Antique Maps at the British Library

I heard about this earlier in the year, but the formal announcement was made yesterday – there will be another display of maps at the British Library this summer. As a total antique maps geek, with rather too many automated alerts on eBay for antique maps I want to buy if they are affordable, this is quite exciting.

They ran a display of maps a couple of years ago which kept me enthralled for hours, so I feel an afternoon (at least) will vanish again in a few months time. Especially, as three-quarters of the maps are being shown for the first time.

According to the blurb from the Library, the “new exhibition will showcase over 80 of the most impressive wall-maps ever created, dating from 200AD to the present day, most of which have never been seen before.”


As in increasingly necessary – there will be a tie-in with the BBC for a TV series and an accompanying book.

The exhibition opens on the 30th April 2010, and will be free of charge to visit.

Highlights include:

  • Fra Mauro World Map c.1450 by William Frazer, 1804 – a hand-drawn copy of the first great modern world map, made for the British East India Company as self-perceived heirs of the Portuguese empire in the Asia

Photo courtesy of The British Library

  • Confiance – ses Amputations se Poursuivent, 1944 – a German propaganda poster portraying Churchill as an octopus, drawing on earlier comic maps
  • Chinese Terrestrial Globe by Nicola Longobardi / Bartolomeo Dias, 1623 – the earliest Chinese terrestrial Globe, made by Jesuit missionaries for the Chinese Emperor
  • A Chart of the Mediterranean Sea by Diogo Homem, 1570 – a luxury map with gold leaf possibly produced for royalty, made after Homem fled from exile in Morocco for his involvement in a murder in Portugal
  • Americae, sive quartae orbis partis, nova et exactissima by Diego Gutierrez / Hieronymus Cock, 1562 – a map to flatter King Philip II of Spain and celebrate the Spanish domination of the New World
  • World Map by Pierre Desceliers, 1550 – a compendious world map made for the King of France, celebrating the discoveries of Jacques Cartier in Canada, and showing the myths, animals and natural history in their correct place in the world.
  • The Klencke Atlas, 1660 – the largest book in the world, and intended to be a summary of the world’s knowledge, produced for the exclusive appreciation of Charles II of England on his restoration to the throne, now on show for the first time to the general public

Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

Whats's on in London: today or tomorrow or this weekend

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One comment on “Antique Maps at the British Library
  1. martin says:

    I haven’t quite got around to blogging about it yet, but thanks to your listing, I visited the Royal Geographical Society’s Mapping Britain Showcase the other day. Their library’s head of maps talked us through some highlights from their collection, including an atlas that was the 15th century’s most expensive book (their copy once belonged to William Morris). I think you’d enjoy it.

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  1. […] looking to be a good summer for fans of old documents, with the maps exhibition at the British Library, and now it has been announced that the Lambeth Palace Library is opening up its collection as […]

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