Edward Brooke-Hitching acknowledges he’s a man on a mission when it comes to antique maps.
The British author spent two years painstakingly researching the most exquisite and expensive ones ever made for his new book, The Golden Atlas: The Greatest Explorations, Quests and Discoveries on Maps.
Many of the original versions of those featured in his book are worth millions of dollars and are kept securely under lock and key.
“The world of antique maps, dealers and auctions can seem quite an intimidating, stuffy and elitist arena closed off from the general public,” the 35-year-old told HuffPost this week.
“It’s important they’re seen outside the world of private collecting, that their beauty is broadcast to anyone who might be curious,” he added. “They provide a sense of their period like no other document can offer. They’re snapshots of everything we knew of the world at that time, as well as everything we believed.”
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Brooke-Hitching’s passion for maps was sparked at a young age by his rare tome-dealing father. It provided the inspiration for his previous book, The Phantom Atlas, which noted the epic blunders made on maps over the years.
Modern maps don’t have quite the same pull for Brooke-Hitching, who also works as a writer for BBC quiz show “QI.” He said they lack the artistic and narrative elements because “with satellite photography, mapping has achieved its ultimate goal: true accuracy.”
“There’s no room for artistic flourishes, rumors, myths and uncorrected errors, and pretty much every other element that make antique maps so fascinating, on the modern map,” the London-based writer said.
“Of course it’s sad in a way, but it’s also astounding that I can use a small device in my pocket to scour every square inch of the planet,” he added.
Check out nine of the stunning maps featured in the book below:
Sanderus Antiquariaat.Only two copies are believed to have been made of the 17th century Sitting Leo Belgicus.
Altea Antique Maps, LondonA decorative, double-hemisphere map by Louis Brion de la Tour, from 1783, which tracks the voyages of Captain James Cook.
Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique MapsJean Baptiste Louis Clouet's map, from 1785, covers the routes of the explorers Bougainville, Magellan, Tasman, Halley and Cook.
The Florentine Civic MuseumsStefano Bonsignori’s glittering gold map of western Africa from 1580.
Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique MapsOrtelius’ 1587 map of Iceland, complete with exploding volcanoes and mythological sea creatures.
National Library of FranceThe Catalan Atlas of 1375 is one of the earliest portolan charts (used by marine navigators) to incorporate geographic data drawn directly from Marco Polo’s record of his travels.
British LibraryThe world as Francis Drake knew it, before his great voyages. Pierre Desceliers’ manuscript planisphere of 1550 bears the arms of Henry II of France (lower left corner of the map) and the Duc de Montmorency (lower right).
National Library of FranceThe Fra Mauro map of 1459 features information provided by Marco Polo.
Sanderus AntiquariaatThe world as it was recorded by the second-century Greek mathematician Ptolemy.