Brussels International Map Collectors' Circle

From our Press Review

IMCoS Journal No 73 - Summer 1998 - Pages 45-49

Talk of the town

First Meeting of Brussels International Map Collectors' Circle (BIMCC)

The BIMCC got off to a very encouraging start when 34 people of seven different nationalities gathered at the College of St. Michel in Brussels on 31st March for an informal meeting, much on the lines of the London Farmers' Club event in January.

Philippe Swolfs, the Belgian Representative of IMCoS, had agreed to chair the first session, and performed this task very efficiently. In opening the proceedings he thanked IMCoS for the excellent support given; among the 6-strong UK delegation were three IMCoS Officers (Caroline Batchelor, Harry Pearce and Samantha Pearce) who had come over together with Francis Herbert, Curator of Maps at the RGS; Jenny Harvey and Rodney Shirley had sent regrets and words of encouragement - much appreciated. Also present were the former IMCoS Representative of Belgium, Itzhak Sperling and his wife Eliane, and the Netherlands Representative Hans Kok.

Joost Depuyt of the University Library, Leuven, gave a brief talk on Ortelius and his role as a humanist; he informed the meeting about the Ortelius exhibition at the Plantin Museum in Antwerp which is due to open in November to mark the 400th anniversary of Ortelius' death. Lisette Danckaert, former Curator of Maps at the Royal Library in Brussels, added that an exhibition dedicated to Ortelius was being prepared there also.

Bart van den Herten (Leuven University) spoke about his project to produce, in facsimile book form, a large painted 16th century wall map of Brugge measuring an impressive 3.3m x 6.5m! Subscriptions are open for the book which will be published in August this year. Karel Kinds explained the intentions of the new Foundation for Historical Cartography of the Netherlands and mentioned that it will hold a map fair in Breda (NL) on 23rd/24th October 1998.

After a break for sandwiches and some drinks the meeting had the opportunity to look at, and comment upon, an impressive sample of cartographic documents brought along by many of the participants. These included an extremely rare Metellus atlas, an early map of Canada (De Laet, 'Nova Francia'), and an interesting military map of New York showing battle engagements in 1776. A rarely seen J.A. Colom sea chart of the Atlantic and coast of Portugal was presented, followed by a curious Janssonius map of the Holy Land in two sections, printed 'head-to-tail'; Ogilby's and Dapper's views of Africa were displayed, as were, of course, some maps of Flanders, including a particularly fine copy of the famous 'oval' map from Ortelius' Theatrum.

Wulf Bodenstein outlined the objectives of the BIMCC:

He was very happy, he said, with the response to the invitation for this first meeting, and with the composition of map specialists from various backgrounds achieved here; he added that a small team would be set up shortly to giver momentum to the Circle's plans and to add a new impulse to the international scene in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, and Europe.

The next morning visitors from abroad were invited to the Royal Library in Brussels, where the Curator of Maps, Hossam Elkhadem, had agreed to reveal some of the Map Room's treasures to them. Cadastral maps by cartographers Popp and Vandermaelen were on display, together with a number of beautifully preserved manuscript maps and atlases. Undisputed highlights were, however, the unique set of gores of a celestial and a terrestrial Mercator globe, and the only known copy of a Chinese celestial chart by Verbiest. A tour of the vaulted archives concluded this memorable visit.

Membership of the new Circle is open to anyone interested in the activities mentioned above. Please phone or fax the BIMCC on [...]. A newsletter will keep members regularly informed about forthcoming events and activities organised by the Circle.

Wulf Bodenstein