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Map Quest

In my quest for “complex” items from our Distinctive Collections to add to Villanova University’s Digital Library (see: Scanning a Panoramic Sketch) I was drawn to the many beautiful hand-colored maps in The John F. Smith, III, and Susan B. Smith Antique Map Collection. While a few unframed maps and prints were already added to the Digital Library, the majority of the collection holdings to date are custom framed and previously unscanned (See: The John F. Smith, III and Susan B. Smith Antique Map Collection: A Recent Addition to Special Collections). Making use of past exhibition posters, I was able to utilize the large poster boards to remove or minimize the reflective glare from the framed glass to digitally capture these wonderful and unique images.

Pair of maps depicting the surface of the moon, based upon the models of Johannes Hevelius and Giovanni Battista Riccioli.

There are currently 62 items from the collection now in our Digital Library, 35 items are currently on display at Picotte Hall at Dundale, and we are expecting another installment of items for donation from the Smiths this summer. In addition to the items in the Digital Library, Distinctive Collections Librarian Laura Bang is developing a web exhibit for the collection, featuring Mr. Smith’s personal reflections on each map. We are excited to highlight and provide access in a myriad of ways to these historic documents as part of our academic mission.

This 18th century map of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York features an elaborate cartouche showing William Penn trading with natives, local flora and fauna, and a wild turkey. This Smith map is especially fine with ornate and expert hand-coloring, compared with another example, below, in our Special Collections.



















Selections from this collection were also previously on display in Around the World: Selections from the Smith Antique Map Collection, an exhibit on the first floor of Falvey Memorial Library in Spring 2018. Alongside these selections were other map and cartographic items from Special Collections, including a curious dissected map – an early precursor to the modern jigsaw puzzle! This item had also not yet been digitized, so I enlisted my colleagues to help assemble the pieces in preparation for digitizing.

Beaudry Allen, Preservation and Digital Archivist, and Laura Bang, Distinctive Collections Librarian, practice their geography skills.  

Some of the earliest surviving dissected maps were sold in London in the 1760s by mapmaker John Spilsbury. Originally a method of teaching geography to the children of the aristocracy, puzzle maps became more accessible to a broader range of clientele as new methods of manufacturing made the process cheaper. Our example came in a wooden box, with a handwritten inscription on the bottom: “with dear Papa’s best love and wishes, December 31st 1849.”

We did it! After successfully completing the (educational and entertaining!) puzzle, here is the finished product – which you can see dissected and undissected –  in the Digital Library: Map of Asia, by James Wyld.

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Last Modified: July 1, 2019

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