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Map Quest

Michael Buehler makes his living telling stories through rare maps.

“What I did was kind of crazy,” says Michael Buehler ’89. Twelve years ago, Buehler and wife Anne Vaillant ’89 were expecting their second child when he decided to leave his management-consulting career to become a dealer in rare maps. 

“I jumped into this capital-intensive field where I had little expertise, no particular connections, and little savings,” says the owner of Boston Rare Maps. “I got very lucky when another dealer took me under his wing and gave me a lot of mentoring.” 

Buehler’s decision to morph from antique-map enthusiast to boutique rare-map dealer—one of only about 20 in the country—brought with it a steep professional learning curve.

“You have to be a historian and a connoisseur. You have to understand marketing and the Internet. You have to know how to manage clients, colleagues, and conflicts of interest,” Buehler says of his work. 

“I’m very grateful for Swarthmore, because all I really had [in the beginning] was the ability to write, to assimilate and synthesize information, and tell a story,” says Buehler, an honors philosophy major. 

This winter, Buehler—whose interest in maps began in 1992 after spontaneously stopping in an old print shop—was savoring the most important acquisition of his career: a map of the 1782 Battle of Yorktown, Va., drawn by a major in the Continental artillery who was present at the event.  

“This map has it all if you’re a collector of printed Americana. It’s beautiful, it’s important, it’s by someone who was there, and it’s very rare,” he says enthusiastically. 

“I love maps because they reveal wonderful stories about ourselves and our history.” He adds, “For me, that’s what it’s all about.”