensive, and a supply of skilled workmen. In the 1490s and early 1500s Aldus printed the works of Aristotle, Herodotus, Plato, Sophocles and Aristophanes to name some of the most famous. These were in magnificent folio editions, but Aldus also hit upon the idea of printing little books which could be easily carried on their travels by lawyers, diplomats and other lay readers who were beginning to build up extensive libraries at this time. The first of these octavo editions was his Virgil 1501, which was also the first book printed in italics, the new typeface which Aldus devised based on humanistic cursive handwriting. Aldus was the archetypal scholar printer, and he gathered about him a circle of scholars which included Marcus Mursurus and for a short while also included Erasmus. Aldus died in 1515, but the press which he founded survived until the end of the sixteenth-century, and much capable scholarship was produced by his son Paulus Manutius. The Aldine dolphin and anchor device, which represents the Latin motto ‘Festina Lente’ is probably the most famous printer’s device of all time. The standard bibliography is by Renouard: ‘Annales de l’imprimerie des Alde’. ‘New Aldine Studies’ by Fletcher is probably the most recent survey of the subject in English, and there is a useful British Library publication by Martin Davies.
Baskerville, (Birmingham): John Baskerville’s books are examples of fine typography and printing. Baskerville had earned his living engraving tombstones, and then founded a successful japanning business, which subsidised his activities as a printer. He founded his press in 1750, but it was seven years before his fist book, a 4to edition of Virgil, appeared. During that time he experimented with typefaces, layout, wove paper, blacker inks and even printing techniques (passing the paper through hot copper rollers after printing to enhance the contrast between paper and text). He led a controversial private life, living with another man’s wife (her husband had run off and left her). His radical, freethinking attitudes aroused the disapproval of his contemporaries to such an extent that he was refused burial in consecrated ground, and he was actually buried in an upright posture in a windmill (used as a papermill) in the grounds of his house. When that was demolished his body was kept behind the counter of a plumbers, and exhibited to punters for a small fee. The principal bibliography is by Gaskell, and there is a biography by Pardoe.
Estienne (Paris and Geneva): The Latinised form of Estienne is Stephanus. The press was founded in the early sixteenth-century by Henri the elder, whose career was relatively undistinguished, but his son Robert was one of the great scholar printers of the sixteenth-century. Like Aldus he gathered together an academy of scholars from across Europe, and like Aldus he was involved with the printing of Greek. The King of France, Francis I, came up with the idea of demonstrating France’s intellectual and technical pre-eminence by printing from rare Greek manuscripts in the royal library in a specially commissioned type face called the Grec du Roi. Robert Estienne was chosen to be Royal printer in Greek, and he printed no less than eight books in the series. His undoing was his interest in biblical criticism. He applied his knowledge of Greek and Hebrew to an edition of the New Testament in Latin, and printed the bible in Hebrew, before printing a Greek New Testament in 1550. He aroused the wroth of the orthodox Catholic censors at the Sorbonne, who suspected him of Protestant sympathies, and he was forced to flee to Geneva, a hotbed of Protestantism. The Greek New Testament which he printed there in 1551 was the first bible divided into chapter and verse. His brother Charles printed a few further books in Paris. His son Henri was far more prolific, and at least the equal of his father in terms of scholarship. The standard bibliography of the Estiennes, ‘Annales de l’imprimerie des Estienne’, is by Renouard. There is a biography of Robert Estienne in English by Elizabeth Armstrong. There is also an excellent catalogue by Fred Schreiber.
Hervagius (Basel): Johannes Herwagen was formerly a partner in the Froben printing house, who set up his own press in 1531, and who printed numerous classical and patristic texts until his death in 1558 or 1559. He is often rather neglected today, which is unfair as his printing is of a high calibre and his editions are generally erudite. He printed the first editions of Euclid and Archimedes, and was often the second printer (after Aldus) to risk an edition of a Greek author in the original language, such as his Demosthenes of 1532 or his Euripides of 1537. Many of the same comments could be applied to his colleague in Basel, Joannes Oporinus, who took over Cratander’s press in 1544.
Tonson (London and Cambridge): The production of Jacob Tonson senior and his great-nephew (also Jacob) – often in conjunction with Michael Maittaire – was prolific but generally excellent. The quality of typography and printing of Tonson senior, beginning with the books which he executed for the burgeoning Cambridge University Press, marked an end to the vicious English printing of the previous century. Tonson is also remarkable for the innovative business relationships which he developed with important authors such as Dryden and Pope. There is some useful material in David Foxon’s ‘Pope and the early Eighteenth-Century Book Trade’ (OUP 1991).
Latin was the natural language for early printing. If a book was to have universal appeal, extending beyond national boundaries, it could not be printed in the vernacular. England was little more than a provincial backwater, and printing in English was undertaken solely for the domestic market. Latin was the shared language of Renaissance Europe, and when educated men met they often conversed in Latin. For example, when Robert Estienne gathered together an academy of academics from across Europe, following the example of Aldus, their common language was Latin, and even Estienne’s servants had to master it. Latin is an ancient language which has been bent to accommodate a more recent technology: printing. Don’t be surprised if a dictionary of classical Latin does not hold all of the answers to deciphering a title page. Remember that an author’s name takes the genitive case (ie the works ‘of’ someone) and ends in ‘i’; eg. ‘Virgilius’ becomes ‘Virgilii’. A very common word is ‘opera’ which means ‘works’, and a more sophisticated sentence is ‘opera omnia quae extant’, which means ‘all of the works which are in existence’ (the complete works). This is often followed by information about the edition: editio quarta, for example would mean fourth edition; editio altera or editio nova would indicate another, or a new edition. Other information may be given about how a text has been amended or about the recension of the text: such and such an editor ’emendavit’ or ‘recensuit’. At the foot of the page is the imprint. We normally give both the Latin and the English names for the place of printing. Before the name of the printer is often the simple Latin ‘apud’, ‘for’, but the formula may be more complicated: eg ‘apud viduam et filios Ioannis Moretus’ means ‘for the widow and son of Jan Moretus’ (one of Christopher Plantin’s heirs’). Where a distintion is made between publisher and printer, ‘sumptibus’ refers to the publisher, ‘typis’ or ‘excudabat’ relates to the printer. The date is often in Roman numerals on the title, but for convenience we render it in Arabic numerals.
Three widely available and very general surveys of cartography are R.V. Tooley’s ‘Maps and Map-Makers’, R.A. Skelton’s ‘Decorative Printed Maps’ and G.R. Crone’s ‘Maps and their Makers’. ‘Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers’, which has recently been revised, is a useful reference tool. Many of the most significant developments in early cartography took place in the Low Countries, and one very useful work is Koeman’s ‘Atalantes Neerlandici: a bibliography of terrestrial, maritime and celestial atlases and pilot books, published in the Netherlands up to 1880’. It is also comes in five hefty volumes and is rather expensive, but you will see references to it on our site.
All of our maps are original; we do not sell reproductions. With very few exceptions our maps were printed before 1800. We do not colour or restore maps ourselves. Some maps were hand-coloured by the printers at the time of publication, and it is desirable to find them in this state. Some were issued partially coloured, perhaps with the cartouche or inset views left in black and white, as is often the case with maps by Homan. Others were sold un-coloured, and in this state it can be easier to study changes in the plate. Some maps may also be considered to look better uncoloured. Many maps have been coloured in more recent times, and we draw attention to this in our descriptions, but again it is all a matter of taste, and some people prefer to have their maps coloured.
There are many factors which determine the value of a map, the most obvious being the relative desirability of the area which it depicts, the importance of the cartographer who drew it, and its relative scarcity. Maps which are actually rather inaccurate, reflecting erroneous beliefs about the shape of the world, or those which record new discoveries for the first time are also popular, and a map’s decorative appeal is also significant. The edition or state of a particular map can also influence its value, as can the quality of the impression. It can be difficult to determine the exact state of a map. Most maps in the period we deal with were printed from copper plates, which with minor or no alterations remained in use for long periods, which sometimes lasted for a century or more, even after new discoveries had rendered them obsolete. Strong, dark impressions are usually early; pale impressions have been drawn from worn plates. Sometimes the impression even reveals cracks on the plate which have not been repaired. At other times the name of the printer has been altered after the plate has changed hands, which is another indication of date.
Condition is very important, and we are careful to describe any faults in our maps. Tears and holes which affect the printed area can affect the value seriously, even after competent restoration. We always indicate when a map has been restored, although we prefer not have restored material unless it is scarce. Like other old paper, maps can be waterstained, foxed or browned, all of which affects the visual appearance. Uncoloured maps can be professionally cleaned. We do not undertake this ourselves, but can recommend a competent restorer. With old colour, various problems can arise. The most common of these is offsetting, which is where a map has been folded and colour from one part of the map has been transferred to another, leaving a ghost outline. One may also encounter oxidising of some of the pigments used to colour the maps. For example, German printers of the seventeenth-century were fond of having their maps coloured in pinks, yellows and greens. The green pigments have often oxidised, turning to brown, and in the process weakening the paper.
A less important fault concerns margins, ie the area of plain paper surrounding the printed image. Sometimes when maps were bound into atlases, the binder cut the paper to size very close to the plate-mark. When we measure a map we measure the area within the plate-mark and do not include the margin, but generous margins are preferable. Maps can, however, be re-margined before mounting if necessary. Prints Most prints were used to illustrate books. Some were separately published, especially in the eighteenth-century, often commemorating contemporary events or personalities.
Most prints were used to illustrate books. Some were separately published, especially in the eighteenth-century, often commemorating contemporary events or personalities but also illustrating classical mythology or reproducing popular works of art. For an eighteenth-century gentleman, a print room was an expression of his wealth and taste, every bit as much as his library.
A tremendous variety of methods have been devised to print and colour illustrations. Betram Rota discusses most of them as clearly and lucidly as anyone else I have come across in �Apart From The Text�, and he even manages to explain what a mezzotint is (which is pretty good going in my opinion). Very basically, the earliest form of creating illustrations involved engraving on wooden blocks. Wood-engraving was revived and refined for book illustration at the beginning of the nineteenth-century, and artists such as Edward Gordon Craig made use of the technique at the turn of the century and have continued to do so right up to the present time. Already, in the fifteenth-century, illustrators were experimenting with engraving images on sheets of copper. The second illustrated edition of Ptolemy�s Geography for example, printed in Rome in 1478, has copper engraved maps. By the end of the sixteenth-century copper engraving had become the dominant form of illustration, and the results are generally much finer than woodcuts of the period. However, after the copper sheets have been put through the press again and again they begin to show signs of wear, and have to be re-engraved or replaced. In the nineteenth-century a means was discovered of softening steel so that it could be engraved upon, and then hardening it again so that the sheet of metal could be printed from. Steel sheets did not wear out as quickly as copper ones. One can tell the difference between a steel engraving and a copper engraving because steel engravings tend to produce a sharper, darker image and the engravers often employ a greater density of cross-hatching (fine lines used for shading). Lithographs are engraved on stone, and the effect can resemble a soft pencil drawing.
There are many different ways of colouring prints. They can be printed in colour or printed in black and white and then coloured by hand (such as Gould�s birds). Sometimes a combination of the two processes is used: the image is colour-printed and then finished by hand (eg. Aquatints, such as those produced by Ackerman). The effects achieved vary enormously: aquatints look rather like watercolours, while Gould achieved a much greater depth of colour and then picked out the plumage of his birds with Arabic gum, so that the overall effect is quite three-dimensional. Most prints which were issued separately were issued in black and white.