Introduction: Quill and Ink Vintage World Map

About: Interests include wood working, wood burning, drawing, graphic design, and Biology.

Ahoy there and welcome aboard. This ible will take you on a journey along the coastlines and across all of the 7 wretched seas on a spirit of freedom and high adventure (without scurvy and other sailing-related misfortunes of times gone by). And oh, we have sea monsters too.

Poetics apart, this instructables is about how we (wife and I) manufactured the said map.

So, why draw a world map, when you can buy one, even a vintage world map replica for pretty cheap (you could buy an original ancient map if you're willing to pull from 10k up to U$100k out of the bank account)? Well, there are number of reasons why:

We wanted our world map to:

- Be composed of a special paper (an actutal calligraphy parchment with real texture and not a shiny couche with parchment print)

- Have the contemporary shape on the continents AND the layout of older 16th -18th century maps (yes South America, we'll do your shape some justice).

- Show no names of cities, states or countries. Only continent names allowed.

- Depict illustrations of vessels, sea monsters, mountain chains, amongst other illustrations.

- Use our skills with quill and ink that we are so fond of practicing (ok fine that was the original reason).

- Have our choice of theme surrounding the map section of the paper (border)

So on and so forth let's get to it alright

Step 1: Choosing a Layout

Even nowadays world maps are beautifully interesting, but in the old days they were much, much more intricate. Not all the land was charted and what was charted had sometimes severe deformations due to different projections or lack of instrument accuracy.

Apart from that, cartographers were also true artists. Some world maps were gifts produced to pay homage to a certain king, and had therefore to be worth of its highness.

Aside from defining all the land according to the latest charting information, they also had plenty of spare space on which to exert their artistic expression. Many dangerous seas teemed with mythological or purely fictional monsters, as well as ships in other empty areas and names of places were written with the most elaborate calligraphy. But the borders outside the map were THE place for extensive detail and themes like from Heaven, Sun and Moon, etc.

There are many (I mean it) high resolution scans of ancient world maps on Google Images and on websites dedicated to sell very old maps.

We figured the two semi-fused circles kind was the most interesting to us.

Step 2: Adapting the Layout

In order to fit the modern map inside the layout of an old one, we created a file with Corel Draw and commited some cartographic sacrileges to fit New Zealand and Hawaii inside the circles. We also modified the parallels so our hometown could be on the right one, and made sure Greenwitch could be at least going through England so we might just have redeemed ourselves.

Unfortunately some idiotic impulse of "I won't need this 300mb file anymore" led me to delete the final file, sorry... I should be flogged for that.

Step 3: The Print for Tracing and the Paper

So I wouldn't be crazy to freehand a world map, it would hurt my feelings too bad.

The solution we came up with was to print a full scale version of the file I mentioned on transparent vegetal/tracing paper. There are ways of printing on several small sheets but we had access to a laser printer that could print it on 2 long strips.

The paper for the map itself is called Marina Conchiglia (meaning seashell) Parchment made by Fedrigoni (an Italian company). I had one B1(700mmx1000mm) sheet laying around. I choose it because it did not absorb ink very well, which is ideal for quill and ink (you don't want the paper to soften when using a pointy metal nib on it) and besides having an beautiful color it was also translucent (important for tracing).

Step 4: Tracing the Outer Rims and Degree Markings

By this point, we were crazy to start the actual ink-job.

We taped the printed map to the back of our parchment, carefully as if our lives depended on the alignment. The last thing you need is a guide line moving around after you start tracing.

If you're a lucky mate with an actual light table, tracing the outline won't be a big trouble. Our poor crew, however, managed to bypass such a need using my mother-in-law's (glass-top) dinner table and a couple of desklamps placed on the floor. Works just as well.

Now, let's talk in practical terms.

See the scrap paper right there? Use it. Always. Every time you think of touching the parchment with your quill, make a little trace elsewhere to make sure it won't drip. As we had the very last sheet of this paper in town, we couldn't take the chance.

We started by painting the little rectangles along the circles, for they were easy and fun. Their length was enough to fit 360 of them in a complete circumference, to help navigating (not really, just for aesthethics).

Tracing the circle is relatively simple if you have a drafting compass. Take a deep breath and keep your hand steady. The black rectangles will actually help disguising any slight mistakes.

Step 5: Fixing Mistakes

Regardless of our effort for preventing them, mistakes were just dying to take a place in our map. Although getting completely rid of them didn't seemed possible, you can erradicate quite a bit of it. Because the ink seeps very little into the paper, you can remove come of it by scraping with a sharp object (we used a sturdy and pointy nib).

Step 6: Tracing the Land

This is pretty straightforward. We had some obvious limitations relative to how much we could see through the paper and how thick our line was, and also how much time we were willing to spend trying to figure out the too-numerous-to-trace shores of tiny Asian islands. Because our guide map had some underwater relief, we sometimes had to use the original image on the laptop for a clearer view of the world.

No need to pay so much attention to the contour of Antarctica either, it's not like any penguins are going to take a peek at this map.

Step 7: Adding Details to the Land

We decided to go with a parallel hatching pattern on the inner side of the land lines. This was a very time-consuming part, but it definitely gives it the vintage map look. We chose some of the most significant mountain chains to fill some of the continents and gave them a Tolkien styled pattern for it.

The outer side of the land lines was first painted with a diluted rust colored ink, but we felt it was not so good looking and covered it with a lot of blue watercolor. The land was also painted with watercolor. Ironically, the only part of the map that did not get wet was the ocean. All this water caused the paper to go from flat to wavy, which was not our intention but kind of makes it interesting (though we really wouldn't recommend watercolor).

Some soft pastel was also used to smooth out the blue areas.

The parallels and meridians were done with red ink and freehand. Because of the map's shape, the curved lines form elliptical arches, rendering a drafting compass useless in here.

Step 8: At Last, the Sea Monsters

So, after a ton of map hunting and web research, along with cropping and resizing I came up with this selection (better resolution on attached pdf). Most of the coolest monsters were extracted from an Atlas by Ortelius (the last map on the first step). Not all of these were used though.

For tracing them the same technique from the map was used (translucent paper printed on laser color).

Step 9: Border: Make It Fancy

Our theme of choice for the bottom part were scientific/artistic illustrations out of Kunstformen der Natur (artistic forms in nature) by Ernst Heackel. You can find all the 100 plates of this book in high resolution for free on

For the top part a fleur de lis and a compass.

Step 10: Done

Done but not as much as we wanted. We got to this stage 2 hours before hopping on a plane and be away for 5 years. We were very excited with the result and enjoyed a lot doing it.

On a not-so-near-future we'll add all the ocean names and a Jules Verne Extraordinary Voyages theme on the top.

We are also going to eventually frame it with a backlight and mark our trips on it.

I hope you all liked it and this will be up for voting on the paper contest.

Thank you

Step 11:

Papercraft Contest

Fourth Prize in the
Papercraft Contest

Homemade Gifts Contest

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest