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Antique maps and globes: a buyer's guide

Antique maps and globes at Hemswell Antique Centres


Combining beauty and practicality, antique maps and globes allow collectors on modest budgets to own original, historic works of the world. 

Without today’s technology and knowledge, antique maps were often incorrect. For example, the Island of California was once thought to drift off the coast of North America, while nine-foot giants waded through the Patagonian landscapes (or so it was believed). 

The diverse and fascinating nature of antique globes and maps make them items close to a collector’s heart. Add craftsmanship and ingenuity to the mix and they become rewarding investments... 

Antique maps
The earliest printed antique maps come from the end of 15th-century Germany and Italy. They weren’t the first, of course - Egyptian geographer Claudius Ptolemy mapped the world out some 1500 years before then. 

By the 17th-century, maps reached their artistic peak. Decorative features, such as regional costumes or closer details of town plans, were incorporated into mapmakers’ work. They were printed in black, then hand-coloured. 

Some of the most valuable antique maps were those from Holland. One example is John Speed’s ‘cartes a figure’ of Britain, with in-depth artistic scenes of London and Edinburgh. The piece, which measures 12-by-18 inches, was engraved in Holland and coloured later. It values at £1,200. By the mid 19th-century, hand colouring and decoration disappeared from maps.

Where to buy antique maps
Maps antiques are unmatched in the way they showcase early eras of scientific inquiry. The precise observations, decorative prowess and historic importance are all part of their appeal for a collector. 

There are dealers who specialise in antique maps, where you can rest assured you’re buying genuine quality items. You’ll find some brilliant antique maps for sale in our collection of books and ephemera.

Antique globes 
Antique globes date back to the mid-18th-century, when they were displayed in stunning wooden stands in libraries. There was usually always two of them: one showing the earth (terrestrial) and the other showing the heavens (celestial). Terrestrial globes are more in-demand than celestial.

It’s difficult to date many antique globes because the designs never tended to fit in with in-vogue furniture of the time. Maps were also frequently replaced as newer geographical discoveries were discovered.

Antique globes for sale usually always fetch more than £2,000 at auction. Find a decent pair of quality Regency stands and you’re looking at £30,000 or more. Folio stands from the Victorian and Regency periods are also in great demand - plain beech examples can sell for a couple of thousand. 

Other variations of antique globes include book rests and book carriers. Examples of the former from the 18th century can value between £500 to £3,000, while the latter can fetch £4,000 to £6,000 (if complete with tray, handle and tapering legs).

Where to find antique globes for sale

Globes are good investments - but where can you get your hands on quality? You might get lucky at less obvious locations such as antiques fairs, jumble sales and charity shops.  But, like maps, there are also dealers who specialise in antique globes, as well as antiques centres with quality antique globes for sale. Have a look through our scientific item collection for some treasures, or come visit our centres and have a wonderful day out in pretty old Lincoln. You’ll be able to see our antique globes and maps in full colour, with your own eyes. That’s the best way to see their beauty - especially with a tea-and-cake-break in one of our two coffee shops. As the largest antiques centre in Europe, Hemswell can’t be beaten for that immersive, joyful antique-hunting experience.

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