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What is a rare print?

The phrases “rare print” and “original print” refer to some of our inventory that has been carefully removed from very old books. When we say “very old,” we are actually referring all the way back to the time of the first printing press and ranging to the early 20th century.

Books with similar images in them today are usually called “coffee-table books.” While one can certainly learn a lot from them, they are primarily for fun. However, an antique book from which we may get an original print was created for educational purposes. In fact, they were primarily picture-books used by the privileged to learn about the world. Like encyclopedias or even modern Google searches, the images in these books covered every imaginable topic: from ancient Roman architecture and tapestries to detailed drawings of plants and horse armor.

These prints were bound in books that had a broad range of sizes. For example, they could be as small as a page in a modern paperback book all the way up to exaggerated sizes that today’s publishers don’t even produce anymore. For example, in our gallery, we have the hardcover of a book that was over three-feet tall. So, the inventory we house on the walls of our gallery and in dozens of drawers here in Franklin, TN is filled with very old prints in nearly every conceivable size. That includes abnormally large wall maps, bigger than those found in classrooms today.

Flamingo from John J. Audubon

Rare Prints Gallery Flamingo

Original Map Collection

An “original map” or “vintage map” refers to very old maps, either as originals or reproductions. When you come into the gallery, we can show you how to tell if a map is a reproduction or original. Many of our maps are hand-colored engravings or lithographs. Some were recently reproduced while others were created ages ago. The oldest map we have in our collection dates back to 1592. It is a vintage map of France.

Long before GPS, these maps were produced by surveyors and travelers to navigate the seas and land. Many of them contain interesting references to dangerous waters and are often decorated to illustrate the world as it was known at the time. It was also common to create false islands or markers as a deterrent for travelers. The intention was literally to get them lost so they could not find the areas the map makers were trying to protect.

Original maps are an interesting way to examine how people of the past viewed certain places in the world. For example, many used to think that California was an island. We have a vintage map on display showing this very concept. Stop by and ask about it!

Something for Everyone

We have prints, maps, reproductions, and more for just about every budget. You’re not a collector? You don’t know what “rare prints” are? No worries! Come visit us and in about two minutes or less, you will understand exactly what a rare print and original map is. And if we teach you well, you will want to start collecting them too!

If you are a local or know you will be traveling to Music City, Franklin, or the middle Tennessee region, note that we host special events regularly. Some of these include guest speakers who are experts in various fields like history, medicine, horticulture, the Civil War, and so on. They will use rare prints and maps to educate guests on their topic.

To learn more, stop by and visit us or call 615-472-1980. We can also add you to the email list and notify you when those events are on the horizon so you can plan your trip around that time.

Make sure to include Franklin, Tennessee in your vacation packages!

Contact us

420 Main St, Franklin, TN 37064


+ 1 (615) 472-1980

Business Hours:

  • Sunday – Closed
  • Monday – Closed
  • Tuesday – 10-6
  • Wednesday – 10-6
  • Thursday – 10-6
  • Friday – 10-6
  • Saturday – 11-3