Long before GPS and smart phones, paper maps were the go-to source for navigating the world. Dating back to the 15th century, mapmaking began in earnest with the introduction of Gutenberg's moveable type printing press. Before this, maps in various forms, including wall paintings and rock carvings, were a rudementary form of cartography. Some consider Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia the most important contribution to cartography and was used by Columbus as his map of choice during his exploratory days.
Vintage maps dating back hundreds of years are no longer completely accurate in terms of navigation but are seen as beautiful pieces of art and are highly prized by collectors. The most valuable maps are those printed in the 15th and 16th centuries but come at a steep price. There are many factors to consider when looking for collectible, vintage maps such as original condition, age of the map, rarity, size, the cartographer, region depicted and condition.
The selection of rare, collectible maps on AbeBooks is expansive including both loose leaf maps and atlases. Several AbeBooks booksellers specialize in maps and atlases and their inventories are worth browsing for even more wonderful vintage maps. We recommend old imprints ABAA/ILAB from Portland, OR and Between the Covers - Rare Books ABAA from Gloucester City, NJ.
And, if you'd like to see some rare and antique maps firsthand, be sure to visit the upcoming San Francisco Map Fair, taking place September 15-17. We've added several maps of California to this page, which may be of special interest to fairgoers in the area.