Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Giving New Life to the Henry Vignaud Map Collection

During the summer of 2012 Erin Platte and Tim Utter began work on a project dealing with a group of antiquarian maps from the Henry Vignaud Map Collection at the Clark Library.  In 1923-4 the University of Michigan acquired the personal library of the American diplomat, Henry Vignaud, who lived in Paris during the turn of the 20th century.  Vignaud was not only a diplomat but also an avid scholar and author, who compiled an extensive collection of materials, including books, atlases, maps, and other materials, relating to early American history.

The Clark set out to closely re-examine his collection and discover the provenance.  The project focused on a particular group of Vignaud's map, specifically those which were printed in Amsterdam during the 17th century by the famous cartographic families of Hondius and Jansson.  These maps document an illustrious period in cartographic history, including the competition between the Hondius-Jansson and Blaeu families, but also the golden age of Dutch cartography.  Platte and Utter worked with approximately 200 maps from broken atlases and analyzed their physical characteristics in order to organize them into four distinct groups, based on similarities. The close examination of the maps and the subsequent research into their history led to a series of exciting discoveries for the Clark, including the discovery of a rare atlas from 1630 and approximately 40 map states which appear to be previously unknown and undocumented.  A selection of maps from the project and the results are featured in the exhibit "Rediscovering the Jansson & Hondius Atlases of Henry Vignaud."