New Acquisition: Arthur and Janet Holzheimer Map Collection

An unparalleled collection amassed during the past sixty years.

Holzheimer map 338 001

A sheet from Gerard Mercator's 1569 wall map. Showing the western egress of a broad Northwest Passage, as well as text describing the projection and the first large body of freshwater in North America.

The Newberry has acquired more than 250 maps to add to its world-renowned collection thanks to a gift from Arthur and Janet Holzheimer. The acquisition includes several extremely rare maps with an emphasis on early world cartography, the pre-1800 Americas, the American West, the Gold Rush period, and the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

The Holzheimers have been cherished members of the Newberry community for decades, assisting in the curation of exhibitions, providing funding that underwrote the production of a set of globe gores, and co-authoring articles for the Newberry’s Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography. Arthur and Janet have been generous supporters of a series of fellowships in the history of cartography since 2012 and have long been members of the Newberry’s Society of Collectors.

Arthur credits Kenneth Nebenzahl Jr., a former Newberry trustee and renowned antiquarian and map dealer, with helping guide his interest in maps decades ago.

“Ken was instrumental in the early days,” Arthur said. “He told me, ‘Don’t just buy maps, look at a lot of references and see which are appealing to you.’”

The Holzheimer Collection includes some of the earliest and most important sixteenth-century printed maps depicted the Americas, such as Francesco Roselli's Oval Planisphere (c. 1508) and two sheets from the giant eighteen-sheet 1569 map of the world by Gerard Mercator that illustrated his now famous system for a map projection that we still see today everywhere from on our phones to on classroom walls. 

“The primary reason I am contributing the collection is so that current and future generations will be able to further their research and add to it,” Arthur said. “It’s just as meaningful giving this to the Newberry as it was to build the collection.”

“We are grateful for Art and Jan’s contribution of this incredible, globally important collection,” said David Weimer, Director of the Smith Center and Robert A. Holland Curator of Maps at the Newberry. “This collection offers incredible opportunities for people interested in anything from the environmental history of the western U.S. to early modern art. Art and Jan's collection beautifully highlights how maps embody the intersection of so many diverse interests.”

Arthur and Janet are former residents of Highland Park and now reside in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago. Arthur’s career was in the investment business, and he saw maps as an escape from his working life.

“One of the greatest pleasures was the travel [maps] resulted in,” Arthur said, “the friends we made because of our common interest.”