Antique prints and maps

Antique prints and maps from Lindisfarne Prints

By: Lindisfarne Prints  12/02/2009

Where do antique maps and prints come from?

Occasionally, someone new to antique print collecting will be disappointed with their purchase and say "it's just a page from a book!"

The vast majority of all antique prints come from old books. Before the advent of modern printing processes engravings and lithographs were used to illustrate books. Most of the images sold by Lindisfarne Prints would originate from disbound 17th, 18th and 19th century publications, especially the topographical prints used to illustrate travel guides, popular in Victorian times and earlier. They have been collected for many years and often outlive the books from which they originate. We tend to buy them in large varied collections of up to a thousand or more. Similarly, most antique maps originate from old atlases. Whenever we know the actual source of a print, ie. the title and date of the original book, we will state this in our description. Both antique maps and prints were sometimes published as individual items, but this was much less common.

How do we date our antique maps and prints?

Map and print publishers often make this easy by printing the publication date in the lower margin. Alternatively we may have the frontispiece to the source book or atlas which bears the date. Without this specific information we need to use other means. We have been dealing in antique prints and maps for many years and the majority of the relatively common publications will be known to us, so again a specific date can be given. Where several editions were published and we are unsure of which one a print originates from,  the date will be given as "circa" or around the given date.

The publisher's, engraver's and artist's credits at the foot of a printed image are another indication of approximate date, derived from the time period in which these individuals were active. Some however bear no marks and then we need to look for more generalised clues such as paper type, printing method, style, and so on.

Topographical details , especially with maps are another indicator. Knowing when specific man made features were constructed is an interesting and useful dating tool. For example in maps of London, is Tower Bridge present? Does this map of Egypt show the Suez Canal? Political boundaries and country names come and go with the passing centuries and again help the dating process.

Dates we give as "circa" are rarely more than 10 years out, but it is important for buyers to have a little understanding here. Sometimes we run out of steam and the best we can say is e.g. late 18th century, or mid 19th century.

So, to summarize, our dates are not given lightly and we stand by the information given, but "circa" means just that, and it is not a specific date.

When is a print or map a genuine antique item?

The most commonly held view is that to be described as antique, an item needs to be at least a hundred years old. We go one stage further and as far as we are concerned if it was printed after 1900 it is not antique and will not appear on our websites.


 What about condition?

You of course have the right to expectyour print to be in the condition it was described to be in. Tears, repairs, renovation, browning etc will all be mentioned in the description if they are significant, but we do expect buyers to be reasonable in their expectations and understand that minor blemishes and signs of age are not major faults. If you want something that looks as if it were printed yesterday you are probably better off loooking for a modern reproduction.