First, a confession: I used to think maps were for strictly for old men snoozing their lives away in gentlemen’s clubs (the type with tattered back issues of Horse and Hound magazine in them, not strippers). Then came a roadtrip to Arundel, England with my good friend Ralf. The trip down in the 1971 yellow Jag XKE was pure fun. But once we got to Arundel, and Ralf suggested we visit a map shop… well… you can imagine.
An hour later, Ralf (not exactly the gent’s club type) had completely changed my views on maps. Maps aren’t just dry snapshots of history, or navigation guides; they’re the way people establish the context of their lives. Maps tell a story. Maps are about dreams and destiny. Maps are deeply human.
But while my feelings about maps had changed, I still resisted map shops. They generally smelled a bit musty, and were run by guys who were a bit, um, musty too. Plus, these guys were usually dismissive of the novice. But Schein & Schein, on Upper Grant Street in North Beach, changed my view on map stores.
They have the goods, absolutely… but they’re also presented in a way that invites and inspires exploration and revery. There, in artfully curated displays and antique/vintage produce and shipping crates, are gorgeous, intriguing and unusual prints and maps of San Francisco and the world beyond.
(And if you can tear yourself away from the maps, look up… there’s one of the most stunning tin ceilings I’ve ever seen.)
This is a store for the serious collector of maps, antique books and prints. But it’s also for the person who may be looking for equal parts texture (oh, OK, decoration) and meaning. Owner Jim Schein (a very un-musty expert) is graciously welcoming of both. If you’re a map aficionado, you already know about these guys. If you’re not, this is a great place to learn, find yourself, and take home a piece of history and humanity.
Schein & Schein
1435 Grant Avenue, San Francisco