Loading Spinner

World Maps

Antique maps of the world are loved by collectors for their fantasy-like representations and quaint mistakes. All hand-drawn maps prior to the rise of the printing press were works of art in some way. They are subjective in nature, servants to the whims of the artisan.

The first world maps were created in monasteries. These works were almost always religious, sometimes disturbing, and tilted to the perspective of the artist or commissioner. Many maps made by monks featured Jerusalem at the center, with the rest of the world shrinking back in adulation and fear from the Holy Land. Landmasses were surrounded and crowned by flying angels and ludicrous demons. Maps could be slanted to please the person who commissioned them, and collectors of antique maps of the world may find political boundaries rearranged to please the person in power.

During the Age of Exploration, mapmaking became a popular and respected trade. Still, many representations were based on the stories of explorers visiting unknown lands in the Orient who often did not trespass beyond the coastline of unknown lands. European artisans marked the borders of the safe, known world with depictions of sea monsters and cannibals. As trade and exploration opened up, mapmakers began to focus on the mathematical correction of geographic zones, although many lands were still disproportionate. It is the idiosyncrasies of maps from various stages of learning and exploration that make antique maps fascinating.


Quick Facts

  • A 1596 twin-hemisphere map by Jan Baptist Vrients titled "Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio" sold for $13,427 at Bonhams in 2014
  • A map with landmass in the shape of a lion surrounded by sailing ships and crowned by angels titled "Leo Belgicus" sold for $25,054 at Sotheby’s in 2015. The map is one of two printed from copper plates engraved by Hessel Gerritsz, mapmaker for the Dutch East India Company
  • A 1610 atlas by Gerard Mercator and Hondius featuring 145 of 147 engraved maps sold for $50,109 at an auction by Sotheby’s in 2015

Recommended Items at Auction

See all items

Martin - A Map of the World on a New Projection with a Delineation of the Various Parts and Phaenomena of the Solar System…
Dec 03, 10:00 AM CST
Martin - A Map of the World on a New Projection with a Delineation of the Various Parts and Phaenomena of the Solar System…
by Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$1102 Bids
Illustrated Maps
Nov 29, 12:00 PM EST
Illustrated Maps
by Old Kinderhook Auction Company
Est: $50- $100
$250 Bids
Meyer - Map of the World (Erd-Karte in der Globular Projektion)
Dec 03, 10:00 AM CST
Meyer - Map of the World (Erd-Karte in der Globular Projektion)
by Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books
Est: $400- $800
$250 Bids
- Weltkarten - "Welt-Karte der Mission". Weltkarte in 2
Dec 01, 10:00 AM CET
- Weltkarten - "Welt-Karte der Mission". Weltkarte in 2
by Zisska & Lacher
Est: €0- €240
€1200 Bids
bp parity badge
PETER SCHENK THE ELDER PLANISPHAERIUM TERRESTRE GOLD FOIL MAP OF THE WORLD FRAMED
Dec 06, 5:00 PM EST
PETER SCHENK THE ELDER PLANISPHAERIUM TERRESTRE GOLD FOIL MAP OF THE WORLD FRAMED
by Activity Auctions
Est: $600- $900
$2000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell World Maps


Forum Auctions - UK

Forum Auctions - UK

Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books

Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books

Zisska & Lacher

Zisska & Lacher

Activity Auctions

Activity Auctions