A voyage around the history of cartography takes in sea monsters, newly charted territories and allegorical figures from myth & legend, designed for accuracy but often conveying a surprising beauty. It’s a journey that has delighted many collectors over centuries, and even in these days of Google Earth and SatNav, or maybe because of such things, people continue to marvel at antique maps.

Map printing began in the 15th century, flourished throughout the Age of Discovery, when European explorers charted the planet, and hit an aesthetic high in the works of the Dutch map-makers of the 17th century.

We have listed below a selection from across our current stock and archives to illustrate the diverse beauty of old maps. 

BRAUN, Georg and Frans HOGENBERG. Moscauw [Moscow].

Georg BRAUN and Frans HOGENBERG
Moscauw [Moscow]. after 1575]

This is a decorative full colour example of Braun and Hogenberg's first view of Moscow, from a slightly elevated viewpoint from across the frozen Moskva River, first published in 1575.

The map shows illustrations of people riding horse-drawn sleighs and a very early depiction of cross country skiers. In the foreground, two cows and a number of armed Russian soldiers are shown on horseback. These graphically reflected the growing military power of Moscow under Grand Duke Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible), who was the first to assume the title of Tsar of Russia and who established the city as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Russia in 1547, not long before this image was made.

See more Russian maps

Edward Mogg, London in Miniature.

MOGG, Edward
London in Miniature, 1811

Lovely hand-coloured London map, mounted on linen.  Regents’ Park is not laid out yet, and Waterloo Bridge, Vauxhall Bridge, and their approach roads appear to be under construction.

Edward Mogg (fl.1803-1860) was a cartographer, engraver, and publisher, active in London at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Rather unusually for the time he not only drew his own maps, but also  engraved them. The business was mainly based upon the production of pocket travel guides and maps.

See more London maps

Matthaus Seutter, Amsterdam, die Weltberühmte Haupt- und Handel Statt.

SEUTTER, Georg Matthaüs
Amsterdam, die Weltberühmte Haupt- und Handel Statt. [ca. 1730]

This bright and detailed map presents Amsterdam as the leading global merchantile city in Europe, highlighting her canal systems, and using an extensive key to detail the city's principal buildings. Amsterdam's position as an important trading city is emphasised by the many ships anchored in the harbour and by the allegorical figures in the bottom corners.

Seutter (1647-1756) was one of the most important and prolific German map publishers of the 18th century, honoured by the German Emperor Charles VI with the title of “Imperial Geographer". He was apprenticed in Nuremberg to Johann Bapist Homann, the leading German cartographic publisher of the period.

See more Western Europe maps

[ORTELIUS, Abraham]. Chinae, 1584

ORTELIUS, Abraham
Chinae, olim Sinarum regionis, nova descriptio. auctore Ludovico Georgio,  1584

Rare first state of Ortelius' map of China, the first western map of China.

Ortelius' handcoloured engraved map of China is taken directly from reports of the Portuguese mapmaker Luis Jorge de Barbuda (Ludovicus Georgius) who made a manuscript map of China which reached Ortelius via Arias Montanus.  First published in 1584, Ortelius' map of China is the earliest printed map to focus on China and the first to illustrate the Great Wall of China.

The Chinese characters found in the text on the verso of the map were the first introduction to the Chinese language for many educated Europeans of the time.

See more maps of Asia

Willem Janzoon Blaeu, Tabula Russiae, 1660s, Amsterdam, Hessel Gerritsz

BLAEU, Willem Janzoon
Tabula Russiae, 1660s

A very good example, with wide margins, of Hessel Gerritsz's map of Russia, first issued 1613 and published by Blaeu after he acquired the plate following Gerritsz’s death in 1632. The top left corner has an inset plan of Moscow with a 17-point key, which in 1662 Blaeu expanded and published as a separate plate; on the right is a prospect of Archangel, Russia's only northern port until the founding of St Petersburg in 1700. Three figures in Russian dress stand above.

See more Russian maps

Aaron Arrowsmith, A Map of the United States of America

ARROWSMITH, Aaron
A Map of the United States of North America, 1796 [but circa 1808].

Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823) was the greatest cartographer of his day; a remarkable talent, it seems he was largely self-taught as a surveyor, before learning the publishing trade with the London maker, mapseller and publisher Andrew Dury. He regularly updated this map as new information became available, incorporating the latest town names, geographical discoveries, newly-established regions, and so on, as they were made available to him.

See more American maps

Mulock, Map showing the explorations and surveys, Antractic Expedition 1904

MULOCK, George Francis
Map showing the explorations and surveys of the National Antarctic Expedition 1902-3-4.

Mulock was a sub-lieutenant on the relief ship Morning, attached to Scott's National Antarctic Expedition, 1901 - 04, transferring to the shore party in March 1903 in exchange for Ernest H Shackleton on account of his skills as a cartographer and surveyor. Mulock was just 21 when he transferred to Discovery. In September 1903 he accompanied Lt Michael Barne on what was to be a ten-week southern journey to explore an inlet of the Western Mountains; weather and surface conditions drove them back soon after they had reached Barne Glacier. The temperature fell to -67.7 Fahrenheit and Seaman Ernest E. Joyce got badly frost-bitten feet.

The situation grew so serious that Barne and Mulock took turns to hold them against the pits of their stomachs and knead the ankles for several hours, saving his feet from certain amputation.

Scott had a very high opinion of Mulock's abilities and initiative, frequently recording praise of him in his diaries. In his written account of the expedition, Captain R F Scott wrote "Mulock was then only twenty-one years of age but having a natural bent for his work, his services proved invaluable". On the return of the expedition, King Edward VII awarded the Silver Polar Medal.

See more Polar Exploration

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Shapero Rare Books stock rare maps, atlases, sea charts and voyages spanning centuries.  Please visit our Mayfair bookshop to take a closer look but advance notice is recommended since everything is not on display.