Trash or Treasure: Antique map has fascinating history

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Anyone who loves the history behind antique objects will be intrigued by the story behind Andy Ladak’s 17th-century map. 

“My sister found this badly framed map in 2017 in my mother's basement in Warren. Having studied it closely (without removing it from its frame) and researched it online, I'm reasonably certain it's authentic, produced by Dutch cartographer, Willem Blaeu and printed in the Amsterdam by his son, Joan, around 1665,” Andy Ladak wrote in an email to the column asking for more help with an antique map he came across. He added links to two similar maps, one of which is in the collection of the National Library of Poland. “I suspect its market value is minimal, considering its poor condition. Still our family would like to confirm its authenticity, if possible.”   

Ladak recently brought the map, entitled “Polonia Regnum, et Silesia Ducatus,” to an appraisal session with Brian Thomczek held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. Additional information he sent translated the map’s Latin title to mean “Kingdom of Poland and Duchy of Silesia.” Further information he provided gave the size as 20.5 by 16.5, and that the color engraving appeared to have been removed from an atlas.

While its provenance was unclear, Ladak had more information about the item than most. “My 94-year-old mother doesn't recall how or when the map came into her possession, but here's a plausible, much abbreviated, explanation,” he explained.

“My Polish parents, World War II survivors and former prisoners, met and married in the British zone of Allied-occupied Germany in 1946. At the time my father was an officer in a Polish military unit in Neumunster, under British command. Among his soldiers was J.E., also a former prisoner. My parents came to America as D.P.s (Displaced Persons) and settled in Detroit in January, 1951. J.E. (and others like him) followed them to Detroit within a few years. Here J.E. married a Polish woman, also a D.P. Many years later, they moved to the West Branch area, where they lived until they died in the mid-'80s. J.E. and his wife collected Polish books and cultural artifacts, a few of which (along with other household items) they gave to my parents. I suspect the map was among those artifacts. Given the chaotic conditions of post-war Europe, and of Germany in particular, it's plausible that J.E. somehow obtained the map in Neumunster (perhaps on the black market) and brought it with him to America. Most likely, it was framed here (unfortunately, ineptly).”

Thomczek  was able to authenticate the map and that it was probably torn out of an atlas. He agreed that it was from the 17th century, pointing out the foxing in the corners and other damage. “Considering its age, however, that’s not the end of the world. You could get it restored. Often with things of this age there are huge chunks missing.”

He recommend that Ladak take it either to Ken Katz downtown ( or to the Chicago Conservation Center, which also does restoration work. “Cleaning would increase its value if you want to sell it,” he added, recommending that he also look into acid-free paper and consider taking the back off of the old frame. “Make sure your hands are clean if you do, however, and wear gloves as hands are toxic to paper,” the appraiser added. In is current state, he estimated its value at approximately $175.

 Ladak said he will probably keep it. “It has sentimental value if nothing else,” he added.  While he was happy to know something about the piece, he wishes he knew more of what the map has been through since it was made almost four centuries ago.  “I may have to write a novel about this,” he mused, adding “I wish we knew how our friend got their hands on it. They may have traded it for a loaf of bread. In war time, you never know.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned

About this item:

Item: 17th-century map

Owned by: Andy Ladak

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $175 and up