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From Rags To Riches - Rare Map Goes On Display

Updated: Mar 23

A disintegrating rare antique map, found during building work on a house in Aberdeenshire, is being put on public display after complex restoration work at the National Library of Scotland.

Brian Crossan, Clare Thomson, and Les Yuill with Rare 17th Century Map ©MDHarding

From Rags To Riches - Rare Map Goes On Display At National Library of Scotland.


The ancient and rare map has been revealed to be, a late 17th-century wall map of the world produced by the Dutch engraver Gerald Valck, with only two other known copies in existence.

As the map is Dutch, it represents a world view as seen from Amsterdam, complete with colonial ambitions. Australia, for example, appears as New Holland, and the rivalry with their old enemy Spain is represented by a depiction of atrocities committed by Spanish invaders in South America.

“Maps were largely symbols of power at this time,” said Paula Williams, map curator at the National Library. “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.”

Unravelling The Chimney Map ©Trina McKendrick - Written in Film


Aberdeen schoolteacher and map enthusiast Brian Crossan, who handed it into the Library after builders had saved it from the skip, was reunited with the map today (13th March 2017) when it went on public display for the first time.

It has become known as the chimney map because it was first said to have been found stuffed up a chimney. It now appears that it was found under a floorboard, when a ceiling was taken down during renovations in the 1980s, on a house that was once part of the Castle Fraser estate near Kemnay to the west of Aberdeen. The castle is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and they have started their own investigations to try to find out more about how such an important map came to be found where it was.

Chimney Map Unrolling ©NLS


The near-ruined 17th-century map was delivered to the Library bundled up in a plastic sack but, after painstaking work carried out over several months, the fascinating detail it contains is once more revealed.

The map has been removed from its original fabric backing, delicately washed and cleaned, and re-assembled with a new paper lining. Fragments that had fallen off, some much smaller than a postage stamp, have been re-attached.

Clare Thomson, the conservator who worked on the project said, she had strong doubts when she first saw the map about being able to salvage it. “Never have I worked on anything as bad as this. It was so fragmented, some of it was just like confetti”.

The map was separated into eight sections to be able to work on it and has now been re-assembled to appear as it was originally intended. Although significant sections have completely disintegrated and been lost, enough remains to be able to tell a fascinating story.