Seldom-seen antique maps, atlases offered in Old World Auctions’ online sale


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The expected top lot of the Sept. 4-16 auction is this rare Colonial map of North America (estimate $70,000-$90,000).

SEDONA, Ariz. – One of the most important Colonial maps of North America – Henry Popple’s Map of the British Empire in North America, published in 1734 – will be the highlight of an online sale slated for Sept. 4-16 by Old World Auctions (www.OldWorldAuctions.com). The map is just one of hundreds of antique maps, atlases and other cartographic related items that will come up for bid.

The exceedingly rare Popple map is printed on 20 folio sheets that are bound in the original atlas format. “Today, institutions own most of the surviving examples, so this map rarely appears on the market,” said Curt Griggs of Old World Auctions. “It is truly a significant piece of Americana and a quintessential centerpiece in any serious collection of maps of North America.”

George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams were among the revolutionary leaders who owned Popple’s map, a fact that will likely drive up its final sale price. The presale estimate has been set at $70,000-$90,000. It is a handsome and colorful map, with a richly embellished title cartouche featuring Native Americans and Colonial merchants. “It should generate great interest,” Mr. Griggs said.

The auction will be the 129th for Old World Auctions, the industry leader in map auctions that conducts four sales annually. Auction #128, which closed May 20, was deemed a success and included some extraordinary antique maps. The top lot was one of the most important documents in the history of the mapping of Southeast Asia. With a 15 percent buyer’s premium, it hit a record of $23,000.

The map – Insulae Moluccae Celeberrimae, drawn by Petrus Plancius in 1598 and published in Linschoten’s Itinerario – was based on covertly obtained Portuguese manuscript charts. It greatly expanded European knowledge and paved the way for Colonial expansion in the region.

The results of the May auction illuminated an important trend in the antique map market, Mr. Griggs pointed out. “While the genre has long been dominated by decorative maps from the 17th century, the best selling maps in May were unique and unusual, not just ornamental. These included thematic maps illustrating the linguistic divisions of the continents, and colorful geological maps.”

Other strong areas of interest included the California Gold Rush, the exploration of the American West, and the independent Republic of Texas. Top achievers included a 1622 map showing California as an island ($2,300); a 1640 map of the Netherlands and Belgium in the shape of a lion ($800); a 1533 map of the ancient world in fine condition ($4,750); and the first French map of the newly formed United States (1784, $2,100).

The September sale will feature a wide selection of maps from the golden ages of map making, to include works by important names in cartographic history, such as Ortelius, Mercator, Hondius, Jansson and Speed. Other offerings will include important Colonial period maps, a wide variety of thematic maps and maps from the 19th and early 20th centuries previously overlooked by collectors.

John Arrowsmith’s Map of Texas (1843, estimate $12,000-$16,000) is an important map showing the Republic of Texas, with its panhandle extending to the upper Rio Grande valley and encompassing much of present-day New Mexico. It is one of the earliest maps of Texas to contain information from the General Land Office of Texas, with the delineation of pioneer county development and land grants.

Moses Pitt’s Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula (1680, estimate $13,000-$18,000) provides a compelling view of the changing image of the world during the 17th century. The map is very rare because Pitt’s ambitious atlas project was a commercial failure, resulting in his confinement in debtor’s prison.

Frederick DeWitt’s Nova Orbis Tabula (1670, estimate $6,000-$8,000) is a map of the world and a magnificent example of the opulent, baroque style of the 17th century. The corners are filled with allegorical images of the seasons, the zodiac and the elements, all combined within four vignettes. Cartographic myths include the islands of California and Anian, plus the imaginary Lake Parime.

Sebastian Munster’s Norewunder und Seltzame their wiede un Mitnachtigen landern gefunden warden (1598, estimate $1,200-$1,400) is a woodblock illustration of a variety of monsters and a fanciful cartographic curiosity, providing a glimpse into Renaissance attitudes toward the unknown lands beyond the civilized world. Most of the monsters depicted are ferocious sea creatures, devouring hapless sailors and wrecking ships.

W.T. Hornaday and the Smithsonian Institute’s Map Illustrating the Extermination of the American Bison (1889, estimate $200-$300) illustrates one of the most tragic episodes in American history. The area once inhabited by buffalo is outlined in red, with green and blue regions describing the systematic destruction of these herds. When the map was published in 1889, barely 800 buffalo were known to exist in the U.S.

Rounding out the unusual lots are the Clason Map Company’s Geological Map of Texas and Oklahoma Showing the Location and Approximate Area of the Oil and Gas Fields (1919, estimate $300-$400); and the Boulder Dam Service Bureau and Union Pacific Railroad’s Panoramic Perspective Map of Boulder Dam and Adjacent Areas Including Lake Mead, Valley of Fire, etc. (1938, estimate $200-$300).

Old World Auctions, established in 1977, has been based in Sedona, Ariz., since 1994. The firm is a specialist auction house devoted exclusively to the art of cartography and historical graphics produced from the 15th to the early 20th century. The auctions are always held online; the firm has no floor auction. In addition to Internet bidding, phone, fax and mail bids are also accepted.

To learn more about Old World Auctions, and to view the lots that will be featured in Auction #129, which will be online Sept. 4, log on to www.OldWorldAuctions.com. The firm is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign an historical map or a collection, you may call them at 928-282-3944, or toll-free, 800-664-7757, or e-mail Marti@OldWorldAuctions.com.

Photos courtesy of Old World Auctions.

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World map executed in 1670 by Frederick deWitt, titled Nova Orbis Tabula (estimate $6,000-$8,000).
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Fanciful cartographic curiosity made in 1598 by Sebastian Munster, with sea monsters (estimate $1,200-$1,400).
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This map of the world by Moses Pitt, published in 1680, is rare because it was a commercial flop (estimate $13,000-$18,000).
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Map of Texas, done in 1843 by John Arrowsmith, showing the Republic of Texas (estimate $12,000-$16,000).
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The top lot of the sale that closed May 20 was this map of Southeast Asia, done in 1598 ($23,000, a record).

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