Did You See This?

Out of the Flue

A Scottish “chimney rag” turned out to be something much more.

This video tells the story of conservator Claire Thompson’s incredible reconstruction of the “chimney map,” a rare 17th-century map of the world. It arrived at Scotland’s National Library in 2007 in a plastic bag looking like a bundle of vermin-chewed rags and bits. During a building renovation in Aberdeen, Scotland, it had been found in a chimney, mostly likely jammed up there to cut down on a draft.

The bundle turned out to contain one of the few maps made by renowned Dutch engraver Gerald Valck, and one of only three copies. In Valck’s day, maps were treasured works of art, meticulously rendered and worthy of display, as you can see in a detail from Vermeer’s “The Artist in His Studio.”

“Once the map was unfurled, I was able to assess its condition, which I must admit filled me with dread,” says Thompson, whose careful work in 2016 nonetheless succeeded in restoring as much of the map as possible to its original condition.