Photograph by Andrew Neel from Unsplash
Culture Spotlight

Tips in collecting antique maps, from acquisition to caring for them

Collecting antique maps, like collecting many other vintage items, pose special challenges. Here are tips from an expert.
Aurelio Icasiano III | Mar 28 2019


With the sheer volume of maps that have been made across the ages, it's easy to get lost in all that paper. The late senator and map collector Ed Angara used to advise beginners: determine the kinds of maps they're interested in to give their collection focus. Angara himself chose to collect maps of the Philippines and maps of Asia that show the Philippines, regardless of scale.

Maris Pacifici, Abraham Ortelius 1608. Mr. Albert Montilla Collection



Then, read up on the area of focus. Research gives you a better idea of particular maps that interest collectors. If you're keen on maps from Asia and the Pacific, Thomas Suarez's Early Mapping of the Pacific and Early Mapping of Southeast Asia can help. Angara himself has produced and contributed to books such as The Manila Galleon and Mapping the Philippines, if that's your area of interest.

(Detail) Nicolas Visscher, Indiae Orientalis nec non Insularum, Amsterdam 1657. Lopez Museum and Library Collection.



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Scour the flea markets

Angara is a fan of flea markets, building his collection from finds he stumbled upon or sourced off the beaten track. Portobello Road in London yields good, reasonably priced finds. Galleries, on the other hand, sell antique maps for about 10 times what street sellers ask. It is important to note, however, that before you go on your treasure hunt, a keen eye and research are necessary so you know exactly what you are looking for.


(Detail) Nicolas Visscher, Indiae Orientalis nec non Insularum, Amsterdam 1657. Lopez Museum and Library Collection.


Ensure climate control

Antique maps are especially fragile and should be stored in a cool place with low humidity. Some equip rooms with air-conditioning and a dehumidifier to keep their collection in pristine shape. If you plan on displaying your maps, keep them away from direct sunlight. Ideally, maps should be mounted on archival framing or wrapped in archival-grade plastic film, which is made of durable or chemically stable materials and intended for permanent storage. Consult archival institutions like museums or our National Library of the Philippines to ensure that your storage approaches museum quality.


The National Library is located on T.M. Kalaw St., Ermita, Manila, and can be contacted via telephone at +632 310 5035