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While overseas dealers praised the opportunity to meet clients and fellow sellers from all over the world, on the second day a classic MacDonald Gill (1884-1947) map of the city sold from the stand of Antikbar for £3520 – when a visitor was pleased to identify the street they lived on.

London iconography, topography and geography were big hitters at the event which hosted around 40 exhibitors at the Royal Geographical Society from June 10-11.

Another sale on that theme was a collection of Brian Lewis’ 1938 architectural designs for the extension of the Central Line that was brought to the fair by newcomer Manning Fine Art.

The subject of a lot of interest, one of East Acton tube station was picked up on the first day by a new client for £3900, while the remaining seven sold on the Sunday to a well-known British designer. Gallery manager Annabelle Fuller said: “This was one of our best-ever fairs and we will certainly be back next year.”

Hobby Limon from TAG Fine Art was another first-time exhibitor who did well on a London theme. Sales included a Stephen Waters London Rail map for £1200 and a map of all the shipwrecks in the Thames Estuary for £500.

Wider range

During the past two years, organisers Massimo de Martini from Altea Gallery and Tim Bryars from Bryars & Bryars have widened the remit of the fair to encourage new exhibitors with contemporary cartography, architectural design and topographical views.

Bryars said: “The definition of what a map is has been changing in the trade over the last 20 years and this is just the conclusion to that.”

As suggested by the successes of TAG Fine Art and Manning Fine Art, it was a winning change. Dealers such as Sanders of Oxford and Robert Hall Pictures, both of which have a focus outside of maps in their shopfronts, were pleased to stand and show some of their more diverse pieces.

Elsewhere at the fair, Chris Berry of Iconic said he enjoyed bringing “modern culture and modern design with a focus on London in particular”.

He parted with a first edition Harry Beck London Underground map for £1750 as well as some other historic London maps for similar sums. Among his most popular offerings was an assortment of London Underground maps from a variety of years available for £30 each. Visitors were encouraged to choose the edition that matched the year of their birth.

Global reach

The London setting was key to inspiring purchases as well as bringing in overseas participants from Europe and the US.

“London is a no brainer,” said Michael Jennings from Neatline Antique Maps in San Francisco. “It puts us in touch with new collectors who collect different things with more of an international outlook whereas Americans tend to collect Americana.”

The firm’s sales included a 1492 map of India and Pakistan for £10,000 which went to an existing client.

A dealer from Libraria Old Times of Italy said it is “a very, very good fair because some dealers from the US and Australia only come to London, not Paris or Italy” which makes the customs worth the extra hassle post-Brexit.

Gonzalo Pontes from Pontes Maps, a dealership in Spain, added that the event “is an opportunity to meet with colleagues from all over the world,” but noted that there were now fewer European dealers. Both he and the Italian firm said they now bring a smaller stock to make the customs process easier.

Despite changes and challenges, the traditional map market was booming. Altea Gallery sold a group of 18th century atlases to an American collector for around £35,000 and de Martini from Altea noted good uptake on Australiana and South Pacific maps.

The Antique Paper Company sold a map of the world by John Speed for £10,000.

Antiquariat Clemens Paulusch GmbH from Germany also sold an 1809 map of Africa that someone spontaneously picked up for £2800.

The map fair is set to be back at the Royal Geographical Society from June 8-9, 2024.