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As well as being a Jaguar Drivers’ Club stalwart for more than three decades, and current chairman of the XK Register, Bedfordshire native Mick Duffy is a serial collector with wide-ranging tastes covering everything from 18th-century portraits and vintage pedal cars to Dinky toys.
But while his 1100-strong model collection is impressive, our interest was piqued by his passion for cartography, which led the Big Cat enthusiast to amass 52 maps of the local area in his youth.
“I was fascinated by Bedfordshire’s history when I was in my early 20s,” explains Duffy. “I’ve got quite a few books on the county, which led to an interest in local maps.
“You can trace the history of villages such as Shillington, and chart its name changes – from Shiplington to Shithing to Shytlington.
“You can see the beginnings of the canals and then railway lines, and how the towns have expanded over the years.”
The maps also serve as a silent commentary on the evolution of print: “Some of the early ones use quite a crude printing technique.
“You can see how much better they got as time went on, starting with timber block then going to copper plate; later ones were rolled out in their hundreds when the printing presses got going.
“They were mainly for travellers, and there are interesting details on each map such as the locations of public houses and coaching inns.
“A lot of the maps came in atlas books, so you’d have a map for the whole of the county. Wealthy people such as the Duke of Bedford would have maps of all his property so there were no issues or arguments about what he owned.”
Duffy’s collection ranges from the early 17th to the late 19th centuries, his prized piece being an imposing Blaeu from the renowned Dutch printing family.
“That’s the earliest and most valuable,” he explains. “It has Latin on one side and English on the other.
“I think I paid about £100 for it, but most were in the region of £15-40. You can still get them cheap because there isn’t the interest that there once was.
“When it comes to values, the size isn’t very important. It comes down to the mapmaker: who they’re by is more influential than the content, though some counties – such as Cornwall – have always been more expensive.”
Several of the collector’s examples are brighter than others, with splashes of colour that draw the eye: “It’s nice to find ones in colour, but they’re not correct.
“Originally they were black and white, and were only coloured for ornamental purposes – it doesn’t detract from the value, but the purist would want one that is unaltered.”
While the interest in cartography waned in his 30s as his business made greater demands on his time, Duffy’s passion for Jaguars has endured since buying his first Mk1 2.4 for just £150 when he was 18: “I put as much oil in it as I did petrol!”
His white 150 drophead coupé is a multiple Champion of Champions winner, while his 1960 150S roadster is one of the most significant, being both exceptional in quality and the last right-hand-drive example built.
Though no doubt proud of his maps, it’s clear that Duffy’s heart lies with his classics: “They’ve taken me places that money can’t buy and I’ve made some great friends along the way; that’s what classic ownership is about. It’s always given me more than I’ve put in, and I’ve put a lot in.”
Images: Will Williams