Bombus office manager, Hannah, dives into the world of vintage map finding to try and find out exactly how the studio team find a vintage map for your order, showing anywhere in the world:

Our vintage map collection

Working on the customer service side of Bombus, I’m used to assuring customers that we can find a map to show their treasured location, but I’ve never been completely sure how! The map room has always been a bit of a no-go area for me, so I decided to get stuck in and with the team’s help, had a go at map finding for some maps for our customer orders.

Our vintage map collection takes up a whole room in our beautiful oast house studio, over 25,000 at the latest count. We have over 15,000  maps of the UK (8500 in Ordnance survey maps alone), 8,763 of overseas locations, and 800 world Atlases.

vintage map gift

Each map tells a story

As a bit of a history nerd, I find it fascinating to see traces of our maps’ previous lives. When you open a cover to see a note from a loved one about an upcoming trip, handwritten in faded ink, it really reminds you of their history. 

Previous owners of our maps have often highlighted a chosen route or favourite lookout point, marking memories of their treasured locations forever on the page.  We occasionally see some more emotional annotations too, such as the home of an ex partner. These are rare but are definitely to be avoided when making our map gifts! 

The Ordnance Survey maps especially have had a range of uses in public planning, and as the networks across the UK have grown across the years, we find evidence of proposed routes, new housing or power lines in our maps. 

Something that we struggle with as we’re making beautiful gifts is that maps show the reality of all parts of life. Our customer may have had a beautiful wedding in the most romantic venue, and remained blissfully unaware of the nearby prison. A printed map makes things like this quite hard to avoid, so we do our best to choose an alternative scale to show the location in the best light that we can. Likewise, we can’t change history, borders or conflicts and while we are sensitive to the difficulties involved, we do rely on our customers to tell us about any specific problematic political details about their location.

Vintage atlas

I asked Amie, our studio manager, a few questions about the map finding process:

What do you wish customers understood about the maps we use?

That our maps really are quite old! Often newer housing developments and some motorways won’t yet have been built when our maps were printed, which sometimes makes it quite difficult to locate an address, especially when the landscape around it has changed so much. We love seeing the history behind the places where we live, and how they have changed over time, and we hope that our customers do as well. The most important thing about choosing vintage maps is their beautiful contours, fonts and variety of shades which make our map gifts so unique.

How do you choose the best maps to go together?

When finding a multi piece, for example our Sixteen Map Hearts, A lot of time and thought goes into the choice of maps. We know how special each location is to the gift recipients, so each map is carefully selected for its colour, vintage style and of course its scale. We choose maps which best show the area or location chosen, whilst complementing the other maps in the piece. Variety is so important to create a beautiful finished piece, so maps for these gifts are often sourced from our rarer atlases or styles.

Sixteen map hearts

Which maps do you love the most from our collection?

Everyone has their own favourite maps which they return to time after time to create gifts when they are in the finding room. So much so that you can sometimes recognise who chose the map by the style they have used!

There are some maps which we love more than others, and we’ve set these aside to show off in another blog…