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    Compiled by Joseph Schirò


    a.f., aq., aquaf., aquaforti, aquaforti fecit ‘made with strong water’. Aquafortis is the Latin for nitric acid, so this was the conventional term to mean ‘etched’. It was commonly used by a craftsman etching someone else’s image.

    A/P. Artist’s proof. See also Épreuve d’Artiste.

    Appresso. Published by.

    Apud. Published by.

    aq: tinta, aquatinta. Used of the person who achieved on the plate the tonal aquatint areas in the image – usually, but not always, the person responsible for the whole plate.

    Auct. Auctore. Author.

    A. V. Augusta Vindelicorum, that is, published in Augsburg, Germany.

    Bon à tirer. Proof print for use by the printer.

    Cael., caelavit. Engraved. Used on engravings until the seventeenth century, and a reliable indication that the image was indeed engraved.

    Chez. At the house of.

    Composuit. Drawn by, referring to drawing from which the engraver, lithographer, etc. worked.

    Cum privilegio. Privilege to publish given from some authority.

    D.D.. Dat (he gives) and dicat (he dedicates).

    D.D.D.. Dat (he gives), dicat (he dedicates), and donavit (he offers).

    Del., delt., delin., delineavit. Drew. Used of the draughtsman from whose drawing the craftsman prepared the printing surface. Compare pinx.

    Deposé. Found on French maps or prints. Shows that the print has been deposited with the authorities to protect copyright.

    Descripsit. Drawn by. See also composuit.

    Dessiné. Drawn. See del. eng., engd., engraved. Used mainly on line engravings, which combine etching with engraving, but sometimes even on aquatints which are unlikely to contain any engraved lines. Unlike the equivalent sc., this was not much borrowed by the wood engravers of the nineteenth century and so is at least a fairly reliable indication of an intaglio print.

    Direxit, direx. Directed (by head of workshop)

    Divulgavit. Divulged. Published by.

    Dressé. Drawn by. See also composuit.

    Écrit. Written by (lettering).

    Editus, in lucem editus. Published (exposed to daylight).

    Épreuve d’Artiste. E. A. Artist’s proof.

    Engraved on stone. Up to the mid-1820s this could mean merely drawn on stone for a conventional lithograph, but thereafter it is likely to indicate a stone engraving.

    Ex coll. From the collection of.

    Exc., exct., excudit, excudebat, ‘struck out’ or ‘made’. Conventionally used of the publisher of a print, but can also be found referring to the man who more literally ‘made’ it, in the sense of creating the printing surface, where someone else is credited as the publisher.

    Ex officina. From the workshop of.

    Ex Typis. From the printing house of.

    F., fec., fet., fecit, fac., faciebat ‘made’ or ‘did’. Widely but vaguely used on prints. It can be found on lithographs as well as on every type of intaglio print. It is most often used where the originator of the image has also created the printing surface, but this is far from invariable. Can also be used of a specific task – for example aquatinta fecit, meaning ‘aquatinted’, where another craftsman is credited with etching the outline.

    Formis. (Owner of the forms) used often on the Malta maps by Pietro de Nobili.

    Gez., gezeichnet. Drawn. See also delineavit.

    Grave. Engraved. See eng. for normal meaning; but also sometimes used in France on lithographs.

    H. C. Hors Commerce. Not for sale.

    Imp., impressit ‘printed’. Almost exclusively used of the rolling press and so an indication of an intaglio print; but see also imp. lith.

    Imp. lith. The lithographer’s version of the intaglio printer’s imp., meaning printed on a lithographic press.

    nc., incidebat, incidit ‘incised’. Used of an engraver, and a more reliable indication than sc. that the print is indeed an engraving.

    In., inv., invt., invenit. Inventor, invented, or inventor. Used of the original artist whose image is being reproduced.

    Lith., litho., lithog. [etc.].  An unreliable term, which can refer either to the person who created the image on the stone or to the person who printed it from the stone.

    L.M.Q. Lubens meritoque (in good faith and justly so).

    On stone. Used of the artist or craftsman who drew the image on the stone for a lithograph.

    Ph. sc., photosculpsit. Photo-engraved. Occasionally used in the late nineteenth century of the craftsman or firm responsible for the complex task of creating a process plate or block.

    Par. per. By.

    Pinx., pinxt., pinxit, ping., pingebat . Painted. Used of the artist whose original painting the print reproduces. If a draughts man is also credited (see del.), he will have copied the painting to provide the more portable image from which the print was actually made.

    Restituit. To signify retouching or restoring the plate. Lafreri, for instance, uses this term.

    Scipsit. scrip. Engraved text

    Sc., sculp., sculpsit, sculpt., sculpebat. Carved. The most unreliable of all terms on a print. Originally used for pure engravings, it was continued on line engravings which were usually more etched than engraved. It was adopted, almost invariably in the shortest form of sc., by wood engravers in the nineteenth century; and since these were the craftsmen who later took on the production of line blocks and halftone blocks, the commercial successors of the wood engraving, the term can still be found on these process prints into the early twentieth century, in three-colour work as well as monochrome. Such blocks were admittedly finished with the graver, but by then that was the only element of ‘carving’ which remained. At another extreme the term was sometimes used to indicate genuine carving, and prints reproducing Renaissance sculpture can be found which boast ‘Michelangelo sc.’.

    Secundum. According to.

    Sumptibus. At the expense of.

    ACID MIGRATION. The movement of acid from a material containing acid to one that is less acidic, pH  neutral, or alkaline. The process can occur through direct contact or vapour transfer. One of the most common problems in map preservation is the migration of acid from the backing and mounting boards used in framing. In Malta we find many frames with a wooden backing. The result may be discolouration and eventual embrittlement.


    AGE TONING. A pleasant-sounding synonym for browning. See browning.

    ANNOTATIONS/ ANNOTATED. Where a map has hand written calculations or comments on it. These can often be extremely interesting and are particularly common on old sea charts. See also manuscript notations.


    Brocktorff Giuseppe(?), 1872

    ATLAS. In geography, an atlas is a collection of maps or charts. It usually includes data on various features of a country, e.g., its topography, natural resources, climate, and population, as well as its agriculture and main industries. Although the first known atlas was compiled by the Greek geographer Ptolemy in the second century A.D., its modern form was introduced in 1570 with the publication of Theatrum orbis terrarum by the Flemish geographer Abraham Ortelius. In 1595 his close friend Gerardus Mercator published the Atlas sive cosmographicae. Its frontispiece was a figure of the titan Atlas holding a globe on his shoulders. The name Atlas subsequently came to be applied to volumes of maps and information in this format.


    AVANT LETTRE. See proof state.

    BACKED. Sometimes a map is pasted or glued onto another material, such as cloth, to make the map more rugged and durable. Many folding maps and many educational wall maps were backed with cloth when issued. Maps are sometimes backed for conservation purposes, usually with thin tissue.  Archival quality adhesive and backing material should be employed to prevent chemical deterioration of the paper. This protects fragile maps from further damage from handling. Maps should not be backed when there is no good reason to do so. Sometimes the words ‘laid down’ or ‘lined’ are used to describe the process. It is noted that some maps, particularly sea charts, were issued on a double paper, this being their normal condition.

    BADLY CENTRED. Where the map has been too hastily and inaccurately printed on the sheet.

    BAROQUE. A style of decoration developed in late 16th-century Italy characterized by exaggerated form and extravagant ornamentation. Cartouches on maps from this period were often in a baroque style.


    Coronelli, Vincenzo, 1684

    BATHYMETRY. Science of measuring water depths to determine bottom topography.

    BATHYMETRIC MAP. Maps delineating the form of the bottom of a body of water, or a portion thereof, by the use of depth contours (isobaths). See also chart.

    BIRD’S-EYE VIEW. A realistic view of a city or village drawn from a usually hypothetical aerial vantage point. See also view map.

    BISELLO. Italian term used to signify the rounded corners of a plate.

    BISOTTE. Where a mount has been cut with rounded corners (coins arrondis) to give a more pleasing presentation to the map. The mount is also cut at an angle so that the mount is flush with the print surface.

    BLEACHING. This is sometimes done to remove stains, or lighten browning. Bleaching almost inevitably weakens paper, and should not be done casually, nor should it be done without regard to modern conservation practices. Excessive bleaching gives the paper a ghostly white appearance that experienced collectors avoid.

    BLEEDING. This refers to the printing area that goes beyond the edge of the sheet after trimming.

    BLUED PAPER.  See papier bleuté.

    BORDER. The printed area toward the edges of a map constitutes the border.  In some cases, the border may consist of a simple neat line. In other cases the border may be scrollwork, geometrical designs, or even decorative panels with costumed figures or town views. Occasionally, a map may have no border at all.  Do not confuse border with margin.  See margin and neat lines.


    Beaulieu, Sebastien de Pontault de, 1646

    BROADSIDE. See Broadsheet.

    BROADSHEET. Also called BROADSIDE. It is a separately published map which is one not issued as part of a book or atlas.  It is usually printed on one side only.

    BROWNING. As the organic material in paper ages, it undergoes a chemical transformation that causes the paper to darken. The early stages of browning may produce a pleasing tone. Extreme browning is often accompanied by embrittlement of the paper.  To retard aging, maps should be protected from atmospheric pollutants, contact with cheap paper or cardboard and from exposure to too much ultraviolet light from sunlight or fluorescent lamps.

    CADASTRAL MAP.  Map showing the boundaries of subdivisions of land, often with the bearings and lengths thereof and the areas of individual tracts, for purposes of describing and recording ownership. It may also show culture, drainage, and other features relating to land use and value.

    Calotte. A round  piece of paper, similar in shape to the  skullcap worn by Roman Catholic priests, used to cover the north and south poles of the globe. See globe

    CARDINAL POINTS. The four cardinal points of the compass are north, south, east and west. See Compass rose.

    CARTA MARINA. A term applied to 16th-century rectangular world maps, usually with rhumb lines.

    CARTE à BORDURES, CARTE à FIGURES. A map which has decorative panels of costumed figures, views, and the like, at the borders. An example of such a map is the map by Sebastiano Ittar, Porto e Fortezza di Malta, Malta, late 18th century.


    Ittar, Sebastiano, undated but c.1799

    CARTIGLIO. Italian for cartouche.

    CARTOGRAPHY. Literally meaning the science or practice of map-drawing (O.E.D.). The products of precise research, the first physically accurate maps were constructed in the early Renaissance with the development of navigational aids and effective mapping tools.  The ‘scientific’ cartography that followed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, paved the way for nineteenth century expansion.  Initially created for mercenary pursuits, maps marked out trade routes between Europe and the trading posts of the East, benefiting merchants who called for new accurate maps. Gerardus Mercator, the first cartographer to use longitude and latitude for sailors, aided the pursuits of traders with his map of the world.

    CARTOUCHE. Information surrounded by a border. Cartouches typically enclose the title, the scale, or the imprint. The cartouche may be a simple rectangle or oval, or may incorporate decorative elements such as scrollwork, botanical elements, gargoyles, costumed figures, appropriate scenery, and so on.


    CATCHWORD. Is the first word of the following page inserted at the right-hand bottom corner of each page of a book, below the last line. An example is an Ortelius map of Malta with a description of Corfu on the verso of the map. The catchword Corfu is the first word of the following page.


    Ortelius, Abraham, 1583


    Ortelius, Abraham, 1583 (verso)

    CENTREFOLD. Many old maps have been removed from atlases. Often such maps have a vertical fold down the centre. Opening and closing the atlas often results in a weakening of the paper at the centrefold, frequently necessitating repair. Browning tends to occur at the centrefold because the paste used to hold the map in the atlas attacks the paper. See also stub.


    CHAIN LINES, CHAIN MARKS. Part of the visible impression left by the wire grid used in the fabrication of laid paper.  The chain marks are the coarsely spaced lines running parallel to the short dimension of the original sheet. They are typically about 1 inch (25 mm.) apart. See also laid lines and laid paper.


    Bellin, Jacques Nicolas, 1764

    CHART. Charts or sea charts are a specific category of maps which focus on the oceans and seas and their key features. Coastlines are important in delineating the boundaries of the seas, but the interior of the land masses are of secondary importance and generally left blank.


    Spratt, Captain Thomas, 1858

    CHROMOLITHOGRAPHY. This late 19th century printing process, which stemmed from the process of lithography, permitted the use of very bright colours and was important although short-lived when it was replaced by offset printing in the late 1930s. Some quite beautiful maps can be found printed by this method.


    Brocktorff, Giuseppe?, c.1850

    CIRCA (c). The word Circa and its symbol (c.) means approximate. When dating old maps sometimes the precise date of issue is not known so an approximate date e.g. c.1759 is used to define a period of time when the cartographer flourished and was known to have worked on similar maps. According to the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, with dates, circa abbreviated c. is set close to figures without a space.

    CLEANED. Where a map has had the rust stains or spotting removed by immersion in a solution (often bleach and water).

    COAST VIEW. Sometimes maps are embellished with ‘coast views’ or ‘appearances’. These are usually found on charts and show how land would look from out at sea. Also called COASTAL PROFILE.

    Smyth Valletta - Copy

    W. H. Smyth, Plan of the Harbours and Fortifications of Valletta… (detail), 1823.

    COEVO.  Italian for contemporary.

    COLLECTOR’S MARK.  A collector’s mark is everything affixed to a print, drawing or map that indicates an ownership or provenance. Marks can be ink-stamped, blind-stamped, embossed or hand-written on the recto or verso of a work or art, or on the mount. The mount itself may serve also as a sort of collector’s mark.


    Durheim, Carl, c.1840

    COLOURING. Colour applied to the map, usually watercolour applied by brush. Colouring generally greatly enhances the appearance of decorative maps, but not all maps were intended to be coloured. Maps which were coloured at the time when they were printed are said to have ORIGINAL COLOUR, OLD COLOUR, or CONTEMPORARY COLOUR.  When maps are recently coloured, they are said to have LATER COLOUR or MODERN COLOUR.


    Jansonnius, Johannes, 1657

    COMMENTARY. These are written descriptions found on the face or within the borders of a map that discuss aspects of geography, history, and politics of its subject.

    COMPASS, POINTS OF.  The points of the compass are:

    Oriens - the rising sun, the East;

    Occidens - the setting sun, the West;

    Meridies - the midday sun, the South. Sometimes also found as

    Ostro. In fact the word Australia is derived from ‘ostro’.

    Septentriones – the seven stars of the Great Bear, the North.

    COMPASS ROSE.  Sometimes called a wind rose, a compass rose is a small starlike device used to indicate direction, often found in combination with radiating rhumb lines.  North is usually indicated by a pointer on the compass rose. The points of the compass mark the divisions of the four cardinal directions: North, South, East, West. The number of points may be only the 4 cardinal points, or the 8 principal points adding the intercardinal (or ordinal) directions northeast (NE), southeast (SE), southwest (SW), and northwest (NW). Further intermediate points are added to give the sixteen points of a wind compass as shown in the map below.


    Detail from Danet, Guillaume, 1723


    Warda tar-rjieħ. The 16 cardinal pints are the following:

    North               Tramuntana (Ix-Xmiel)

    North North East        Grieg it-Tramuntana

    North East        Grigal (Riħ barra)

    East North East        Grieg il-Lvant

    East                 Lvant (ix-Xarq)

    East South East            Xlokk il-Lvant

    South East        Xlokk (Riħ isfel)

    South South East         Nofsinhar ix-Xlokk

    South               Nofsinhar (Il-Qibla)

    South South West          Nofsinhar il-Lbiċ

    South west       Lbiċ (Riħ l-art)

    West South West        Punent il-Lbiċ

    West               Punent (l-Għarb)

    West North West        Punent Majjistru

    North West      Majjistral (Riħ fuq). Called also provenz

    North North West        Majjistral it-Tramuntana


    COMPOSITE ATLAS.  An atlas compiled, often to order, by a map seller from maps on hand.  Maps by different map-makers are often bound together in such atlases. See also Lafreri atlases and IATO atlases.



    Fleur de coin: being in the preserved mint condition

    Some faults

    Light toning

    Only example known or extant



    Not known to Tooley

    Not in BM/BL, etc

    Special edition

    Coloured by hand

    Coloured by a contemporary hand

    Old colour

    CONTEMPORARY.  Indicates something done at about the time the map was published, for example, contemporary colouring.

    CONTOURS. Contours are lines joining points to show elevations above sea level and the surface features or shape of the land surface. The relative spacing of the lines indicate the relative slope of the surface. See also hachuring. 

    COORDINATES. Maps can contain systems of coordinates of longitude and latitude frequently marked along their borders.


    Baer[or Beer], Johann Christoph, (1673-1753)

    COUNTERMARK. Countermark is the smaller or subsidiary watermark found in antique papers in addition to the main watermark. It served, as a rule, to indicate the name or initials of the paper maker.

    COPPER ENGRAVING. The method of engraving & printing maps from copper plates and used by engravers from the 16th century until the early 19th century. About 800-1000 ‘pulls’ or images could be taken from the plate before it needed to be re-engraved or re-etched. See also Engraving.

    COPYRIGHT. See privilegio.

    CROSS-CENTURY. Where maps are printed in the early 19th century, for example using old stocks of 18th century paper. Strange as it may seem paper type/quality changes quickly from one century to another but of course old stocks of paper from the former century were often used up in the new century until they were exhausted. This can be difficult when dating a map, but then the printing styles change too so it is usually not too difficult to see what has happened.

    CRUMPLED. Where a map has been badly handled and creased.

    CUT CLOSE. When a map has little or no margins.


    Anonymous, early 16th century

    DECKLE-EDGED. Used to characterize hand-made paper retaining the original rough edges as produced by the papermaker. Most maps have the deckled edge trimmed off during binding, and deckle-edged maps are considered quite desirable.

    DECORATIVE. Having definite aesthetic appeal. Decorative elements can include animals, sea monsters, mermaids, scrollwork, costumed figures, putti, and so on. Many consider the first half of the 17th century to be the pinnacle of decorative map-making, though many beautiful maps were produced before and after that time. One of the most decorative maps of Malta is Johann Baptista Homann’s Insularum Maltae et Gozae…, Nuremberg, 1720.


    Homann, Johann Baptist, 1720

    DISSECTED.  Cut into sections. This is often done with large maps, which are cut into rectangles and pasted to cloth so that they can be easily folded down to the size of a single section either for easy carrying and storage or for inclusion in a book. An example of a dissected map is Brocktorff’s’s Map of Malta and its Dependencies, 1847.


    Brocktorff, Luigi, 1847

    EATEN INTO. Where a map or a print has been coloured with a paint that had a corrosive content (often the colour green – also called verdigris).


    EDITION. An edition consists of the impressions made from a distinct state of a plate.

    EDITION STATEMENT. In the edition statement one often finds the publisher, the printer and the date when the map was published.

    ENGRAVING. A printing process employing a metal plate on which has been scratched a design.  When ink is applied to the plate, and the plate wiped, ink remains behind in the grooves.  A dampened sheet of paper is laid onto the plate and under pressure the inked design is transferred.

    ETCHING. A printing process similar to engraving, except that the plate is produced by coating it with an acid resistant material upon which the design is scratched. The plate is then immersed in acid to eat away at the scratched areas, creating the grooves to hold the ink for printing.

    EXTENDED. See remargined.

    FACSIMILE MAP. Copy but often quite old too.

    FILIGRANOLOGY. See watermark.

    FOLIO. A folio book is bound from sheets of paper folded one time.  A map from such a book is sometimes said to be folio-sized.  Typically, the vertical paper dimension of a folio map is greater than about 24 cm.  Large folio maps would be about 45 to 55 cm, and imperial folio greater than about 55 cm.

    FOLDING MAPS. The convenience of having maps that fold into a small size has been obvious ever since maps became items that were sold to the general public. For those wanting to take a map with them when they travelled, these maps could be slipped into a saddle-bag, pocket or suitcase. Even those who stayed in one place found that the compact size and protective covers made folding maps a practical alternative to having maps in atlases. Most folding maps were made by dissecting the printed map into several sections, which were then mounted onto linen or some other cloth, with a small gap between the sections so they could be folded together without wear.


    FOXING. Small, usually brown, spots on the paper caused by mould. Foxing often results from storage in damp conditions.


    GLOBE. A sphere on which is depicted a map of the earth called a terrestrial globe or of the heavens called a celestial globe. It usually consists of 12 gores and sometimes has 2 calottes at the north and south pole.

    GORE.  A section of a globe printed on paper, intended to be cut out and pasted to the surface of a sphere. Gores are usually shaped like an American football.


    Possemirs, A., c.1680.

    GUARD MOUNT. The system by which maps are inserted into the back of a book between two guard mounts.

    HACHURING. Hachuring in maps is done with crossed or fine lines to represent relief.  They show orientation of slope, and by their thickness and overall density they provide a general sense of steepness. Steeper slopes are represented by thicker, shorter strokes, while gentler slopes are represented by thinner, longer and farther apart strokes.  A very gentle slope or a flat area, like the top of a hill, is usually left blank.

    In 1799, the Austrian military topographer Johann Georg Lehmann was the first to establish rules for systematically representing terrain with hachures. During this period, the adoption of copper engraving techniques allowed reproduction of very detailed hachure maps. See also relief shading.

    An example of such a map is Boisgelin’s map of the Maltese Islands.


    Boisgelin de Kerdu, Piere Marie Louis de, 1804

    IATO atlas.  See Lafreri atlas

    IMPRESSION.  A single copy of a map.  For example, if 1000 copies of a map are printed, there will be, at that time, 1000 impressions.  Occasionally, it is possible to distinguish between early and late impressions of copper engravings.  Copper is soft, and tends to wear.  Therefore early impressions tend to be darker, and sometimes faint lettering guidelines used by the engraver are visible on impressions made early in the plate’s life.

    IMPRINT.  Information printed on a map giving some combination of the publisher, place of publication, or date of publication.


    INCUNABULA, INCUNABLE.  Terms used to describe books printed prior to 1500 A.D., and also to maps printed before that time.

    INLAID. See remargined.

    INSERTION. Map inserted in a publication. Notable examples are those inserted into The Illustrated London News and Gentlemen’s Magazine.

    INSET MAP.  A smaller map within the border of a larger map. An example of an inset map is the Villamena map of Valletta published in Bosio’s Dell’Istoria della Sacra Religione et Ill.ma Militia di San Giovanni Gierosolimitano, Parte Terza, in Rome, 1602 with an inset map of the Maltese islands within a decorative cartouche.


    Villamena, Francesco, 1602-1622

    ISSUE.  All impressions printed at one time without alteration of the plate belong to the same issue.  Thus, if two impressions are different states, the plate has been altered and they cannot belong to the same issue. However, an unaltered plate might have been used several times over a period years. In that case, the several issues would all be of the same state. Issues can sometimes be distinguished by the watermark, since different paper might have been used for each issue. For maps from atlases, different issues can often be distinguished by the text on the verso.

    FILIGRANOLOGY. See watermark.

    ICHNOGRAPHIC VIEW. See Orthogonal view

    IRONED OUT. Where a map has been flattened to remove creases or surface defects’

    KEY. Maps may have keys to placenames indicated in the maps either with numbers, letters or symbols. An example is the map of Malta published in Giovanni Francesco Abela’s Della Descrittione di Malta published in Malta in 1647. Also called LEGEND.


    Abela, Giovanni Francesco, 1647

    LAFRERI ATLAS. A  term used to describe 16th-century Italian composite atlases of printed maps. These were apparently often made to order, and contents vary from atlas to atlas. The expression IATO atlases – Italian, Assembled To Order, was coined by Tooley because he claimed it reflected more accurately the origin and make-up of such atlases.

    LAFRERI MAP, MAP OF THE LAFRERI SCHOOL. Terms often applied to Italian maps of the 16th-century, particularly those issued separately or in composite atlases.

    LATER COLOUR. See colouring.

    LAID DOWN. See backed.

    LAID LINES. Part of the visible impression left by the wire grid used in the fabrication of laid paper. The laid lines are the finely spaced lines running parallel to the long dimension of the original sheet.  There are typically 25 lines per inch (10 lines per cm). Formerly referred to as ‘wire-marks’. See also chain lines and laid paper.

    LAID PAPER.  Handmade paper made by depositing cloth fibers suspended in water onto a wire grid.  The grid leaves an impression on the paper, which may be seen when looking though the paper at a bright light.  Most maps before about 1800 are printed on laid paper.  See also chain lines, laid lines, and wove paper.

    LEGEND. See key.

    LIBRARY STAMP.  See collector’s mark.

    LINED.  See backed.

    LITHOGRAPHY.  A form of printing first used for maps early in the 19th century. The image is printed from a stone or other material on which ink adheres only to specially treated areas. See also chromolithography.

    LOSS OF (PRINTED) SURFACE.  A cataloguer’s term used to describe a map in which a portion of the printed area is missing. Sometimes maps lacking printed surface are restored by pasting paper in the missing area on which the design is reproduced in facsimile or painted in. See also bleeding and shaving.


    Van Keulen Johannes 1682


    detail of map above

    LOXODROMIC LINES. See rhumb lines.

    MAGNETIC NORTH. See north

    MANUSCRIPT. A manuscript map is one drawn by hand.

    MANUSCRIPT NOTATIONS. are handwritten notes on a map.


    MARGIN. The blank area outside the border of a map. Do not confuse margin with border.  See border.

    MARIE-LOUISE.  A French term for a type of decorative mount used to display maps, prints etc (usually watercolour lines) which recall the dominant colours in the map and are discreetly drawn around the border.

    MEDALLION.  A circular or oval region, usually containing a portrait, sometimes used to embellish maps.

    MERIDIAN.  From the Latin ‘medius’ meaning middle and ‘dies’ meaning day. A semi great circle joining the earth’s poles known as lines of Longitude crossing the equator and all parallels of Latitude at right angles.  See also prime meridian.

    MINIATURE MAP.  A miniature map is a map which has an area including the border of up to 150 square centimeters. See also thumbnail map.


    Muller, Johann Ulrich, 1702

    MODERN COLOUR.  See colouring.

    MOULD PAPER. See wove paper.

    MOUNTED.  See backed.

    NAUTICAL CHART.  A nautical chart is a graphic representation of a maritime area and adjacent coastal regions and is an essential tool for marine navigation. An example is the van Keulen map depicting Sicily, the Barbary coast and the Maltese islands with an inset map of Valletta.  See also rhumb lines.


    Van Keulen, Johannes, 1682

    NEAT LINES. The straight, printed lines separating the body of a map from the map margin. Sometimes called tidy line.

    NORTH. When showing the cardinal points,  maps sometimes show not only the true north but also the magnetic north. True North is the line from any point on the earth’s surface to the north pole. The  Magnetic North is the direction to the north magnetic pole, as indicated by the north-seeking needle of a magnetic instrument. See also compass.

    brock 006

    Brocktorff, Luigi, 1839.

    OCTAVO. An octavo book is bound from sheets of paper folded in half three times.  A map from such a book is sometimes said to be octavo-sized. Typically the vertical paper dimension of such a map is about 8 to 9 inches (20 to 23 cm).  Abbreviated, 8vo.

    OFFSETTING.  When the surface of a map contacts another surface for many years, as in an atlas, there may be a transfer of printer’s ink or colour, or a chemical reaction, which faintly reproduces a mirror image of the other surface. Offsetting can even occur from one part of a map to another if the map is folded on itself.

    OLD COLOUR. See colouring.

    ORIENTATION. The direction of the map with reference to the points of the compass.This is the reason why sometimes the island of Malta is shown upside down. It would be oriented south instead of the conventional north that we are now used to.

    1590 Porro p. 58 no. 239(a)

    Porro, Girolamo, 1590

    ORIGINAL. An original is a map or view printed from the original plate, block, or stone before it has been retired from commercial use. Sometimes the last user does not destroy the plate or block, and it is later used to make restrikes.

    ORIGINAL COLOUR. See colouring.

    OROGRAPHY. Orography is the branch of physical geography that deals with mountains, hills, and any part of a region’s elevated terrain. There are orographic maps which show topographic relief, and maps which are completely devoid of orography, such as this map of Malta by Jacob Bryant.


    Bryant, Jacob, 1807

    ORTHOGONAL VIEW. Also called ichnographic view. These plan maps show the plan of the town or village directly from above very much like architectural plans. An example is Stockdale’s plan of Valletta.


    Andrews, John, 1800

    OUTLINE COLOUR. Colouring that is applied to old maps only around the boundaries, borders, or coastlines.

    OVEREDGE. Any portion of a map lying outside the neatline. An example is Pierre Du Val’s State 2 of the miniature map of Malta (post 1660 edition) where a tiny part of Gozo marked Le Goze was added. It is missing in State 1 of the same map.


    Du Val, Pierre, post 1660

    PANELS. Usually rectangular frames around the outside of a map enclosing views, scenes, or figures. See also carte à bordures, carte à figures.

    PAPIER BLEUTÉ. Bluish paper. Also called blued paper.

    PAPIER VERDATRE. Grey/Green tinted paper.


    From Atlas Portatif Universel by Gilles, Robert de Vaugondy, 176_?

    PANORAMIC VIEW. A realistic depiction of a city or village from a point on the ground, often covering a wide horizontal angle.

    PERIPLUS.  pl. PERIPLI. Sometimes spelled PERIPLOUS, so plural, PERIPLOI.  A manuscript document of sailing directions used in classical times that listed, in order, the ports and coastal landmarks, with approximate intervening distances, that the captain of a vessel could expect to find along a shore.

    PINHOLED. Where a map has been used and pinned up for display as in teaching geography or navigation.

    ‘PLANO’ BINDING. A ‘plano’ binding is when maps are bound flat and hence with no folding line in the middle of the map.


    From Atlas Portatif Universel  by Gilles, Robert de Vaugondy, 1748

    PLATE.  Strictly speaking, the plate is the object from which impressions are made. Sometimes the plate becomes worn or damaged, and is replaced with a second plate. Impressions from the second plate are sometimes referred to as something like “2nd Plate”.

    PLATE MARK. Impressions made from metal plates often show an indentation of the paper extending to just outside the printed area, made when the paper was crushed by the plate during printing. Some reproductions have a false plate mark.

    PORTOLAN CHART. A manuscript sea chart prepared for the use of mariners from about the 14th through the 16th-centuries.

    PORTOLANO. A collection of written sailing directions in text form, indicating prominent coastal landmarks mostly drawn or marked perpendicular to the coast within the land area and indicating also navigational hazards sometimes marked with small crosses.

    POST ROAD MAPS. Post road maps showed road systems as a means of guidance for travellers. In 1675 Ogilby published the Britannia – a Geographical and Historical Description of the Principal Roads thereof consisting of 100 maps of the principal roads of England and Wales, engraved in strip form, giving details of the roads themselves and descriptive notes of the country on either side, each strip having a compass rose to indicate changes of direction. Post road maps were also used to establish a distribution network for public mail.

    PRIME MERIDIAN. In 1880 international agreement was reached to accept the longitude of Greenwich, England as the Prime Meridian from which all sea time is measured. Prior to that England, Spain and France had their own Meridians through the Azores, Paris and London. Some early sea charts included all three Meridians on their surface.

    PRINTER’S CREASE.  When a map is printed, a small wrinkle in the paper may be compressed to form a permanent crease.

    PRIVILEGIO. Sometimes maps have the words cum privilegio added to the imprint to show that the publisher enjoys the copyright which protected him from plagiarists. The privilege was usually limited to a number of years.

    PROOF STATE.  A map printed by the printer as an example before the main printing process begins. When a sheet is proof-printed before the lettering is added, it is called avant lettre.

    PROPAGANDA MAPS.  Maps, often leaflets, dropped over an adversary to diminish their morale.  There is an example of a propaganda map in the Church Museum in Birgu and some very strong examples were dropped in WWII by the Luftwaffe over the retreating troops in northern France.


    QUARTO. A quarto book is bound from sheets of paper folded in half twice. A map from such a book is sometimes said to be quarto-sized. Typically the vertical paper dimension of such a map is about 23 to 28 cm. Abbreviated as 4to.

    RAILWAY MAPS. See Map of the Islands of Malta and Gozo From the Colonial Office List for 1887.


    RECTO. The side of the paper on which the image of interest appears.  Also, the right-hand page of an open book.  See also verso.

    RELIEF SHADING. Technique for making topography on a map appear three dimensional by the use of graded shadow effects.Generally, the features are shaded as though illuminated from the northwest.

    REMARGINED.  A remargined print has had paper added to three outer edges to extend them, protecting the original edges, and improving the appearance. If it is the inner margin only where the print was once attached to the book, the proper term is EXTENDED.  If all four margins have had to be renewed, the map is described as INLAID.

    REPRODUCTION.  A copy, usually photographically produced, of an original print.  The reproduction may in some cases be difficult to distinguish from the original.

    RESTRIKE.  A map or view printed from the original plate, block, or stone, after the plate, block, or stone had fallen into disuse. The collector of maps will seldom, if ever, encounter restrikes since few plates or blocks have survived.

    RHUMB LINES.  Lines criss-crossing old charts at various angles, usually along the directions of the compass points, to help plot courses. Sometimes also called loxodromic lines.

    ROCOCO. A style of ornamentation evolving from the baroque in early 18th-century France distinguished by refined use of scrollwork, seashells, foliage and so on. Rococo-style cartouches are often found on maps of the 18th-century. A style much used by Jacques Nicolas Bellin, Hydrographer to the King in Paris in the 18th century to decorate his maps and charts.

    SCALES. Scales allow the user to compute distances on them. A Map Scale is a ratio representing the relationship between a specified distance on the map and the actual distance on the ground. For example, at the scale of 1:50 000,1 unit of measurement on the map equals 50,000 units of the same measurement on the ground. Some maps may have more than one scale.


    SCUFFED.  Where the surface of a map has been rubbed and the surface raised.

    SEPARATELY PUBLISHED, SEPARATELY ISSUED.  A separately published map is one not issued as part of a book or atlas.  Sometimes maps usually found in atlases were also separately sold to customers who did not need an entire atlas.  Separately issued maps tend to be in poor condition since they were not protected inside a book. See also broadsheet.

    SHAVING.  Shaving is a term used when part of the printed area is touched after it has been trimmed.  Also called bleeding and loss of printed area.

    SOLD AS IS.  When a map is in poor condition but is nevertheless offered for sale because it is very rare or significant or of a country/area in great demand.

    STATE.  All impressions printed from a given plate, without deliberate alteration of that plate, belong to the same state. If the plate is altered, for example, by adding a new place name or changing the date, impressions from that plate constitute a new state. Some maps have a dozen or more states. States are usually numbered serially.  However, “intermediate” states often turn up later. When giving a state number, one should specify who numbered the states, since different authorities often have different numbering. If a new plate was cut, the state numbering may start anew, as in “first state of the second plate.”

    STATO. Italian for state.

    STEEL ENGRAVING. A method of engraving and printing from steel plates which became popular in the mid 19th century. As steel was a much harder substance than copper, many more images could be printed from the plate before it needed to be re-etched. See alsoengraving and copper engraving.

    STIPPLE ENGRAVING. Engraved using dots.

    STITCHED IN. Where a map was inserted into book by stitching it in with string or thread.

    STUB.  A stub is a narrow piece of paper which has been adhered along the fold of a map to be able to bind it together with other maps into an atlas. See also centrefold.

     THINNING. Where paper thickness varies on a printed sheet for reasons of poor manufacture

    THUMBNAIL MAP.  Thumbnail maps are tiny and rudimentary and are usually found on playing cards or other games.  An example is Casimir Freschot’s map of Malta.


    Freschot, Padre Casimiro, c.1680

    TIDY LINE.  See neat line.

    TOPOGRAPHY. Detailed description and representation on a map of natural and artificial features of a town, district or region.

    TOPONYMS. Place names found on maps.

    TRENCH MAPS. Trench maps from the first and second world wars are very collectable and are becoming more and more sought after. Maps of Malta’s Dwejra or Victoria Lines can be considered to be trench maps.

    TRUE NORTH. See north

    VARNISHED MAP. See verni

    VERMOULURE/S.  Where a worm has eaten into a map or book.  See also worming.

    Verni. Where a map has been varnished.


    VERNISSAGE.  Official opening of a new map gallery or exhibition.

    VERSO.  The reverse or opposite side of the sheet from the image of interest.  Many maps from atlases have text on the verso. See also recto.

    VIEW MAP. A map which shows a bird’s eye view of a built-up area such as towns and cities.  See bird’s-eye view. See also orthogonal or ichnographic view

    VOLVELLE. A contrivance with moving parts for making certain astronomical calculations, sometimes made of paper and found in old geographical works. An example is Robert Dudley’s Arcano del Mare, Florence, 1646-47.


    Dudley, Robert, 1646-47.

    WALL MAP. A large map, typically four or five feet (1.5 m.) on a side, with a top rail and a roller, designed to be displayed on a wall.  Many are very decorative. Because wall maps are easily soiled and damaged, many were discarded, and examples of early wall maps are quite scarce and often in bad condition.

    WATERMARK. A design in the paper visible by transmitted light. For handmade paper, the watermark is made with bent wires placed on the mould on which the fibres are deposited to make the paper. Designs vary from simple initials to intricate coats-of-arms.  Watermarks are often helpful in identifying the age of the paper. The study of watermarks is called FILIGRANOLOGY. See chain lines. See also countermark. For books on watermarks available in Malta, see MMS Newsletter Vol. 1 Issue No. 1, pp.4-5.


    WARDA TAR-RJIEĦ. See Compass Rose in Maltese

    WAX STAINED. When a map has got wax stains from being examined by candlelight.

    WIND FACES or WIND CHERUBS. Related to compass roses in function and ornamentation, wind faces or cherubs were usually portrayed as cherub heads surrounded by clouds. These elements were most found in early maps of the sixteenth century. An example is the map of the world by Battista Agnese (1514 – 64)and in Giovanni Miriti’s (1536-1590?) world map. See also compass rose.


    WIND DIRECTIONS. See compass rose.

    WIND ROSE.  See compass rose.

    WIRE-MARKS.  See laid lines.

    WOODCUT. An image made by printing from a wooden block on which a mirror image of the design has been carved. Woodcut maps are most often associated with the earliest days of map-making, up to about 1600, but many examples are found well into the 18th-century and later, often as text illustrations.


    Quintin, Jean, 1536. First printed map of Malta


    WOOD ENGRAVING.  Similar to a woodcut, but the design is engraved on the end grain, resulting in better detail and a somewhat more uniform appearance. Since the size of exposed end grain is limited by the diameter of the tree trunk, it was usually more economical to cut the design on small squares, which can be glued together for final printing. The joint lines are often visible, for example on the views in Harper’s Weekly.

    WORMING, WORMHOLES, WORM TRACKS. Damage caused to paper by hungry insect larvae that eat the paper, leaving small holes or tracks.


    WOVE PAPER.  Wove paper is paper which does not exhibit any wire marks such as laid paper.  If the paper is hand made, the mould is a woven wire mould, and if it is machine-made paper it is produced by means of a dandy-roll. Wove paper came into use around 1800, and is often watermarked with the maker’s name. Sometimes also called mould paper.



    Carter, John, ABC for Book collectors, Werner Shaw Ltd, 1994.

    Gascoigne, Bamber, How to Identify Prints, Thames & Hudson, 2009.

    New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, Oxford University Press, 2005.

    Oxford English Dictionary.

    Paolini, Claudio, Glossario delle tecniche artistiche e del restauro, Edizioni Palazzo Spinelli, 2005.

    Reinhartz, Dennis, The Art of the Map, Sterling, New York, 2012.

    Salamon, Ferdinando, Il conoscitore di stampe, Umberto Allemandi & C., 1986.

    R.V. Tooley, ‘Maps In Italian Atlases’, Imago Mundi, III (1939), p.12.

    Pflederer, Richard, Finding their Way at Sea, Hes & De Graaf Publishers, Netherlands, 2012.

    Soler, William and Albert Ganado, The charting of Maltese Waters, BDL, Malta, 2013.

    Van der Krogt, Peter, ‘Latin texts on old maps: Elementary Latin grammar and cartographic world lists’ in The Portolan, Winter 2007, 16pp.