The print drawers and bins at Maps of Antiquity are bursting with potential discoveries. Located in a restored 18th-century full Cape, the unique retail shop houses a fascinating and encyclopedic collection of more than 20,000 antique maps from around the world, as well as vintage postcards, celestial maps and nautical charts. The average customer spends about an hour browsing the collections.
“We’re not a walk in/walk out kind of place,” says Bob Zaremba, who owns Maps of Antiquity with his wife, Danielle Jeanloz. “Ninety percent of the people coming in to our store realize they want to be here.”
Zaremba and Jeanloz both grew up in academic households—surrounded by maps—and each followed an indirect path to their current business. Zaremba, who has a Ph.D. in Botany and worked for The Nature Conservancy, used early maps in his dissertation research to document changes in the form of barrier beaches. Jeanloz spent 25 years with American Airlines before becoming the executive director of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce, and most recently, executive director of the Atwood Museum. The couple’s love of antiques propelled them into a secondary business, which evolved into Maps of Antiquity, run full time by Zaremba.
“I find maps and the map business enjoyable because maps offer a fascinating intersection of history, technology, art and politics,” says Zaremba, who sells antique maps ranging from the 16th to late 19th centuries, a time when maps were works of art and printed from wood blocks or hand-engraved copper and steel plates.
Inside the shop, you’ll find a Cape Cod and New England room dedicated solely to maps and nautical charts from the region, along with a complete collection of town maps of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Prices vary from well under $50 for reproductions, up to many thousands, with the average price around $130. The business also specializes in framing and offers restoration services. A well-designed website contributes to 40 percent of their business.
People collect maps for many reasons. Maps satisfy our basic need to navigate our way through the world and help satisfy curiosity about our place in the universe. The earliest known maps are of the constellations, painted on the walls of the caves of Lascaux more than 16,000 years ago. Maps can also stimulate our imagination and transport us to make-believe places like Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Tolkien’s Middle-earth. According to Zaremba, there has been a renewed interest in maps and map collecting—even among young adults—thanks to the advent of Google Maps and websites like Ancestry.com. “People are always coming in asking for maps of ancestral countries or regions,” he says.
Zaremba advises would-be collectors to “buy what you like, what catches your eye and piques your imagination.” Some collectors specialize in a particular genre like nautical, celestial or regional maps, for example, or the Caribbean, the Dakotas or Tierra del Fuego.
Among the more sought-after maps, according to Zaremba, is one from the early 18th century showing California as an island, and the “gold standard” of Cape Cod maps, a 60” x 60” tax map from 1858 depicting every building on the Cape. Zaremba recounts how one man acquired “the bug” after paying $5 for a map at a yard sale and discovered later it was a valuable 1580 map of Seville, Spain. The closest to an “Antiques Roadshow” moment occurred a few years ago when Zaremba made a house visit to a Falmouth home and discovered a 1740s New England map. He sold it on the homeowner’s behalf for $12,000.
Clients of Maps of Antiquity include museums, and businesses like inns and professional offices. Decorators also use maps to great effect in room settings, especially dens and studies. And increasingly, maps are perceived as great gift items for occasions like weddings and graduations; one popular wedding present is a framed map of where the couple met.
Jeanloz recalls studying maps as a child and dreaming of faraway places. Her Swiss parents traveled extensively and maps adorned the walls of her home. “During my career in travel,” says Jeanloz, “little did I know that this passion would turn into owning over 20,000 maps!”
Maps of Antiquity
1409 Main St, Chatham