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LIBRARY.. Glossary

GLOSSARY of DESCRIPTIONS and TERMINOLOGY with antique maps and prints.

Terminology used for maps and prints:

Cartographer, artist, designer, draughtsman, author or composer of the work: Most often indicated by del or delin, but also by delineavit, descripsit, descript., invenit, auctore, composit.

Engraver: Indicated by engrav., engr., sculp., sc., sculpsit, sec., fecit., fec., incidente, incidit,

Printer or publisher: Indicated by excudit., excud., exc., ex officina, formis, lith., sumptibus. 

Proof:  a print taken from a plate before an engraving is finished, prior to publication. Usually it will not have any engraved title or source printed below the image, but this is not always the case.

State:  various stages of printing from altered versions of a plate.

Impression:  a single print produced from a plate.

Edition:  the actual published impression from a plate, or series of published impressions.

Re-issue:  a later publication from a previously engraved or lithographed plate.

Restrike: a modern impression taken from the original plate, usually also coloured in the style of the original publication date. Plates were often retained for restrikes of many sporting prints.

Reproduction:  A copy of an original print that is usually photomechanically produced from a paper image of a print or map, rather than from an engraved or lithographed plate.


Description of maps and prints:

Backed:  The image is pasted or glued onto another material, such as cloth, to make the map stronger and more durable. (Many large maps or working maps were backed with cloth when issued. During restoration some fine maps and prints are backed for conservation purposes, usually with thin tissue. Archival quality paste and backing material should be used to prevent chemical deterioration of the image base-paper. Backing is not recommended for preservation unless necessary.)

Bird’s-Eye View (sometimes called Balloon View): Realistic view of city or town drawn from aerial vantage point.

Border:  The printed area surrounding the edge of an image, usually a line or series of lines, which may incorporate scrollwork, geometric design or decorative panel with figures or views

Centrefold:  Many large images have been folded to the size of the book or atlas in which they were published. Exposure of the fold over a period of years can result in its browning. Careless  unfolding can result in weakening along the centerfold, particularly at top or bottom.

Colouring:  Whilst the earliest illustrations were published in black and white, watercolour was added by hand to embellish many important early works, especially with regards the cartouche of a map destined for presentation to the person who had funded the voyage of discovery depicted, or in the case of natural history prints. Later, a more economical method of printing in colour was devised.

Contemporary Colour:  Indicates the colour was added at the time of publication. This is always preferable to modern colour. The earliest colouring, composed of natural ochres, can sometimes by detected on the reverse of an image by its oxidation through the paper. Colour was an inherent indication of a natural history subject so was usually contemporary. Views on the other hand were usually published in black and white. The decorative quality of maps and prints is greatly enhanced, even when colour is added later, as long as the “later” colouring is sympathetic to the style of the work. 

Conservation framing: A readily reversible framing method using archival materials to protect and preserve valuable art from the natural aging process. Museum glass is available to protect artwork from harmful ultraviolet rays that cause fading of colour and aging of paper.

Deckle-edge: The original rough edge of hand-made paper (a desirable characteristic), often trimmed off during binding or publication. 

Dissected:  The cutting into rectangle sections of a large work (usually a working map), and gluing it onto cloth, to assist in folding for ease of transportation and storage.

Engraving: Printing process using an image carved into a metal plate (usually copper or steel). The plate is then inked and the surface wiped clean. Engraved lines are printed according to the depth and width of the incised grooves, when the plate is applied to paper under pressure.

Foxing:  Spots, usually brown, which are caused by mould, result from storage under damp conditions. Exposure to dust and soiling from poor handling also contribute to foxing.

Imprint:  Information when printed on a map or print give some indication to the work’s artist, engraver or lithographer, publisher, place or publication, and date of publication.

Inset:  A small image within the border of a larger work; usually surrounded by a separating line.

Intaglio: Plate mark impression around a copper or steel engraving caused by the pressure of the plate edges during the printing process.

Laid down, or Lined:  As with backed, this is sometimes done to provide stability when a work is damaged, or for framing, in which case only conservation materials should be used.

Lithography: Printing process that uses the principle that oil and water repel, an image is drawn with a greasy crayon on a smooth treated plate.

Loss of printed surface: A portion of a map or print is missing, usually through damage. This section is sometimes restored by adhering paper over the missing section and drawing the missing design.

Manuscript:  Hand-written notations or whole maps or other illustrations drawn by hand.

Margin:  A wide margin is the desirable blank area outside the border of a map or print.

Medallion:  A circular or oval bordered illustration usually containing a portrait or symbol of importance to the subject.

Medium: The substances used to create the work of art (e.g. paint), while the medium base is the paper.

Offsetting:  When an image is pressed against another surface over a period of years, as in a book that is stored tightly in a bookcase, the printer’s ink is sometimes transferred onto the adjacent surface, producing a mirror image.

Original:  A map or print is considered to be original if it is published from the original engraved or lithographed plate or block.

Panorama or Panoramic View: Realistic depiction of town, village or landmass, usually wide angle, from a point at ground level, usually to provide a slightly elevated angle.

Plate Mark:  Also described as an intaglio impression, it is produced from pressure of the external edge of an engraved plate on the printing surface.

Printer’s Crease:  A wrinkle is permanently caused by compression of the paper or printing surface during publication.

Rag Paper:  Paper made from cloth fibres (as opposed to wood pulp).

Recto: Side of paper on which map of interest is printed.

Remargined: The addition of paper to extend the edges, usually beyond the borders, to protect the border edge of an image, to improve its appearance, and to facilitate the framing process. 

Reproduction: A later-produced copy, either by offset lithography or photographically reproduced. 

Restrike: Later print from an original plate (often re-worked), most often English sporting prints. (Traditionally engraved map plates were updated or destroyed. Metal and wood plates were sometimes reground for re-use.)

Separately published or separately issued: Indicates a map or print published separate from a book, atlas or journal. Such illustrations were published for separate sale or circulation, but without the protection of the binding, were more vulnerable to deterioration.

Show-through: Printed text or image showing through from the reverse of paper. On early thin hand-made paper the reverse-side heavy ink printing is characteristically visible from the front.

Verso:  The rear or reverse side of the paper (back of the image), frequently containing text.

Vignette: Small view of topography, ships, people, flora or fauna illustrating region depicted.

Watermark:  A design that can be seen when held up to the light. Created within the paper when manufactured, by wires bent into the desired maker’s pattern being placed on the rack prior to the deposit of the fibres for the construction of the paper. Whilst helpful in identifying the date of paper, it must be remembered that some paper survived in publishing houses long after the date of manufacture.

Worming, wormholes, worm tracks:  Eating of holes or lines in paper by insect larvae. This is common is very old books.


Explanations of descriptions for maps and prints:

1. Paper size

- usually in metric and imperial measurements

2. Folds

-  repairs along centrefold

- light soiling/creasing along centrefold 

- discolouration from binding glue, dust in string binding, stains from metal staples

- centrefold reinforced/backed (weakened from frequent folding or stitched inclusion in atlas). 

- folds to fit atlas (from inclusion in atlas or journal) 

3. Paper thickness and quality

- heavy and strong

- show-through/fine paper with verso text/map showing through (reverse printing visible)

- backed/lined/laid down (pasted onto cloth or thin tissue to make more durable)

- brittle (some less porous old paper is quite fragile)

- printer’s crease (from compression of wrinkled paper during printing process)

- worming/wormholes/worm tracks (holes in paper eaten by tiny insects)

4. Plate size

- intaglio: area inside plate mark indentation (large plate size may exclude mark)

- relief or surface: within border (e.g. woodblock or lithograph)

5. Borders/Margins (space around edge of map)

- generous or wide

- cropped/loss of printed surface (portion of paper missing)

- light soiling/stain/crease, not affecting the image

6. Paper colour and condition

- light toning throughout image/age toning (browning as the paper transforms chemically)

- over-bleached (over-cleaned when removing soiling)

- offsetting (printer’s ink has been transferred from opposite page after years of pressure)

7. Style of colouring

- outline colour (of the coastlines, borders, boundaries)

- solid colour (of the countries, provinces)

8. Age of colour

- contemporary colour (colour from around the date of publication) 

- authentic colour (map coloured as published)

- colour expertly applied (later or modern colour suiting the style of map)

- colour a little faded but authentic/ light fading in places (contemporary colouring)

9. Verso (reverse side)

- text or map showing through (thin paper/heavy printing on reverse)

- light soiling not affecting the image on the front    

- light paint show through (usual oxidization with early paint colours)

10. Repairs

- repairs/light soiling - along folds/ in margins/to edges    

- repairs are Neutral ph Gummed Linen tape/with conservation materials

11. Overall Quality

- Perfect/Excellent/Very Good/Good/Fair/Mediocre/Poor


Terms specific with antique maps and charts

Cartography is science of drawing maps and charts.

Carta Marina: Usually rhumb lines feature across oceans, on sixteenth century world maps.

Cartouche: The title of the map and description of the subject matter, the cartographer and his rank, the patron or royal personage for whom the chart was prepared, and the date of either the voyage described or the publication of the map were all enclosed within a border. By tradition, the more important or elegant the map, the more elaborate the information and the scrollwork or decorative border around the information. 

Compass Rose or Wind Rose: A star-shape from which rhumb lines often radiate. North is traditionally indicated by the longer pointer on the star.

Composite Atlas: An atlas compiled by a publisher from a collection of miscellaneous maps by different mapmakers.

Gore: A section of a globe printed on paper, intended to be cut out and pasted together to form a spherical shape, - usually elongated.

Hachure: Short lines following the coastline for stronger definition, or used to indicate a depression or mountain range.

Loxodromic Lines or Rhumb Lines: Lines criss-crossing old charts. These lines cross all meridians at the same angle to provide a path with a constant direction bearing, to assist in plotting a navigational course along compass directions.

Outline Colour: Colouring of the coastlines, and sometimes borders and boundaries as well. 

Panels: Rectangular frames enclosing views or figures around the edge of the map or chart they illustrate.

Periplus: A text of sailing directions used in classical times.

Portolan or Portolan Chart: Sea chart prepared for mariners from around the fourteenth century through to the sixteenth century. A manuscript, drawn by hand, they were usually of animal skin to increase durability.

Rhumb Lines or Loxodrome Lines: Navigations lnes criss-crossing old charts. These lines cross all meridians at the same angle to provide a path with a constant direction bearing, to assist in plotting a navigational course along compass directions.


PRESENTATION of ARTWORK may involve the following additional terminology:

Acid Free Paper: Paper or paperboard product in which the acidic content of the fibres used to form the paper, has been neutralised. Paper made with cotton fibres is acid free; paper made with wood pulp is not. (Rag mat & rag board are cotton-based.)

Centre line: The horizontal line halfway between the top and bottom of a work of art, or of a group arrangement, for spontaneous and balanced appreciation of the works. An off-centre focal point would be created by moving the centre line, usually either up or down.

Glazing: A protective layer of transparent glass (these days available with ultra-violet screening) or plastic/acrylic sheets, in front of an image, usually held in place by a frame.

Mount (sometimes Matt or Mat or Passepartout): A protective housing for a flat work of art, usually a plate of cardboard, comprising a support base (backboard) to which the artwork is fixed, and a front matt with a window cut so that the work can be viewed within it. 

Ultraviolet light/ UV light: Certain rays of extremely short wavelength lying beyond the violet end of the visible spectrum. UV light, present in direct sunlight and produced by fluorescent light tubes, is extremely damaging to artwork. Museum glass can block this.

Shadowbox: A frame deep enough for 3-dimensional materials - in addition to backboard, mat and glazing.

Eye level: The horizontal line directly in front of a person, where the person's view focuses easily.  Actually about 6 inches lower than a person’s eye level.