Frequently Asked Questions
I am just starting to collect. What advice would you give a new collector?
First, select one or two dealers with whom you like working with and don't be shy about asking questions. A dealer who compliments your interests, personality and enthusiasm will add to your enjoyment. Part of enjoying a collection is sharing the experience with people you like and who share your interests. Not all dealers are alike. No matter how large the dealer's inventory, all have special interests and strengths.
Second, focus on what interests you. It may take awhile, but most collectors develop collecting themes. Whether your theme is regional, historical, genealogical, or a artist or author, finding a theme that you like will help you to focus on creating a collection, not just buying stuff. Don't worry about getting locked down. Most collections evolve over time, so don't view this suggestion as restrictive, just a good starting point.
Third, buy a few good reference books. Even in the internet age, it is hard to build a collection when you don't know what is out there to collect. 50 years ago, there were very few good reference books. Now, there are books covering many general and specialty topics that will help provide context and a sense of what is out there to be collected. In choosing dealer relationships, working with someone who has a wide selection and knowledge in your area of interest also helps.
Fourth, if possible, join a collector's group. There are many societies throughout the world. Joining a group in your area or one that shares your collecting interest will introduce you to other people who share your interests and give you the opportunity to visit the best collections in your area or other parts of the world. For collectors who visit the Miami International Map Fair in February of each year, attend the New York book fair in April, or visit the London Map Fair at the R.G.S. in June, there are opportunities for both friendship, travel, guided access to major collections, interesting speaker topics and of course, buying maps and books!
Finally, don't be locked in to other people's ideas and lists of "must have" maps in your area of interest. For a true collector, the only thing more exciting than finding a map you have always wanted is discovering one you didn't know existed. If you constrain yourself to someone else's list, you are missing a chance to personalize your collection.
Many collectors fall into the trap of attaching importance to lists compiled by famous collectors or other list compilers. While lists and reference guides are marvellous tools, they are often subjective and reflect the tastes and biases of another collector, dealer or scholar. One of the exciting parts of collecting antique maps and atlases is that there are new discoveries being made every year, new maps uncovered and additional information being appreciated for the first time. Chart your own path, don't allow yourself to simply be led by others who collected before you.
"Unrecorded" maps still appear frequently on the market. There are new "discoveries" in the field of antique maps all the time. Many collectors are conducting their own pioneering studies within their collecting themes. The number of specialist map collecting books has grown exponentially in the past 20 years and will continue to do so. Finding an unrecorded map or identifying previously unrecorded or under-appreciated information on a map is one of the great joys of collecting. Some of the smallest and seemingly non-descript maps yield some of the most significant discoveries. There is a vast amount of scholarship yet unwritten and fascinating thematic studies yet to be conducted.