About Us

Rare Books

Martayan Lan ranks among the leading dealers in rare books and manuscripts in the world, covering early printed books in all subjects from the fifteenth century to the year 1800. We canvas the globe to find and acquire books that are rare, illustrated, important in the history of their subjects and in fine condition; whenever possible, we endeavor to handle copies of such works which are themselves significant, whether owing to former owners who were historically important, an unusual or beautiful binding, or the presence of interesting annotations. Although we pride ourselves on handling books in any subject that meet one or more of these criteria, fields of particular strength include the history of science, (especially the quantitative sciences of measurement), travel and discovery, and art and architecture. Sub-specialties within these subject fields include the history of astronomy and computing-we are the leading purveyors of first editions of Galileo and Kepler in America; the earliest printed books relating to the discovery and settlement of America as well as the history of European knowledge of Asian civilization; and architectural theory and the art and science of perspective. Our books are generally printed on the European continent, and we accordingly handle relatively little printed in English.

Notable recent rarities we have handled in these varied fields include first editions of all the major treatises of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo; a Columbus Letter-the first printed announcement of the discovery of America (1493); and a stellar copy of one of the most important treatises on the science of perspective, Pacioli's Divina Proportione (1509).

With world-wide sources of supply developed over a generation, we deal in books of acknowledged importance and those canonized on such collector's lists as Printing and the Mind of Man or Horblit's 100 Books Famous in Science.

Antique Maps

Located in the heart of Manhattan, Martayan Lan is a world-leading dealer of fine antique maps, atlases, globes, and city views. It has earned a reputation for handling top quality material of guaranteed authenticity, for knowledgeable and helpful service, fair pricing, and for creating a comfortable environment in which the collector can learn as well as acquire. We issue fully illustrated catalogues that contain informative descriptions of our offerings.

While relatively new in the United States, the collecting of antique maps has elsewhere been a passionate pursuit for centuries. Those who respond strongly to early maps bring a wide variety of interests to collecting. They may want to know about the geographic evolution of a particular area, or are curious about how the world was conceived at various times. Some seek to discover the geographic impact of the great explorers, while others desire to hold in their hands the charts that early navigators were guided by. Some want to learn of the evolution of cities or of man's conception of the cosmos.

In addition to satisfying intellectual curiosity, early maps are also objects of great beauty and rich color. It is, in fact, the unique combination of the intellectual, technical and utilitarian with beauty that is at the heart of the appeal of early maps.

A myriad of themes has been adopted in the collecting of maps. Many collect the progressive mapping of a particular area over time--whether it be a city, state, region, or larger area. World maps illustrating how the earth has been pictured over the centuries has long been a popular and important theme. Others collect the major works of the great cartographers, battle plans of the American Revolution or other wars, the mapping of the heavens, the evolution of the sea chart, atlases of various periods and types, the great works of urban cartography, or early globes. On the other hand, many find great pleasure in collecting without a defined agenda and acquire a variety of maps that have personal meaning that may, for example, be mementos of travels and cherished places. Someone now becoming interested in antique maps has the advantage of a support system that was not available ten years ago. In recent years, excellent reference works have been produced that guide the collector. However, the relative newness of map collecting, at least in the United States, makes it an especially exciting field to be part of. With the study of the area now just evolving and new approaches and questions just being formulated, the collector and dealer as well as scholar fully partake in the exploration of the field.

Although the cost of top-quality antique maps is still moderate in relation to other antiques and artwork of comparable levels, prices have risen to the point where the best material generally represents a substantial investment. Thus it is important to make the point that over the last few decades, antique maps, atlases and globes have proven to be sound financial assets. The primary reason is that the antique map market is a collector-driven one in which relatively few pieces, especially important ones, are re-sold once they are part of collections. This, combined with a steady influx of new collectors, has created an increasing demand for material. This situation has remained more or less unchanged over the last twenty years and has produced a moderate and generally steady rise in prices.