Monday, 11 February 2013

What's in the box......

My grand plans for a quiet weekend of crafting rather fell appart - for all the nicest reasons.  On Saturday morning Mark and I decided to potter down to Tewksbury (a short hop down the M5 from Worcester).  It's an interesting town, with a beautiful Abbey church, black and white buildings and a nice range of quirky shops.  There's still an independant book and music shop, proper cafes, specialist food shops, antique shops and loads of charity shops with a nice range of good stock.  Tucked away down an ancient alleyway there's also a map shop - which specialises in second hand maps of all periods.

Now it has to be said that Mark adores old maps.  We have a considerable collection filed away in cupboards and drawers, and displayed on shelves and the walls.  It soon became obvious that I wasn't going to get him out of the shop very easily!  I actually went off to have a mooch around - then felt guilty because I wasn't helping to sift through the 1000s (literally) of maps in this shop.

When I got back I found Mark in the back room clutching this old leather box, with a slightly stunned expression on his face.

"Look," he said.  "It looks like a complete set of Cyclist's Touring Maps"  (The exact set that he's been chasing on a piece-meal basis for about 12 months).   "It's a no-brainer,"  I said.  " You've got to get it.  Find out the price and I'll give you an advance on your birthday money if necessary."

So we pottered off to find the owner of the shop in the other room.  He explained that there were actually two maps missing from the set - the two which covered the London area.  This is the area of least interest to us anyway so it didn't put us off.  We agreed an extremely good price and brought the set home.  Crafting time was sacrificed to do internet research.

By mid-evening we'd established that Stanfords (a travel book company which I believe still exists in London) had sold these leather-boxed sets between 1905 and 1911.  The circle of leather in the lid should hold a small device for measuring distances on the maps.  There should also be small leather straps that go under each set of maps to make it easier to lift them out.

We also discovered that one of the duplicate maps that Mark had already collected was an older edition - printed between 1901 and 1905.  Along the way we also picked up that there's a similar boxed series of maps for Scotland (with only 29 sheets) and that Bartholomew's Maps were an Edinburgh company.  Coincidently there's even an exhibition about the company on in the city at the moment. 
There still a little mystery.  The box has a pair of initials on the front - "T.B.".  We know from a slip of paper in the box that the set was re-sold in Oxford at some stage.  Unfortunately there's no other clue to flesh out 100 years of history. 
It's definitely got pride of place in Mark's collection.


  1. wow what a wonderful find, he must be thrilled! It would be lovely if you could one day find out more about the set and those initials.

  2. That is a treasure worth giving up a little craft time. Was the measuring tool missing completely? I love maps too but have never found a place that sold many. That little town sounds like a wonderful place to spend a day. It's so rare here to find a little town, or even a big town that has many independently owned shops. It seems like it's all chain stores now.

  3. What a treasure! That's definitely worth giving up some crafting time for.

  4. What a find. Mark must be very pleased he found this. Tewksbury sounds like a nice place, I love to go to places with independent shops, there's too many chain stores around these days.

  5. I can just imagine the thrill of finding such a wonderful old collection of maps. I find myself drawn to old maps too. They show so much history.

  6. What a fantastic find! Maybe one day Mark will come across the measuring tool and the two missing maps.

  7. Do they call it serendipity? That box was just waiting in Tewkesbury for your husband to find. One day you will find the missing items to make it complete. Wouldn't it be wonderful to find out who T. B. was?:)

  8. What an exciting find you have here! I love old leather cases like this one. I actually did a post of a leather valise I bought many years ago. I live in Texas and this valise turned out to be from Isle of Man. Maybe with some research, you will be able to connect with the history of "T.B."

  9. Your husband must be so pleased to have found the almost complete set of maps he's been searching for individually for quite a while. The leather box is intriguing and it would be interesting to try and find out more about the original owner.

  10. How wonderful and exciting this find must have been for you both. I love anything historical and an avid reader of maps. I would have been beside myself if I'd found this box. Enjoy.
    Patricia x