ANTIQUE MAPS, TOWN PLANS & LANDSCAPES

An antique map is a unique document – beautiful and fascinating. You’ll find some examples on this page from my huge stock, built up over years, all guaranteed antique (which for me means over 100 years old). If you are looking for something specific, go to the relevant page on the left hand menu, or use the search box on the right. If you still can’t find it, contact me – I still have much more in stock which is not on Kittyprint.com.

To read about antique maps and the various techniques used in the map making process, click here.

Antique maps

Antique landscapes and illustrations

About antique maps

Antique maps are an endless source of fascination, and they make great gifts.

Almost all antique maps and town plans on the market today have been removed from atlases. Personally, I think it’s sacrilege to destroy an atlas unless it’s already damaged beyond repair, but then I’m also a qualified book-binder. Over the years, many thousands of beautiful antique atlases have been ripped apart and their plates removed to be sold as decorative maps.

Sea charts may have been removed from books, but are more likely to have been published as working sea-charts to be used in naval navigation.

I am occasionally asked about the colouring of the antique maps I sell, whether it is genuine. The answer is – it depends. All of the map-making techniques described below could produce coloured maps: you just use the first printing plate, and over-print it with a carefully-positioned plate using another colour. Some maps were, however, hand-coloured at the time of publishing, and some subsequently. If in doubt, ask me about any of my maps, I will tell you everything I know.

 

Antique map-making techniques

Woodcut map - Pannonie now Austria, Sebastian Munster, from Book Three of The Cosmographie, dated circa 1560. 13 x 9 cm, good condition. £95.00 / $160.00

Woodcut map – Pannonie now Austria, Sebastian Munster, from Book Three of The Cosmographie, dated circa 1560. 13 x 9 cm, good condition. £95.00 / $116.00

There are many different techniques which used to be used in the map-making process. Here are a few of the main ones:

Woodcut, also called Woodblock.

The map design is carved in relief along the grain of a block of soft wood. When the design is inked and pressed onto paper, it leaves an impression of itself. This is the oldest method for printing – it was used to impress designs on ceramics and textiles in ancient Egypt, Babylon and China. The first Woodcut maps appeared in Europe at the beginning of the fifteenth (15th) century, and it is still possible to buy examples for modest prices. Sebastian Munster was one of the great names producing woodcut maps in the middle of the sixteenth (16th) century. By the 18th century, wood cut technique was no longer being used.

Etching.

Copper engraved map - English counties. Published in France with information on Counties and Parliament, circa 1740. £120.00 / $200.00

Copper engraved map – English counties. Published in France with information on Counties and Parliament, circa 1740. £120.00 / $158.00

The process of etching uses acid instead of a burin to engrave a metal printing plate. A layer of acid-resistant varnish is applied to the plate, which is made of zinc or copper. The etcher uses a needle to expose the metal. When the plate is submerged in acid, the exposed lines are eaten into the plate. Light lines can be achieved by removing the plate part-way through etching and re-coating them with varnish. Dark lines occur when the acid eats most deeply. The plate is then cleaned, coated with ink, and used to produce maps.

Copper Engraving.

An intaglio map-making method – in other words the design is engraved into the plate using a graver or burin. When the plate is inked and cleaned, but some ink remains in the engraved lines; when the plate is pressed onto paper under high pressure, it is this ink which is absorbed by the paper to produce the map impression.

Mezzotint.

Method of copper or steel engraving which enables maps to benefit from tones. Mezzotint was invented by a Dutch military officer, Ludwig von Siegen in the middle of the seventeenth (17th) century, and popularised in Britain in the eighteenth (18th) century. It involves engraving the whole surface of the plate with a curved, sawtoothed tool. Every shade from black to white is achievable, but there is no line drawing, so mezzotint technology was ideal for producing reproduction maps of famous artworks, rather than maps. Mezzotint was superseded by photoengraving.

Steel Engraving.

Hampshire  Moule Map, steel engraving, hand coloured with decorative border and illustration of Southampton, and  the Coat of Arms of The Duke of Wellington and others dated circa 1850. £85.00 / $138

Hampshire Moule Map, steel engraving, hand coloured with decorative border and illustration of Southampton, and the Coat of Arms of The Duke of Wellington and others dated circa 1850.
Price £85.00 / $103.00

In the nineteenth (19th) century, the price of copper was driven sky-high by new electrical applications for the metal, but the price of steel was dropping. So from 1820 printers switched from copper engraving to steel engraving. Steel had the added advantage of being much harder than copper, so the plates lasted much longer and more maps could be produced before they wore out. However, by the second half of the 19th century, steel engraving was threatened by the much cheaper process of photoengraving to produce maps.

Photoengraving.

The map is photographically recorded on a sensitised metal plate, which is then etched. Halftone effects are achieved by photographing through a wire screen to create a dotted patern. Larger dots hold more ink, and so are darker, areas with small dots are lighter. The finer the screen, the better quality the photo-engraving: 65 lines per inch is coarse, 150 lines per inch is fine.

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© Kitty Liebreich 2000-2014
Prices are quoted unframed (except where noted)
and exclude p&p,
all items subject to availability.
Items guaranteed over 100 yrs old unless marked.