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Separately issued maps

[ History | Wall maps | Political Case Maps | Working sea charts ]
[ 18th Century Saddlebag Maps | Mail Coach Era Road Maps | 19th Century Travel Maps | ]

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History

The majority of maps published since the first printed maps of the late fifteenth century have been part of bound volumes. Most maps have been issued as pages in an atlas, but maps have also appeared in geographies, histories, travels, encyclopedias, novels, and many other types of books. There is, however, a much smaller subset of maps that were not part of a bound volume, but were instead separately issued. These maps were issued on their own, either as loose sheets or as folding maps or as maps to be hung on a wall. Not only have far few separately issued maps been produced over time, but they have a much lower rate of survival than those maps published within a bound volume. The covers and heft of a book provide protection for the interior pages, books are easily stored on bookshelves, books are mostly used indoors, and most people tend to treat a bound volume with respect and care. In contrast, most separate maps have flimsier covers, if any, they were made to be used in the field, and they tend to have been treated as ephemeral tools rather than as precious items for a library. Many of these maps were stuck in a saddlebag or back pocket, taken on trips through difficult circumstances, roughly handled, and then tossed in a corner or thrown out when their usefulness was over. The modern equivalent is the difference between atlases, where people still keep their 1985 National Geographic atlas carefully on the bookshelf, and folding road maps, where many a just issued AAA map lies torn or misfolded on the floor of an automobile.

While separately issued maps are but a small drop in the ocean of extant printed maps, they are some of the most significant maps ever issued. These were the maps that helped to discover, settle, and develop new lands. These were the maps that were used by explorers, those moving to new places, and general travelers. Anyone heading out on the road would prefer a small, portable single map to a bulky book containing many more maps than were needed. An explorer pushing beyond previously surveyed country, a land speculator traveling in an unknown region, a military officer for whom there were no adequate official map, an emigrant arriving in the New World, a family visiting relatives across the country, a businessman on a trip to seek new markets, or anyone else traveling by horse, coach, canal or rail would have carried one or more of these separately issued maps. These maps were instrumental in the history of those places they show.

Besides their historic import, these separately issued maps were also usually the most up-to-date maps of their time. Whereas absolutely current information was usually not crucial for an atlas map, which in many cases would be used well after its date of publication, a separately issued map had to be as current and accurate as possible as these were the maps that people used for immediate, practical purposes. One often finds that a map in one year of an atlas is the same as that map from the previous year, despite changes that might have occurred in the place shown. In contrast, most separately issued maps were changed each issue to show new information.

The scarcity, historic import, and current detail of separately issued maps make them among the most desirable for map collectors. We have grouped these separately issued maps into different categories as follows:

Wall maps

From the sixteenth century maps have been made to be hung on the walls of offices, public buildings, schools, etc. These maps are usually large, they were usually attached to rollers at the top and bottom for hanging, and they often were varnished to protect them from wear, smoke and bugs.
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18th century saddlebag maps

It became common in the eighteenth century to produce folding maps that could fit into a pocket, pouch or saddlebag. These so-called saddlebag maps were made by dissecting the map into smaller sections, mounting the sections on linen with small gaps between, then folding the map into a compact bundle. Saddlebag maps were usually made from maps that also appeared in atlases, but these folding examples would have been the copies of those maps that were used in the field.
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Mail coach era road maps

The improvement of roads and carriages by the second half of the eighteenth century, led to the so-called "mail coach era" between 1780 and 1850. The increased number of travelers on the roads of Europe, many in postal coaches, spurred the development of folding road maps focusing on the transportation network. Postal routes, stops, distances along routes, and much other travel related information was provided on these highly detailed maps, which were usually produced in the same format as the earlier saddlebag maps
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19th century travel maps

Linen backed, folding maps continued to be made into the nineteenth century, but early in the century a format of smaller folding maps was developed specifically for travelers. These were made using thin, but high grade banknote paper that could be folded without too much wear or tears. These maps were usually folded into leather or cloth covers and sometimes included text. These maps generally had brighter hand coloring than atlas maps in order to aid in reading them under adverse circumstances. These maps usually focused on the travel nexus of roads, railroads, and steamboat routes, and they often displayed information on schedules, distances, and sometimes included inset maps of cities or smaller regions.
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Political case maps

There has always been a strong demand for maps showing on-going political, social or military events, either local or from around the world. Most atlas maps were standard references that did not reflect specific events, so these often did not provide the information sought by those interested in those events. Magazines and newspapers would include relevant maps in their reporting, but these were usually crude, hastily made maps that did not satisfy many readers. Map publishers, therefore, issued special maps that focused on the regions involved, containing as accurate, contemporary and complete information as could be desired by those following the events in question. These maps were often issued in a folding format for ease of use and carrying, in which case they are often referred to as "case maps."
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Working sea charts

Accurate and up-to-date marine charts are more than just convenient for sailors, they are a matter of life and death. Because of this there has always been a strong demand for good charts to be taken on ship board, whether on the Mediterranean Sea or on one of the world's oceans. Sea atlases, while used, tend to be unwieldy on board and the process of updating an entire atlas very time consuming. A single sheet chart was easier to use and it was possible for publishers to issue updated versions of a single chart more regularly. Thus it is that most of the charts actually used on ships over the years have been separately issued, single sheet charts. These were sometimes folded, but more often they were either backed on linen and rolled, or backed with a distinctive blue paper that gives them the name "blue backs."
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