Galapagos old maps GALAPAGOS OLD MAPS Galapagos old maps

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Why are old charts and maps so fascinating? Maybe they remind us of our fantasy of finding secret treasure, where 'X' marks the spot. But old maps are treasures in of themselves. Indeed, they are collector's items and at auction, a map two or three hundred years old in good condition can fetch tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Before mass production, each map was individually crafted: hand-drawn and colored, and then embellished with calligraphic labels and miniature portraits. So each one was a work of art, and consquently very rare. By the middle of the 19th century, modern lithographic printing enabled reproduction of as many copies as the market demanded, so prices for more recent maps are lower. In the selection of maps below, compare how the maps improved over time — a reflection of increased knowledge and interest in the islands — we see that the maps evolved over time! Maps improved over time due to technological advances in navigation.

(Maps reproduced with permission from the collection of John Woram.)

Click below for old map images and information:

image of vellum map image of vellum map detail vellum map 1530

image of Ortelius map image of Ortelius map detail Ortelius 1574

image of Bowen map Bowen 1744

image of Moll map image of Sayer map image of Reid map 18th century maps

image of Neele map Neele 1823

image of Arrowsmith map Arrowsmith 1839

image of Admiralty map Admiralty map 1845

image of US Navy map US Navy 1942

"Man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his old maps..."
John Steinbeck, 1939

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