Explore the Old World of Maps; ONCE A SECRET ROUTE TO WEALTH, ANTIQUE ATLASES HAVE DOUBLED IN PRICE IN A DECADE
Byline: TOBY WALNE
ANTIQUE maps have proved a richly rewarding investment over the past decade, thanks to a growing appreciation of their unique historical appeal. Prices of the most collectible maps and atlases have more than doubled.
The world was mapped out almost 2,000 years ago by Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia, but the earliest surviving maps, based on his work, are those printed in 1477 in Bologna, Italy.
These ancient maps under-estimated the size of the world by a third and were used by Christopher Columbus in 1492 when he landed in the Americas but thought he had arrived in Asia.
Philip Curtis of the Map House in Knightsbridge, west London, says: 'Ancient maps and atlases fetch thousands, but of the printed versions it is the first examples that include America that are the most valuable. The discovery of the New World coincided with the arrival of the printing press.' Martin Waldseemuller produced the first world map with the term America in 1507. The only surviv-incopy was sold for a record $10 million ([pounds sterling]7 million) eight years ago - now it is worth far more - to the US Library of Congress.
Curtis says: 'To keep the power of geographical knowledge, maps were often kept secret or published as propaganda.
'In 1570 the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, was produced by Abraham Ortelius. It was so successful that many editions were produced. Even today pages can be picked up for [pounds sterling]400 to [pounds sterling]600.' Curtis points out that a complete Ortelius atlas may cost as much as [pounds sterling]200,000, yet it could have been picked up for [pounds sterling]10,000 in the Sixties.
He says the most appealing market for investors is the golden age of 17th Century map-making when mythical artwork was included.
'There were magnificent decorations with sea monsters, galleons and angels blowing horns,' he says. 'The Dutch were particularly skilled and today provide the most sought after maps of the era.' In the early 17th Century the Blaeu family became famous for their maps and an original of the Grand Atlas by Joan Blaeu would be worth at least [pounds sterling]200,000. …