Many Westporters have seen the H. Bailey map of Westport.
Drawn in 1878, it’s an “aerial” view of the town. Every house, shop and church is shown, precisely where it was. It’s a fascinating view of a thriving village. Every time I see it, I learn something new — about the Westport of nearly 150 years ago, and how we got where we are today.
Robert Augustyn is an antique map dealer. He’s spent most of his professional life examining maps like these.
He’d planned to spend his life teaching English. But in the late 1970s, a job with a New York dealer he thought would be temporary turned into his passion.
Eventually he owned Martayan Lan, a New York City hub for collectors of maps, atlases, rare books and manuscripts from the 16th to 19th centuries.
But the market softened. When the lease ended last summer, Augustyn closed the gallery.
He and his wife Katie have lived here for 25 years. She’s a very involved civic volunteer.
Now he had time to join the Y’s Men, mentor young people, and teach tennis through Bridgeport’s First Serve program.
Slowly too he developed his own antique map and fine prints business here. He built up inventory, created a website, and began selling online.
But it’s hardly impersonal. Just as he did in New York, Augustyn enjoys showing maps to clients, taking them through the many stories of each particular item.
After decades in the business, he still finds maps he never thought he’d see. One of his favorites — an early 18th century plan of New York City — is the first to show a synagogue. Only 3 such maps exist.
Fifteen years ago, Augustyn found an 1837 map. Drawn just 2 years after the official founding of our town, he believes it’s the first to show our “new” borders. It hangs in his study (and is available for purchase).
He’s also got the first printed map of Connecticut. It dates to 1758, when it appeared in an English magazine.
Among Augustyn’s prints: an engraving of Henry Richard Winslow’s “Compo House.” It was Westport’s first mansion (on the site of the park that now bears the owner’s name).
He’s always on the lookout for “good Westport material.” It’s not easy to come by, he says.
His job is not easy, either. Which is why he’s a “rare” map and print dealer indeed.