One of the largest map collections in the country is about to open at Stanford. The David Rumsey Map Center is not just big in size, with more than 150,000 items, including rare first editions. It’s also accessible world-wide because many of the maps have been digitized; more than 67,000 items.
Retired real estate developer David Rumsey has been obsessed with maps since he was a small boy, and he's been collecting for more than three decades. "I like modern maps, I like old maps," Rumsey says. "I just find them fascinating. They're art. They're science. They're history. All of those things."
Rumsey has donated his entire collection to Stanford. It includes atlases, wall maps, globes, maritime charts, and even children's maps made for school assignments. Highlights include a 19th century Jain cosmological diagram hand-painted on cloth, a leather-bound book considered to be the first true world atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), and a map from the first published edition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s Account of the Expedition.
Other map collections are represented at the center, including Glen McLaughlin's California as an Island, which tells the story of a long-cherished misconception about California held by European map makers when the New World was still largely terra incognita to them.
Rumsey says he picked Stanford over other potential libraries because he didn’t want his maps locked away in dusty archives. "In the past, these kinds of collections were more about preservation, which is good, very admirable," Rumsey says. "But we would like to change that paradigm."