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Old School Atlases

As the World Turns….

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It's that time of the year again- back to school. Yesterday, as I sat in a high school parent orientation, I had plenty of time to contemplate time flowing by. So many Septembers have gone by since my kids started elementary school. Anyway, enough reminiscing. I wanted to share one of my favorite collections: antique school atlases and geography primers. I might be one of the only people on the planet collecting these.

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In general, I'm able to pick up very, very old examples of school atlases or geography primers (I have one dating back to 1819) for quite reasonable prices at auction. Many are made by highly esteemed map makers- such as Augustus Mitchell– whose larger atlases can fetch very high prices. I recently acquired a 1st edition of McNally's System of Geography from the 1840s. This company went on to become Rand McNally and to produce millions of school maps and atlases.

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It occurs to me that the value of these books is relatively low, because they have limited value as "breakers." Larger atlases are often more valuable because of the sum of their parts- with each map being sold individually. Larger atlases also tend to "break" as they are too heavy for their bindings to remain tight over time, while little school atlases often remain intact.

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I find the school atlases charming- especially when the students who used them left notes, or personalized them.

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School atlases often have fascinating and complex scientific subject matter as well as out-dated and ridiculous notions of race. Sometimes the diagrams and engravings are as interesting as the maps.

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The intermediate atlases often incorporate more complex topics such as meteorology, natural history and botany. Some of the maps can be quite colorful and unusual.

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Come in to the shop to have a closer look at these fascinating books. We have many available for sale and for browsing. Enjoy the last bit of summer and good wishes to all the returning scholars.

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