Maps and More with Dr. Murray Hudson
Antiquarian, Dr. Murray Hudson, has a passion for antiques, but not just any antiques! He collects maps, globes, and books that span across three different buildings, the main one located at 109 S Church Street in Halls, Tennessee. He was an English professor, stockbroker, and farmer in the meantime.
Just how extensive is his collection if it's in three large buildings? After an inventory in April of 2019, Hudson concluded there are 25,127 items in his collection! 17,726 of which are maps! Hudson’s love of maps and globes has only grown over time. He rented his first building in 1988, but Hudson had started on the path of collecting long before. While taking some summer courses at the University of Oxford in England, he bought his first antique maps, he was ever going in a shop on High Street. “I kept walking by there every day when going to lectures. I would pass by this old shop on High Street in Oxford.” Hudson showed us a print of the street he was talking about, “It was a really neat shop that had prints in the window. They were of cathedrals, manor houses, and so on. I thought ‘At the end of this session, I will go there and buy little prints for my family,’ because I was going to be backpacking and I could carry them with me. When I went in, I saw the maps and I bought 52 of them! I spent just about all the money I had.”
Hudson’s passion for maps can be heard in his voice when he talks about them. When asked about his favorite piece, he showed us “the very first map of Virginia and actually America. It’s a great map by John Smith, done in 1607. It’s a really pretty decent map considering they had just gotten there.” Hudson, ever the professor at heart, will happily tell you about the maps in his collection. The 1607 map of Virginia has an interesting history behind it since it is of the first place settled by European colonizers. “They had this (information) because the Indians were cooperative and Powhatan,” shown on the map, “was incredibly powerful. He controlled basically all of Virginia and part of Maryland.” Chief Powhatan was the father of Pocahontas, the same Pocahontas that saved Captain and map creator John Smith. She is also the subject of the Disney movie of the same name. It was the rarest map he has had.
Hearing about the different pieces of history at Hudson’s fingertips was as astonishing as it was slightly overwhelming. Seeing was definitely believing in this case. Gazing at the wall maps that took up large segments of space was completely awe-inspiring. To know that Hudson had been at this for 40 years was equally moving. It had taken him four decades to amass what he had at his disposal, and it was all because he wasn’t happy doing what he had been doing before. Hudson mentioned as we were talking that he had been “a farmer about ten, fifteen minutes from here and I was very tired of farming. I did all the (chemical) spraying with no cab at first and I did not like that despite being the seventh generation.” So with the ‘small’ collection of maps already at his disposal he “started this in my home, out on the farm. I put out an old catalog of Texas maps. It was a very simple catalog, but it had a really nice Texas map on the front.” He ended up selling the whole catalog, which he referred to as “a miracle.”
Over the years Hudson has made quite the name for himself. He would go out and visit all the different antique malls and shops just looking through their stuff that piqued his interest. “There used to be a tremendous number of dealers everywhere, not too long ago. I love to travel and anywhere there was a sign that said antique anything, I’d go in just to see if they might have a globe even if they don’t have any maps. I love to drive so I would be visiting somebody may be in Chicago and I’d stop in St. Louis or even in small towns where they have an antique shop.” Hudson has found all kinds of maps and globes in unexpected places. It can be hit or miss and involves searching, “Early on when I was doing the globes, I had been doing maps for some time and then it really just snowballed into globe collection. I was traveling, I had hit every mall everywhere in the Mid-South and beyond. I went to, well I was driving up into Virginia from East Tennessee because there was a big flea market there. I went into the biggest tent they had and hollered, I said ’Anybody got any globes!’ Somebody hollered back, ‘No some guy in Tennessee bought them all!’” Hudson Laughed continuing, “‘Yeah that’s me!’” He has, over time, slowed down a little on his collecting. He’ll still go into shops when he’s in a big city and look around, but it has to be something really special if he’s going to buy it. “I have people offer me material all the time because I bought so much. I like to, if I go to a major city, outside of the United States, I always will go into the shops because that’s what I’m accustomed to doing. Occasionally I’ll find something.”
Hudson is a collector at heart. His goal is to make a collection, catalog it, find all the pieces, and then sell it as a whole. “Some of these catalogs are collections that we sold to the Library of Congress or we sold to some major collection.” It wouldn’t include duplicates of what they already owned. Making these catalogs available for people interested in them has been easier since the advent of the internet; “before the internet, when we were sending out ad papers, we had people come from almost every continent because we had that much interesting stuff. We’ve sold to people in just about every country you can name.” Libraries, like the Library of Congress, tend to be very interested in the items Hudson has in his collections, “the rarer the better” tends to work the best for their inventory. “Just one-half of a map, of a rare map, was worth 50 times what I paid for the whole thing.”
“We have from time to time rented globes and Civil War maps for films or TV productions and we have a globe in an Indiana Jones movie. It’s just a small globe on his desk or maybe the desk off to the side.” You can catch a glimpse of the globe in Indiana Jones and the Kindom of the Crystal Skull. Men in Black 3 also has a few globes from Hudson’s collection. In the home of Tommy Lee Jones’s character, Agent K, there is a bookcase that houses the hidden entrance of a secret room. The two lighted (black ocean) globes you can just barely catch a glimpse of came from Hudson.
If you ask Dr. Murray Hudson about what he does he’ll say, “It was just like a hobby that developed. I collected matchbooks, stamps, and coins as a child. I was always a collector.” As for being an Antiquarian, well, ”I’m an ardent preservationist. I like to think I work so the history is preserved. It’s really simple, you have to like and care about history. That includes not just the maps, but furniture and antique homes and so on. In England, the first people (who were antiquarians) were collectors, in fact, it might have referred to someone who dealt in antiques.”
Hudson has many items in his collection; something for everybody! If you’re interested in visiting Murray Hudson: Antique Maps, Globes, Books & Prints they’re located at 109 South Church Street, Halls, Tennessee 38040. Their hours are Weekdays 9:00 am - 4:00 pm and Saturdays by appointment. They can be reached at 731-836-9057. To see the online of Dr. Hudson’s collection visit antiquemapsandglobes.com