London fair boasts a cornucopia of antique maps and globes for sale

The rivers that make their way beneath London’s streets to the Thames have an enduring fascination for many people. Since 1962 the classic work on the subject has been Nicholas Barton’s The Lost Rivers of London, which stood alone in its several editions until last year. Then, such is the synchronicity of publishing, it was joined by books by Paul Tilling, Tom Bolton and Stephen Myers. Myers, whose Walking on Water: London ‘s Hidden Rivers Revealed deals with seven northem watercours-es, is a professional water engineer and he has mapped them more precisely than ever before.

At 2.30pm next Saturday, June 16, he will be the guest speaker at the London Map Fair, with a talk on “Mapping London’s Lost Rivers, and the Tale of Who Hijacked the Walbrook”. There will also be talks throughout the weekend by Ashley Baynton-Williams on map collecting for beginners.

This annual fair, on June 16 and 17, is now in its 30th year, and it could not have arrived at a more appropriate home than the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington Gore, to which it moved from Olympia in 2008. It is a fair that deals in superlatives, being the oldest and – with 37 exhibitors plus a stand for the International Map Collectors’ Society – the biggest specialist event in Europe. Furthermore, it claims to “host the largst selection of antique maps for sale anywhere on earth”. As well as the British, there are dealers from Italy, North America, Germany, Greece, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

London will feature in other ways than its rivers. Daniel Crouch has a rare map of the capital dating from 1719, in which the population is defined by “what is eaten”, and there will be Tube and poverty maps as well as the great 18th and 9th-century surveys. Those looking beyond the metropolis may find John Ogilvie’s innovative 1675 ship road maps still to be unexpectedly practical indicators of possible routes. Lee Jackson has a good example The Road from London to Hith (Hythe, that is) by way of Ashford and Maidstone. Allowing for his spelling, Ogilvie is perhaps as reliable as any sat-nav, and his maps are distinctly more decorative. And at a mere £325 the price is comparable.

Another very decorative item, which slyly inserts a measure of propaganda, is Romeyn de Hoogh’s Carte Nouvelle de la Mer Mediterranée ou sont Exactement Remarqués Tous les Ports, Golfes,

Rochers, Bancs de Sable &c, published in Amsterdam in 1694. The three-sheet chart was one of nine for a section of Piene Mortier‘s Neptune François, Cartes Marines àl’Usage des Armées du Roy de la Grande Bretagne.A specialist has called this the “most spectacular type of marine cartography produced in 17th-century Amsterdam”, Amsterdam then being the centre ofthe map-making world, as well as the period’s “most expensive sea atlas”. It is one of the higher priced items at the fair, with a tag of £32,500, although that does not match a set of 1693 gores for a celestial globe by the great Father Vincenzo Coronelli (1650-1718), for which Clive Burden is asking £55,000. The price range of the fair is estimated to be from £10 to £100,000.

A later example of the map as political message is another of Daniel Crouch’s offerings: a Chart of the World…Illustrative of the Impolicy of Slavery published by J. Cross in 1825. It sets out the economic argument against slave-produced sugar in the West Indies, which it claims damaged British commerce to the sum of £1,200,000 a year.

At £975 Burden has a cartographical curiosity, a scrimshawed globe dating from around 1900. It seems to be based on an amalgam of early maps, with a dash of invention, but odder still is the base material. It is carved on the two ends of an ostrich egg.

Incidentally, as an added incentive, visitors to the fair can claim up to £30 off the cost of becoming a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.