The Chimney Map
December 9, 2017 4:55 AM   Subscribe

The chimney map is one of only three known copies of a 17th century map of world produced by the Dutch engraver Gerald Valck, which was found stuffed up a chimney in Aberdeen and saved by the National Library of Scotland. The story of its finding, conservation and unravelling has been told across three short films, as well as in the library's magazine (pdf, pages 15-18).
posted by rory (10 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I’m going to watch all of this (I’m so intrigued - and it’s my birthday so thank you for this excellent present!) - but - my number one question is: why would you stuff a map up a chimney? I’m trying to imagine the sequence of events that brought a person to the conclusion that putting a map in the chimney was the best option for whatever issue was at hand.
posted by double bubble at 6:45 AM on December 9, 2017

What a find! What an FPP! Thank you.
posted by kuanes at 6:50 AM on December 9, 2017

Many moons ago I had a professor who did restoration work for the Getty Museum. She was involved in the restoration and preservation of Egyptian funeral encaustics from the first millennium BC. The slow, meticulous and painstaking work is very familiar...
posted by jim in austin at 6:52 AM on December 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is neat! What a brain-mashing puzzle to try and piece together though.

double bubble - one of the people interviewed suggests that the fun explanation for stuffing it up the chimney is that the prominent depiction of William and Mary might have gotten someone in hot water politically but that the more likely and boring explanation is that it was just stuffed in there to block a draft.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:14 AM on December 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Thank you for this.
posted by shackpalace at 8:35 AM on December 9, 2017

One of the videos (I think it's the "finding" one) admits that it wasn't found in a chimney, but under the floor of an upstairs room, and discovered when the two floors were knocked through in the 80s.

That's a more difficult place to hide something though so if anything the mystery is even greater.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 9:15 AM on December 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh wow. That first video showing the conservation process is incredible.

The work to clean and restore the map proved to be one of the most complex yet undertaken by the Library's conservation department. It involved a variety of specialist treatments which covered five key stages:

- Opening and flattening the map
- Separating it into its original eight sections
- Removing the linen backing
- Dry cleaning and washing the paper
- Re-assembling the cleaned sections onto a new paper lining.

'Once the map was unfurled I was able to assess its condition, which I must admit filled me with dread,' said Claire Thomson, book and paper conservator at the Library.

No kidding. It seems like a heck of a responsibility. Amazing work, that.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:31 AM on December 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

These videos were amazing. I have to wonder, though, is it customary in Scotland for things found during a renovation to be "finders keepers" for the contractors? Without mentioning to the homeowner? It seems to have found its way to a good place in the end, but they gloss over this as 'destined for the trash' without anyone ever seeming to have mentioned it to the home's residents.
posted by Gable Oak at 5:19 PM on December 9, 2017

If two decent copies of the print exist elsewhere, and only a fraction of this one survives, why not simply replace it with a modern copy? We could just pretend thst it was a fourth copy that got shoved into a cabinet and was only recently recovered.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:42 PM on December 9, 2017

I have to wonder, though, is it customary in Scotland for things found during a renovation to be "finders keepers" for the contractors?

I expect this would actually have come under the rules of treasure trove finds, and should have been reported to the appropriate authorities when it was first found, so it ended up in the right place.
posted by rory at 1:18 PM on December 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

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