map of the Dutch city of Delft, taken from a centuries-old
illuminated atlas. Photos by BAP
A good map is hard to find
2 October 2002
By Bonnie Azab Powell, Public Affairs
BERKELEY - The less we knew about the world, the more
beautiful were our maps.
& BOOK SALE
9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union at
Bancroft & Telegraph,
At least, that's
the impression you get from looking through the thousands of 20th
century topographical, nautical, aerial, political and other maps
for sale Saturday by UC Berkeley's Geography Department and its
Earth Science and Map Library. Nearly all of the cartography on
sale in the University's Pauley Ballroom will be priced at $2.
If that's too much for you, then be patient: they'll be marked
down by half in the sale's last two hours.
"Some of them would make nice wrapping paper," says
Daniel Plumlee, the department's equipment collections manager
and the sale's organizer. "If we have to, we'll sell them
by the pound to get rid of them."
from the Delft map, which is seen at the top of this story.
That doesn't apply, however, to the items that Plumlee has
set aside as "showpieces." In a room off to the side,
shoppers with deeper pockets can find maps that are not only
fascinating historical documents, but miniature works of art.
A colorful map of the Dutch city of Delft, for example —
probably dating from the 17th century or earlier — is
decorated with miniature human figures and tiny, Monopoly-sized
houses drawn to scale. Imagine being able to buy anything else
from the birthplace of Vermeer and dating from the era of Breughel
Other rare maps up for sale include a 1918 "Strategical
War Map of the Western Front" that's the size of a classroom
blackboard; a map presented to the "Right Honourable Charles
Earl of Traquair from his Most Obedient and most humble Servant
Will Edgar"; and a complete set of the 1746 plans for the
cities of London, Westminster and Southwark. The set was issued
in 1967 as a limited-edition reproduction comprising 26 panels,
23 by 30 inches each.
Beautiful as such old cartography is, the department has to
make room for newer items. Plumlee has been doggedly paring
down the department's overcrowded map storage room on the fifth
floor of McCone Hall, a tiny space that until recently held
five stacks of five flat filing cabinets, reaching about eight
"It was dark in there, not to mention unsafe," says
Plumlee. With the extra and outdated material removed, there's
finally room to actually spread out a map and look at it. Yet
space is still at a premium: Plumlee has yet another storage
room to clear out to accommodate a lab expansion.
sale maps were largely collected by past faculty and students
and were either redundant or deemed no longer useful for current
research or instruction; the wall maps are heavily used for
instruction and have been replaced as they age. The Earth Science
and Map Library's sale items, meanwhile, are duplicates from
donations or are common, out-of-date maps produced by government
event is held nearly every year, and it's a popular one. All
proceeds get funneled back into the collection budgets of the
departments involved. For example, with the $10,000 it netted
in 2001, Geography was able to purchase 43 new classroom wall
maps. Plumlee expects this year's sale to fare even better,
as the site of the sale, the Pauley Ballroom, will allow the
maps to be spread out for better perusing.
Held at McCone Hall in several classrooms, last year's sale
"was a madhouse," says Plumlee. "I think some
people were turned off just by the prospect of having to dig
through the giant piles."
The Saturday sale will also include 2,000 scholarly books donated
to the university library that were determined to be duplicates.
They'll range in price from $1 to $250. At the high end are
rare items like the 1933 Essays in Zen Buddhism ($150), a 1936
catalog of Egyptian scarabs ($250), and volumes one and two
of Rudiger Joppien's three-volume The Art of Captain Cook's
Plumlee, geography's equipment collections manager, pulls
out the sale's top item: a $300 complete set of reproductions
of the 1746 plan of London.