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‘Super Bowl of Mapdom’ set for Feb. 5-6

A 16th century map of Cuba and Hispaniola will be one of the star attractions at the 18th annual Miami International Map Fair at HistoryMiami next weekend.A 16th century map of Cuba and Hispaniola will be one of the star attractions.

By Rodolfo Roman
Special to The Miami Herald
Eighteen years ago, map collector Joseph H. Fitzgerald invited friends for a lecture on maps at HistoryMiami. Map dealers were also welcomed to set up a shop.

Today, his idea has become a recognized event for map collectors all over the world.

This weekend, map enthusiasts will have the chance to see and purchase authentic historical maps at the 18th annual Miami International Map Fair, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at HistoryMiami, 101 W. Flagler St. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children 6-12 years old. Children under 6 enter free.

“Eighteen years ago we decided to put on a Map Fair, and wondered if anybody would come.” said Fitzgerald. “Not only did they come, but 18 years later it has become one of the most prestigious map events in the world. We are honored that people come to support our event year after year.”

Miami is one of the few places in the western hemisphere to host a map fair. London and Paris also have events.

At the fair, map collectors can browse and buy antique maps from all over the world, rare books and hear lectures. Visitors also can bring their own maps for experts’ opinions.

There will be more than 50 antique map dealers from across the world and the country. Prices for maps may range from $10 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Two years ago, a rare massive map by cartographer Father Matteo Ricci was sold for $1 million.

Aside from having the opportunity to purchase a map, the event can serve as a lesson for children and adults.

“We are always harping about kids not learning geography and HistoryMiami’s Miami International Map Fair provides adults and the children this unique opportunity to understand their place in the world,” Fitzgerald said.

Collecting maps can be pricey. Two years ago, a rare massive Ricci map was sold for $1 million by cartographer Father Matteo Ricci.

The fair also serves as a chance to get started in the hobby, said map dealer Robert Augustyn of Martayan Lan Fine Antique Maps & Atlases.

“There is a good reason that the Miami Map Fair is called the “Super Bowl of Mapdom,” said Augustyn, whose company is in New York. “It is the only fair in the United States specifically dedicated to antique maps, and it is the largest such fair in the world. As such, it offers a rare opportunity for both the new and veteran collector.”

Among this year’s hot items include some of the earliest maps of Florida and Cuba. A rarity at the time, the 1566 Ferrando Bertelli map featuring Cuba and Hispaniola will be up for sale for $9,500. Also, an 1819 edition of an Arrowsmith Map of the United States and Florida will be for purchase for $28,500.

In 2010 nearly 2,000 people came to the fair.

HistoryMiami spokeswoman Victoria Cervantes said maps display how the world was seen in the past.

“Maps provide people with a window into the past and the ability to relive a memory through a recognizable landmark” said Cervantes. “Antique maps are valuable simply because they are rare and beautiful.”

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