Take A Look At Old Maps Of Florida And The World

Feb 9, 2015

Abraham Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum atlas in 1570. Considered the world's first atlas.
Credit Luis Hernandez / WLRN

It may be fair to say many of us today will take out our phones or simply log into our GPS units in our cars and allow a soothing, distant voice to guide us to our destination. 

There was a time though when finding our way meant pulling over and unfolding a 4-by-5-foot map littered with white lines for roadways. Highways and freeways were either red or blue, and small drawings marked different points of interest. 

The reality is we may be seeing the end of paper maps. Future generations won't be able to go to something like the Miami International Map Fair and appreciate maps of our time, because our maps are digital.

Curtis Bird runs 'The Old Map Gallery' with his wife Alanna Bird in Denver Colorado
Credit Luis Hernandez / WLRN

Curtis Bird has been in the antique map business for more than two decades. While talking with other collectors his two boys are not admiring the hundreds of maps being shown. Instead, they're focused on their tablets. But Bird isn't worried that the love of old maps is going to fade with younger generations.

And there were hundreds of maps, some hundreds of years old, a few worth tens of thousands of dollars. One of the most unique maps at the show could very well be one of St. Augustine Florida created in 1783. 

Map of St. Augustine showing the position of Fort Mose, that had a very different name and purpose in its earlier years. The map was created in 1783 by Tomás López de Vargas Machuca.
Credit Luis Hernandez / WLRN

Robert Augustyn of the Martayan Lan Fine Antique Maps in New York said the fort played a significant role in helping free slaves from the South during the time Florida was under the control of Spain.

Philip Curtis (right) works at the Map House in London. The shop was founded in 1907.
Credit Luis Hernandez / WLRN

A map can be attained at an auction, or found in an attic, even other times it's a sale made between nations based on a promise.

That map is the Martin Waldseemuller map, one of the first maps of the (then) known world.

It's believed that there were 1,000 copies of it, but only one was found in the early 20th century. It currently resides at the Library of Congress. That was the only place that was allowed to have it under special conditions from the German government.

Daniel Crouch of Rare Books in London says there are times he runs into people who either don't know or are trying to sell bogus maps.
Credit Luis Hernandez / WLRN

Daniel Crouch owns Daniel Crouch Rare Books in London. He brought Abraham Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum atlas to share at the map fair. 

Crouch says the map business is cyclical too.

"This year people may want maps of China or from a specific period," Crouch says. "Twenty years ago I couldn't sell any Chinese maps but people wanted maps of Russia and Germany, especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall."

When purchasing maps, Crouch says he uses a gut feeling to know when something he's examining is real or fake.

A lighter view of the Sunshine State
Credit Luis Hernandez / WLRN
This map contained more than just the geography of a Brazilian village, it's also one of the first renderings of a plantation.
Credit Luis Hernandez / WLRN

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