A late 17th century rare antique wall map of the world measuring 2.2 metres by 1.6 metres (7ft x 5ft) was found stuffed up a chimney in Aberdeen, Scotland and National Library of Scotland conservators were able to save it after intricate conservation work.
The map, which was produced by Dutch engraver Gerald Valck, was recovered during a renovation work on a house and was gifted to the National Library. A similar map from the same period is shown in the famous painting by Vermeer called ‘Painter in his Studio’.
When the Library received the map rolled up in a plastic bag it was in a very poor condition, encrusted with dirt, and severely damaged in places after being attacked by vermin and insects. Conservators removed the map and it looked like a bundle of rags and had to be handled extremely carefully as fragments of the map fell off like confetti every time it was moved. 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.
Conservators at the library revealed that the work they did on the map was one of the most complex yet restoration work undertaken by the Library’s conservation department. The team carried out the work in five stages: opening and flattening the map; separating it into its original eight sections; removing the linen backing; dry cleaning and washing the paper; and re-assembling the cleaned sections onto a new paper lining.
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.”