Defining the Project

The Vignaud Map Collection at the Clark Library contains many historically important and rare maps. Among these are 188 maps that were published by the 17th century Dutch map publishing firms of Hondius and Janssonius, which are the focus of this research project. While the map collection staff was aware of the significance of these maps, over time it became evident that these maps shared common physical characteristics, or environmental effects, and possible provenance. They all lacked text on their reverse side, which was unusual at the time for maps in atlases. Most of the maps had a Hondius or Janssonius imprint, and were of a similar style and paper. Our theory was that these maps were at one time bound together, based on their shared physical characteristics, such as red chalk drawings on the verso or water damage. We believed that physical and bibliographic analysis would help us to confirm each group as a published atlas. Finally, we hoped that our research would shed light on Vignaud’s interests and intentions as a map collector.

To determine the validity of our theory we carefully analyzed and grouped together maps with shared characteristics. The process for examining the environmental effects, characteristics of the paper, and manuscript markings on the maps from their nearly 400 year history is outlined below:

1. We spent countless hours researching and reading about 16th and 17th century Dutch cartography, printing, and publishing.

2. We created an Excel spreadsheet to track our growing set of data about the maps’ various attributes.

3. The type of data collected includes: title, publisher, author, engraver, sheet size, watermarks (if any), and paper condition.

4. When examining the paper’s condition we looked at characteristics such as specific water damage, rodent damage, aging, manuscript numbers on verso, sprinkles, red chalk drawings, and accession numbers, among other traits.

5. We consulted with Dr. Cathleen Baker, the library’s paper conservator and papermaking expert. After meeting with her, the spreadsheet continued to grow as we learned more about papermaking and printing from her.

6. We carefully checked the authors, engravers, and other bibliographic information against the descriptions in Dutch map bibliographer Peter van der Krogt’s Koeman’s Atlantes Neerlandici, and Mireille Pastoureau’s Atlas Francais, matching our maps to atlases of the period that lacked text.

7. We conversed via email with Peter van der Krogt to inquire about the maps we have that didn’t match any listings in his book.

8. As Vignaud’s personal library forms the basis of the Clements Library’s map collection, we worked closely with the Clements in tracking Vignaud’s materials throughout the libraries at the University of Michigan. We also communicated with other academic institutions regarding their holdings that had previously belonged to Vignaud.   

As part of the process we spent significant time creating and updating the maps’ bibliographic descriptions in the catalog. In 1998 a retrospective conversion of our card catalog was done to transfer bibliographic information from the cards into MIRLYN, the library’s online catalog. A preliminary inspection of the records made it apparent that much of the original information was incorrect. This was not surprising, as map bibliographic knowledge has become more accurate with continued research, easier communication between researchers, and the incorporation of new technology.

Understanding Atlas Terminology