Duncan MacRae Payne: A Father, a Collector and a Legacy
by Eliane Dotson
It has taken me many months to be able to write this article, and even now it is difficult. My father, Duncan MacRae Payne, passed away on 15 August 2021. He was a great man, husband, father, grandfather, friend, entrepreneur, and collector. He was passionate about many things, and his passion for maps is the sole reason that I am where I am today. Because of him, I have a job I love and a company in which I take great pride. And to know that he was also proud of me and my achievements gives me great comfort.
I am honored that I have the opportunity to share his life, his accomplishments, and his legacy with you.
1628 edition of Sebastian Munster’s Cosmographia – the largest edition published with 262 maps and views
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, continuing his studies at Goethe Institut, Institut D'études Européennes in Geneva, and INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France, earning himself a Master of European Studies and a Master of Business Administration. Of course he engaged in more than just his studies in Europe, making friends, traveling, appreciating the cuisine, and meeting his wife, France Loupiac in Geneva. My mother was a native of France, and after marrying in 1969 in Vence, France, my parents spent their early years together in France. First they headed to Paris, where my father was hired by Kimberly-Clark Europe to establish their first computer center. After three years in Paris and one 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, which would become a serious passion later in life.
Jodocus Hondius’ extremely rare map of the western hemisphere with four carte-a-figures borders
My parents then headed to the United States where he decided his academic career wasn’t quite complete without a Master of Business Administration at Stanford University. After graduation, he joined the marketing team at Avery Label (now Avery-Dennison), but left to participate in the buy-out of a small start-up called Humco in Oklahoma. As CEO, he renamed the business Optronics, Inc. and relocated to Tulsa. Over the years, he grew the start-up from infancy to becoming a major player in the automotive lighting OEM and aftermarkets. His job required extensive travel in Europe and Asia, which often led to acquisitions of souvenirs he would bring home to his family and antique maps for himself. As he once reminisced, “I fondly remember a British ex-pat in Stanley, Hong Kong whose maps were clipped to strings from wall-to-wall in his shop/home.” Collecting maps remained a hobby until he retired from Optronics after 37 years, at which point he turned his collection into a small business, Antique Maps and Atlases LLC. Although his map business had only a small website and no storefront, it consumed much of his time during his retirement and he was often found in his “map room” in the basement, buying and selling maps and atlases. Maps were the perfect combination of his passions for travel and history and he loved to show his maps and talk about maps to anyone with an interest.
Blaeu's magnificent carte-a-figures world map with a rare blank verso in superb condition
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 his beautiful home. It didn’t’ take long to see that he was very smart, knowledgeable and articulate. What I remember most though was his hospitality and love for maps. He enthusiastically showed me many highlights of his extensive collection. 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! He also helped me think more deeply about my own budding collection. I will always remember and be thankful for his encouragement.” My father had a knack for presenting maps in a way that would pique anyone’s interest.
A 1797 ship’s passport signed by George Washington in his last few days as President
One of his favorite events each year was the Miami International Map Fair. For many years he operated a booth to sell his merchandise, and he loved meeting fellow map aficionados. He would trade stories of travel and share his knowledge of maps with those who visited his booth. One of the advantages of the fair was that my husband, Jon, and I also had a booth for Old World Auctions and we had the opportunity to spend time with him and my mother, who joined him in Miami. Hilda Masip, the manager of the fair, was always thoughtful and positioned our booths adjacent to one another. She recalls of my father: “Duncan was a great man of courage, kindness, and strength. [Duncan and France] were always one of my favorite friends from the Map Fair. They both showed great kindness to me and encouraged me in my work.” My parents were always generous with their time, their home, and their wisdom. Their positive spirit made them an inspiration to many. Even when my father was mostly wheelchair-bound and on an oxygenator full time, he still exhibited at the Miami Map Fair – it was an event he wouldn’t miss.
Dezauche’s mammoth atlas with 91 maps based on Delisle in contemporary color
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. He became friends with Marti and Curt Griggs, the previous owners of Old World Auctions, and made sure they knew that he was interested in their business if they ever decided to sell it. 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 Griggs notified my father that they were retiring. Due to health issues, he knew he couldn’t run the business himself, so he proposed a partnership with Jon and me, in which the three of us would buy the business together and he would remain a silent partner.
An 1815 edition of Pinkerton’s elephant folio-sized Modern Atlas with 61 maps in contemporary color
The first French edition of Benjamin Franklin's work, with all 13 state constitutions, the Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of Confederation
Pieter van der Aa’s folio map of the western hemisphere with the island of California and images of natives
Although a “silent” partner, my father was always willing to give advice about maps, our competition, or running a business. His limited role allowed him to focus his time on his passion of acquiring maps at auction and selling them through his website or at fairs. 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, Lehigh University, including a 1587 edition of Abraham Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, four volumes of Braun & Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, and Alexis de Tocqueville’s two-volume De la Democratie en Amerique. His collection was impressive, filling a number of metal flat file cabinets and bookshelves that lined the walls in his basement, and his knowledge of maps was equally as impressive.
An important document assuring friendship between the United States and the Netherlands signed by President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison
After his death, my mother knew that the best thing to do with his collection was to put it in the hands of fellow collectors who would appreciate it as much as he did. Jon and I agreed that we could honor him and his collection by dedicating one of our auctions to him. Our June 2022 auction will be primarily comprised of pieces from Duncan Payne’s collection, including maps, charts, atlases, title pages, and historical documents. The items illustrated throughout this article are a few of our favorite pieces.
Nicolas Sanson’s quarto atlases of Europe and Asia in contemporary color
Old World Auctions specializes in genuine antique maps, atlases and decorative graphics originating between the 14th and 19th centuries.