Member Questions & Answers

Dear WMS Member:  On this page we will accumulate questions and answers about collecting, collections, and other items of interest to the membership.  Please feel free to contribute by emailing:

Dear NON-WMS Visitor:  Possibly the best way to get your questions answered is to visit our meetings (you do not need to be a member, but you will miss our wonderful Portolan Jornal).  Click HERE for our newsletter.

Most answers are provided by the far more experienced John Docktor, by the way.  Most recent topics are at the top of the list.






Question:  I have about 7 maps I would like to have evaluated by a professional. They dates on them are in the 1600's. If you can help me, please email me. Thanks for your time.

Answer:  Please visit for current and relevant information about all aspects of collecting, valuation, and selling maps.  You can also visit this page for some leads:

Question:  I have an old map and believe it’s an original of Jacques le Moyne and/or published by Theodor de Bry, between 1550 and 1620. We know it’s called Floridae Americae Provinciae. I am hoping to find someone who could authenticate the: 1.Who actually completed it, 2.Date created, 3.Paper used, 4.Pigment used 5.Authenticate We are not looking for an appraisal. You may contact me with the info below.

Answer:  Your map most likely is a reproduction. One other factor. Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, old rags were used in making of paper. Paper production in the mid-nineteenth century changed to the use of wood pulp. Wood pulp paper is acidic. Over time it turns brown and becomes brittle. It is hard to judge from a photograph, but it is easy to tell by feeling the paper and by looking at transmitted light through the paper if it is made with rags or wood pulp. The paper in the photo you sent me yesterday looks like late 19th century, possibly early 20th century, paper.

Question:  My father is a long-time member of the Society. As he ages, our family wants to be prepared about what to do with his possessions upon his death. He has a large library of map-related books and framed reproductions. Is the Society interested in things like this? If not, could you refer me to someone or some organization that would be? Thank you!
Answer:  Thank you for your mail about your father’s collection.  Our Society does not maintain a collection or library, and I am not sure if you wish to sell or donate the items.  Candidly, framed reproductions don’t have much value (are you sure they are reproductions?) except as decorative items.  You can look at the retail value of books by searching for titles on, but keep in mind a bookseller will only pay pennies on the retail dollar for the books.  The map auction specialty house usually has a few reference or rare books in its auctions.

An alternative to selling or auctioning any parts of the collection would be to donate it to an institution such as the Library of Virginia which has a map and cartography room founded by one of our members: .

Lastly, here is a link to an overwhelmingly large list of book and map dealers, from which you might find one close to you:

The WMS does not endorse or recommend dealers or selling strategies, and many of us having been in the same position in which you are share your concerns.

Question:  I have been looking for a topographic map of the DC region for some time (including the Army map service) and have come up well short of expectations. I finally put together 4 area topo maps from the internet, but they are not uniform in color and are cluttered with urban info to the degree that the topo contour lines are nearly impossible to see. Advice?
Answer:  Thank you for your email addressed to the Washington Map Society about topographic maps of DC.  No ideas come to mind for enhancing your maps, but there is a female member of the New York Map Society who is highly skilled in drawing maps and she might have ideas for you.  Unfortunately I cannot remember her name, but if you Google New York Map Society and send an inquiry they will certainly know who she is.  If I remember her name, I will write to you again.

Other than that  you might peruse in search of help.

Question:  Hello, I recently won at auction an old map from the US government survey. It is a very large map of the Atlantic Coast of the united States. No. 0944. Are you all able in helping me find some information on this map? Thanks much,

Answer:  There are few collectors of US Government survey maps, and you might have difficultly finding any information. I suggest 3 sites: - look for your map on this large database of collectable maps - see if the map is in the collection of the Library of Congress - take your map to a dealer near you, and get his advise.


Question:  I am currently helping a collector sell some of his collection of maps, prints, and books. He has a number of historic maps and atlases that would no doubt be of interest to map collectors and I am wondering whether you would pass this information on to members, in the form of your e-newsletter or any other means. The Maps are of both the US, such as the 1848 Fremont Preuss map of California and Oregon, as well as elsewhere, for example, a map of France by Sanson in 1692. Would there be a way to pass on a list of available items, or perhaps just my email address, to potentially interested collectors? Many thanks, Answer:  Dear Sir:

We do not advertise sales to our members, but please see for some suggestions.  There are very well known dealers in your area, and of course the Boston Map Society might be a great resource.

For books, you might look at and their November 13, 2103 auction of books, etc.  The catalog is on-line now. 

The site contains volumes of information and advice.

Best wishes,