A RARE map left “like confetti” after hundreds of years of wear and tear went on show yesterday following extensive conservation work.
Only two other copies of the 17th-century document are known to exist. Drawn up by Dutch engraver Gerard Valck, it was discovered under floorboards in a house that was once part of the Castle Fraser estate near Aberdeen in the 1980s.
It was later saved from a skip by builders and passed to the National Library of Scotland in a plastic sack by local schoolteacher Brian Crossan.
Loading article content
Experts separated the antique into eight pieces to allow restoration work and, though some parts have been lost, it has now gone on show at the library’s George IV Bridge building in Edinburgh.
The process included removing the map from its original fabric backing, washing it and putting it back together with a new paper lining. This includes dealing with delicate illustrated fragments as small as a postage stamp.
Conservator Clare Thomson said the document was in such poor condition she feared she would be unable to piece it back together.
She said: “Never have I worked on anything as bad as this. It was so fragmented, some of it was just like confetti.”
Viewing the result, Crossan said: “This is a truly amazing piece of work. I would never have imagined that this could have been done. I was sure the map was beyond saving and it’s great to see it once more hanging proudly on a wall for everyone to see, instead of abandoned and out of sight.”
The piece includes a world view as seen from Amsterdam in the 1600s, including the Dutch colonial ambitions. Australia is labelled New Holland and the country’s long-running rivalry with Spain is seen in a depiction of atrocities committed by Spaniards in South America.
Curator Paula Williams said: “Maps were largely symbols of power at this time. They were very expensive to make and even more expensive, relatively, for people to buy. Whoever owned this map wanted to display their own power.”
Dr Esther Mijers, a lecturer in history at Edinburgh University, added: “This map throws up more questions than it can answer. It would be wonderful if people wanted to do more research on the map and its story.”