Important Maps at an Important Time

- by Bruce E. McKinney


Lot 67: More gems than Zsa Zsa has fingers

By Bruce McKinney

Frank Benevento did not buy his first important map ten years ago with the idea of becoming a canary in the coal mine in 2010 but circumstances make his sale of 71 important [primarily world] maps in London on May 6th a gut check for the map world. His material goes under the hammer at Sotheby's 34-35 New Bond Street, the right place in an uncertain time, to see if important maps are coming through the recession and recovery intact. Many experts in the field expect it.

Mr. Benevento, of Palm Beach Florida, is recovering from serious illness and sells reluctantly.

Cathy Slowther, who has managed the sale for Sotheby's from negotiation with Mr. Benevento this past year to the calling of the first lot by Roger Griffiths at 2:30 pm in London on May 6th, is cautiously optimistic. "The material is important, the market less certain. I expect both dealers and serious collectors to be contending." The collection was on display in New York during ABAA week and is currently on exhibition in London.

By virtue of its scale and condition lot 67, Joannes Blaeu's Atlas major, eleven bound volumes of maps printed between 1662 and 1681 is attracting wide interest. It contains 589 maps, plans, views and plates; many double-page and all in original color. The set was purchased at the Wardington Sale in 2005 and the "bespoke cabinet by Columbo Mobili of Milan," commissioned shortly thereafter. In this piece important maps and history are combined in a remarkable presentation setting. The estimate is BP 180,000 to 220,000, the set arguably a complete compilation of early maps and images for the collector who, in buying this, wishes to achieve completeness with a single bid. Mr. Benevento spent $300,000 to buy the atlases.

Lot 8, Paolo Forlani's 1570 world map presents another kind of opportunity. Maps provide graphic evidence of the advance of human knowledge of the continents and oceans. As such, the first appearance of continents, islands and names on maps provide collectors with documentation of unfolding discovery. This extremely early map expresses "Terra Incognito" in the southern hemisphere as rivaling the northern continents in scale. It is estimated BP 100,000 to 150,000. Mr. Benevento spent $253,250 to acquire it.