Rare Book Monthly
Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2007 Issue
Colonial and Revolutionary American Maps (and a few more) from Arader Galleries
By Michael Stillman
This month we review our first catalogue from the Arader Galleries of New York (also Philadelphia, San Francisco and Houston). The galleries are those of W. Graham Arader III, a veteran of almost four decades in rare books and related fields. Among the items they offer are rare books, maps, prints and paintings. The level and quality of the pieces offered are the highest.
This catalogue is titled Original Color, with the descriptive subheading "breathtaking maps with rarely seen full original color of the highest quality." This calls for a brief explanation of what constitutes "original color." In pre-19th century maps, color came from the hand-coloring of skilled artists, added to the black and white printing then available for maps. These maps required the ultimate in skill of "coloring within the lines," as the myriad boundaries, small islands, coves, and the like of geographical features required outstanding attention to detail, with little room for mistake by the artists assigned this task. However, when completed, these maps became works of art as well as the greatest source of geographical knowledge available.
Now for a caution: as Arader notes, contemporary (colored at roughly the same time as the map was produced) coloring adds greatly to the value of these old maps. Indeed, many were offered in both colored and uncolored versions, the uncolored sold to those of more limited financial means. Unfortunately, this has at times led later owners to color old maps in hopes of making them more valuable. This is somewhat akin to reprinting an old book and attempting to pass it off as an original edition. Perhaps it is not quite so blatantly dishonest as printing a fraudulent copy, and there is no law against coloring your old map, but the implication in a colored antiquarian map is that the coloring is part of its original presentation. Of course, in this case it is not, and detracts from the map's value rather than adding to it. As Arader notes, "Later color, which obscures the original form of an antique map and compromises its value, can never match the beautiful patina that pigments take on over the centuries." All of the maps in this catalogue are enhanced with original color.
There are maps from much of the world offered, including Europe, Asia and South America. However, the concentration is in North American maps. The dates are primarily from the American Revolutionary period or the years just preceding this time. The result is a valuable historic record of colonial America and the changes taking place during the second half of the 18th century. While describing maps is a virtually impossible endeavor, like attempting to describe a great painting, we will make a few feeble attempts so as to illustrate the type of material available herein. Prices are not given as they are not stated in the catalogue.