I always have a tendency to go overboard when I develop an interest.
While on vacation in 1988 in New York‘s Adirondack Mountains, I found myself in a small bookstore, looking through a bin of old
prints when I saw a nicely-colored old map. Because of my interest in geography, going back to when I collected stamps for a few
years as a child, I immediately recognized the coastline as that of Lithuania and Poland. The map‘s cartouche read: “GERMANO-
SARMATIA, VENEDI, et AESTIAE, PEUCINI et BASTARNAE, 1703, N. Sanson.” The store owner said he had no idea what the
map depicted, and said he was certain that was why he hadn’t been able to sell it. I had no real idea of the map’s worth, but my $70
cash offer was immediately accepted. Today, the same map in good condition goes for $750.
That purchase was the genesis of what has become (thanks originally to visits to map dealers in London and Amsterdam, and these
days primarily to Internet auctions) a gallery of 38 framed, original, antique maps of the Lithuania area all housed in my Jersey City,
New Jersey, condo, where I and my artist wife of 41 years have lived for ten years. Each map (dating from 1552) has a transparent
label on the glass, listing the date, title and mapmaker.
My wife, Aileen Bassis, a frequently-exhibiting artist and much-published poet who sometimes uses maps, has always refused to allow
me to post museum-type labels on the walls beneath the maps, saying they would make our home look too much like a museum --
my not-so-secret desire! So, as my collection grew, I created an illustrated catalog, with personal catalog numbers corresponding to
the labels and locations, to facilitate a tour – which I happily offer visitors. My potential display area is tightly controlled: my wife’s
and our friends’ art get the living and dining room walls, I get the hallways, the two bedrooms and one of two bathrooms. My wife says
if I run out of space in those areas, I can always use the ceilings.
The restrictions have forced me to be creative: my bathroom is wall-papered with non-antique Lithuanian-area maps, and our second
bedroom has a 6’ by 7’ pieced-together panoramic map (horizontally from Gdansk, Poland [and Stockholm, Sweden] to Smolensk,
Russia; vertically from Helsinki, Finland [and St. Petersburg, Russia] to Warsaw, Poland [and Gomel, Belarus]) of declassified British
military intelligence maps created to guide pilots in the event of a low-level invasion of the Soviet Union. The maps are divided into
quadrants identified with the elevation of the highest structure within them, and include heights of smokestacks, TV antenna towers
and steeples, surface markings like peat-cutting areas that would help a pilot orient himself, and known “shoot on sight” areas protected
by Soviet artillery. In the lower center of the map is a red pin -- the location of my father’s ancestral home in the Žiežmariai area,
halfway between Kaunas and Vilnius.
As of right now, I don’t yet need the ceilings to display my maps (confession: I do have a New Jersey map in the guest bathroom that
I had to fold up, onto the ceiling, for a few inches), and they have the virtue of giving me pleasure every time I walk through my home.
This website gives me the ability to display and enjoy the maps I own when I’m away from home, and to display and enjoy the maps I
may never own. I hope you enjoy them, too.
PS: I gave a lecture on the opening night of an exhibition of my larger maps at the Lithuanian Consulate in New York, February -
April 2017. Here is the invitation, and my wife Aileen, with Julius Pranėvičius, then New York Consul General, at the opening:
PPS: Want to ask me a question?
Email me at: email@example.com
|The infamous wall map, 6 x 7 feet (182 x 213.4 cm), formerly in our second bedroom, when we lived in Jersey City.
Directorate of Military Survey, Ministry of Defense, London: "Tactical Pilotage Charts," created for a low-level invasion of the USSR.
Wood Sculpture by one of my first cousins in Lithuania: Vidmantas Kapačiūnas, Žiežmariai:
Vid, a noted sculptor in Lithuania, works in
the old ways, in traditional folk themes --
including building a traditional "summer
house" and sauna without the use of nails on
his property, has a school for young
sculptors. On the right, he is being
interviewed for Lithuanian TV.
My September 2013
road trip through
Lithuania and Latvia.
|Andrew (white shirt above)
fan club" in Žiežmariai,
My lecture on"The
influence of maps
on society and art"
at Seton Hall
August 2014: Rob
Hartman, my son-in-
law and Lithuanian
Maps.com fan, in