Inside the Packed Showrooms of a Prolific Map Collector - Atlas Obscura
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Inside the Packed Showrooms of a Prolific Map Collector

With 24,000 maps and 760 globes, Murray Hudson’s cartographic stash is full of treasures.

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Some of the many maps and globe in Murray Hudson’s showrooms. (All photos: © Murray Hudson)

In the warmer months of 1964, Murray Hudson was taking a summer course at Oxford University. Every day on the way to class he would pass by Sanders, an antique maps and prints shop. One day, right near the end of his course, he walked in. That was the day he became a map collector. 

Hudson entered the store thinking that he would purchase some prints for his family back home in the U.S., but was instantly taken with the shop’s maps instead. “I ended up buying 52 maps that day, and the only reason I stopped was because I ran out of money,” Hudson recalls. 

Today, Murray Hudson owns what is said to be the largest private collection of for-sale antique maps, prints and globes in the world. His collection, held in Halls, Tennessee, contains, in addition to some 24,000 maps, over 6700 books, 2690 prints, and 760 globes. 

Hudson’s collection isn’t simply the largest; it contains some of the world’s most fascinating old maps and globes. Each serves as an intricate, enchanting snapshot of an era gone by.

A 1756 French edition of the Mitchell map of North America during the revolutionary war. It was used to make international treaties up to the 20th century, and many historians claim that it is the most important map in American history. 

In addition to containing archetypal wonders such as two of the very first American-made atlases from the 18th century, Hudson’s collection boasts smaller curiosities, such as the twin miniature globes that stand at only three inches high. Each globe is carefully handpainted; one contains a map of the world, while the other shows a more fanciful map of the heavens.

The first in a pair of miniature globes from 1778 that stand at only three inches tall. The above is terrestrial, while its companion is celestial. Both are intricately hand-painted.

The second in a pair of miniature globes from Hudson’s collection. The above is celestial, and features delicately painted constellations visible from Earth.

Another remarkable standout is the oldest map in Hudson’s collection, the Isola Spagnuola, a 16th-century map of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. The wood-carved map is dotted with illustrations of sailing ships and sea monsters.

The Isola Spagnuola.

Hudson currently runs his antiquarian business, Antique Maps and Globes, out of Halls, Tennessee. As part of Obscura Day on April 16, Hudson will be presenting highlights of the collection, including the miniature 18th-century globes. If you’d like to see the treasures up close, get a ticket for the tour.

Map Monday highlights interesting and unusual cartographic pursuits from around the world and through time. Read more Map Monday posts.