Rare 17th-Century World Map Found Stuffed In Scottish Chimney

Construction workers who were renovating a home in Aberdeen, Scotland found a "bundle of rags" in the chimney.  It was in a very poor condition that fragments fell off every time it was removed.  It turned out that the bundle is a rare 17th-century world map.

The Antique Piece Is One Of Two Copies In Existence

The wall map was made by Dutch engraver Gerald Valck.  It measures 2.2m by 1.6m, and is one of two known copies in existence.  When experts from the National Library of Scotland got it, it was rolled up in a plastic bag and "had to be handled extremely carefully as fragments of the map fell off like confetti every time it was moved."

Conservationists from the library said: "On closer examination, it became clear that the canvas backing on the map had survived better than much of the paper itself which had disintegrated in a number of places."

Conservationists Humidified The Map To Flatten It Out

Paper conservator, Clare Thomson, said that the condition of the map filled her with dread.  "Much of the paper had been lost and the remainder was hard and brittle in places and soft and thin in others.  We needed to stabilise it to prevent any further deterioration, make it robust and easier to handle to get to a point where it could be studied by researchers," she said. 

Conservationists placed the map in a humidification chamber to flatten it out.  National librarian Dr John Scally said: "This is one of the most challenging tasks our conservation team has faced and they have done a terrific job. Although significant sections of the map have been lost, the remainder has been cleaned and stabilised for future study and enjoyment.  It would have been very easy for this map to end up at the bottom of a skip but thankfully it can now take its place among the magnificent maps held within our collection."

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