In 2013 on the occasion of his 50th Lehigh reunion, alumnus Duncan Payne visited the Lehigh Libraries Special Collections with the intent of discussing a gift of atlases from his premier collection. During the course of a meeting with the Curator of Special Collections and the Archives and Special Collections Librarian, Mr. Payne marveled at the richness of Lehigh’s collection, including a 15th century portolan chart. He mused aloud about how examples from his vast personal collection might supplement the maps and atlases preserved by Lehigh for over a century. In the weeks following his campus visit, Mr. Payne shared an inventory of his vast collection of maps, atlases, and supporting texts, giving the curator the opportunity to weigh the importance of each text and determine which might best complement Lehigh’s collection of historical atlases.
Duncan Payne designated a number of rare books, including atlases and travelogs containing maps, that his family ensured came to Lehigh’s Special Collections for preservation and access. Among the atlases and Americana included in this exhibit are those donated by Duncan Payne, including a 1587 French translation of Ortelius’s Theatrum orbis terrarum that complements the English and Latin editions of the same title acquired by Lehigh in the 19th century. Mr. Payne’s bequest also included the four volumes of Braun’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, displayed in the Linderman Library Grand Reading Room. The Lehigh Libraries are most grateful for these titles and other generous gifts from the Payne family.
These remarkable maps tell a story and provide a visual representation of understanding of geography and cartography over time. Much as these atlases have enabled armchair travelers and adventurers to discover the world for centuries, the journey doesn’t stop there. Included in “Where Do We Go from Here?” are examples of faculty teaching with several of these texts and others in Special Collections. It is our hope that these atlases will continue to inspire travel, exploration, and discovery.
The exhibit will be on display in Lehigh’s Linderman and Fairchild-Martindale Libraries through December 20, 2023.
Duncan MacRae Payne: A Father, a Collector and a Legacy
Eliane Dotson, Old World Auctions
Duncan Payne was born on 14 March 1941 in Rochester, New York. He inherited his parents’ love of travel, heading off to Europe after graduating from Lehigh University with a Bachelor’s in International Relations. In Europe he became a serial academic, earning a Master of European Studies and a Master of Business Administration. Of course he engaged in more than just his studies in Europe, traveling, appreciating the cuisine, and meeting his wife, France Loupiac. After marrying in Vence, France, they headed to Paris, where my father was hired by Kimberly-Clark Europe to establish their first computer center. After living in Rouen, they returned to Paris where they lived in Les Halles near antique map and book dealers, igniting my father’s interest in early European maps.
My parents headed to the United States where he joined the marketing team at Avery Label (now Avery-Dennison), but left to participate in the buy-out of a small start-up in Oklahoma. His job required extensive travel, which often led to acquisitions of souvenirs and antique maps. Collecting maps remained a hobby until he retired, at which point he founded Antique Maps and Atlases LLC. Although his map business had only a small website and no storefront, it consumed much of his time and he was often found in his “map room”, buying and selling maps and atlases. Maps were the perfect combination of his passions for travel and history.
Most guests who visited my parents would eventually end up in my father’s map room. His passion for cartography was infectious, and he would figure out his guest’s interests and then pull items from his collection to match. As one fellow map enthusiast explained: “When I was a relatively new map collector, Duncan invited me to visit. What I remember most though was his hospitality and love for maps. I would ask about a certain topic and he would smile and say “just a minute” and soon we were looking at a new map that addressed the topic. It was like being on a treasure hunt with an expert guide that knew where all the treasure was buried!” My father had a knack for presenting maps in a way that would pique anyone’s interest.
During his retirement, my father’s map collection grew from several hundred to several thousand maps. He bought mostly at auction houses around Europe, but also became a buyer and seller of maps at Old World Auctions. Ever the entrepreneur with a keen business sense, he knew that Old World Auctions was an important player in the map world and was ahead of its time in the online auction space. In 2010, the owners notified my father that they were retiring, so he proposed a partnership in which the three of us would buy the business together.
My father was always willing to give advice about maps. His collection included maps from nearly every corner of the world, a reflection of his love of travel with excursions on six continents. He was particularly drawn to European mapmakers from the 16th to 18th centuries, with an emphasis on French cartographers -- an ode to French language, history, culture, food, and most importantly, his wife. In his later collecting career, he shifted his attention to atlases and historical books. He donated many of these important acquisitions to his alma mater, including a 1587 edition of Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, four volumes of Braun & Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, and Tocqueville’s De la Democratie en Amerique. His collection was impressive and his knowledge of maps was equally as impressive. Duncan MacRae Payne passed away on 15 August 2021.