1650 Map of South America, Africa and AtlanticJudy Edwards always had a love of geography. As a young girl, she even kept an atlas near the television, so she could look up places that were mentioned in the shows. However, it wasn’t until she and her husband, Walt, were vacationing in Bermuda that this love developed into something much more—a passion for collecting antique maps and prints.
“We were visiting an antique store and came across an antique map,” she explains. “We were struck by the detail and the decorative nature and thought it would make a unique souvenir. At the time, we didn’t realize its significance.”
Though the couple had never collected anything before, they found themselves purchasing more maps during subsequent travels. “In Europe, especially, we would turn a corner and see a map store or an independent bookstore that carried these beautiful pieces,” explains Judy. “It was almost as if we were being led. Before long, we were hooked.”
Their passion continued to grow, and they began seeking out dealers and collecting originals, depicting all sorts of historical places and events. They were constantly amazed at the detail and decorative nature of what they found—the fine lines of the engraving itself, the minute details included in the images and the fact that these images were drawn and then carved by hand (in reverse) onto plates that were then inked and pressed to paper. The maps, for instance, told so much more than location or how to get somewhere. They told a story through pictures. “You realize that in some cases, this is how people got their information,” she says. “It’s a wonderful part of history.”
Some 15 years after they purchased their first map, the Edwards are now sharing their knowledge—and their treasures—with others. They have learned a lot along their journey—including how to identify an item’s markings of color, cartouche, plate lines, paper and subject content to verify that a piece is an original. Walt says that because every piece is unique in its own way, if the product looks perfect, it’s probably a reproduction. “This business is similar to selling art; you need to do your research and go through a legitimate dealer if you are looking for an original piece,” he notes.
Through their company, Paperhound.com, the Edwards are offering an online source for antique maps, including road maps, sea charts, regional maps, world maps, and original prints, many Biblical, from the 1550s to the 1850s. A statement of authenticity is provided with each antique map or print that is purchased. If the customer isn’t pleased with their items, Paperhound.com will refund their purchase price with no questions asked. “We want to make sure every customer is as pleased with their purchase as we were when we originally purchased the piece ourselves” says Walt.
Paperhound.com offers something for everyone. “Maps and prints make a wonderful and unique gift. The associations you can find between these beautiful images and recipients’ hobbies, interests, family history, favorite travel destinations or religious affiliation are almost endless,” notes Judy.
Over the years, working with customers in their homes and at shows, the Edwards realized that not everyone can afford originals—and not everyone cares whether the image is original or not—spurring the Edward’s decision to pass along the beauty and history of what they are doing by offering high-quality digital reproductions. “When we first thought about selling, our intention was to offer only original antique items,” says Walt. “However, due to customer requests, we have realized and believe that everyone deserves a chance to be exposed to and enjoy this amazing art.”
They currently have more than 2,300 orginial and 600 high-quality digitally reproduced items available for sale. “Due to the vast number of items we offer, customers at shows were constantly asking us to email them images of products we had no room to show. Transition into an ecommerce-based business was a natural, and we are working diligently to load new items as quickly as we can, so folks have access to our complete inventory,” says Judy.
The Edwards say most of their contemporaries in the antique map and print business don’t yet offer high-quality digital reproductions. Their hope is that people that come to Paperhound.com for a map or print, or receive one as a gift, will be inspired to learn about the original images or cartographers and perhaps become more enthusiastic about history, geography and the humanities, whether the item is an original or not.