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Los Angeles Public Library acquires massive map collection

Shell branded road map from 1939, an example of what may be found in the collection

The LA Times reports that the Los Angeles Public Library has become the beneficiary of massive map donation courtesy of a real estate agent’s recent find.  The agent was put in charge of clearing out the belongings of a man who had occupied the building but was not the owner.  He had been living in the 948 square foot cottage under an arrangement in the deceased owner’s will.  With the clause now fulfilled, the new owners planned to clear the house out, knock it over and subdivide the ample lot, which is where things got interesting.

Crammed inside this small cottage were tens of thousands of maps that the occupant had collected over his life.  The real estate agent, whose mother was a library science professor, couldn’t bear to throw out the collection, so he invited Glen Creason, the LA Library map librarian, to inspect and retrieve the collection which dwarfs the library’s own map archive.

“He has every type of map imaginable. There’s a 1956 pictorial map of Lubbock, Texas. He’s got a 1942 Jack Renie Street Guide of Los Angeles,” Creason said. “He has four of the first Thomas Bros. guides from 1946. Those are very hard to find. The one copy we have is falling apart because it’s been so heavily used. We had to photocopy it.”

The trove was apparently more of a hoard than a cataloged collection, but still contained some really neat pieces such as a 1592 map of Europe, a 1918 National Map Co.’s “Official Paved Road” guide, and countless city and county folding maps which, when added to the LA Library’s existing collection, will give the institution one of the top five map archives in the United States.

It is expected that more gems will be unearthed as the library goes about cataloging and organizing the maps, a process which could take as long as a year. The library also stated that they may have to apply for a grant to hire the manpower to sort through the massive collection, which will take upwards of 600 feet of shelving to store.

To think: had it not been for a keen real estate agent this all might have been donated to the city dump instead.

Learn more about Collectible Maps and Cartography


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