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Charting His Success: TV shows tap La Jolla map dealer’s expertise

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La Jolla map dealer Alex Clausen will soon appear in a new Science Channel series.
(COREY LEVITAN)

La Jolla map dealer Alex Clausen will soon be featured on not one but two television series.

The director of Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps, 7407 La Jolla Blvd., has already appeared on three episodes of PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow.”

“Basically, I stood at a table and thousands of people brought prints and maps to me throughout the day,” Clausen said of a segment he shot last summer in Delaware, from which his three appearances were culled.

The 30-year-old Bird Rock resident will also soon appear on the Science Channel’s “Unexplained + Unexplored.” The documentary series, which premiered Nov. 10, follows hosts Justin Fornal and Emiliano Ruprah as they explore questions such as whether the Mayan Empire relocated to America, exactly how Meriwether Lewis died in 1809, and the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

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“I’ve never been on TV before and I didn’t think it would be for me,” Clausen told the Light, “but I did enjoy the process quite a lot. Anything that gives antique maps more exposure, I’m happy to do.”

Clausen’s episode, which he guesses will probably air in December, questioned whether Florida was the only thing Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León set out to discover in 1513. The answer, according to the show’s creators, may lie in a 1511 map drawn by Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, an Italian historian working for Spain, which clearly showed Florida as “illa de beimeni” (the island of Bimini).

“This was the only printed map of the Americas at the time,” Clausen said, “and it would have been the printed map that people in Spain looked to when planning travels to the Caribbean.”

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Florida is depicted on this map of the Caribbean (near the top, as ‘illa de beimeni’) two years before it was ‘discovered’ by Ponce de Leon.
(COURTESY)

Among the big question marks surrounding the map are how Martyr d’Anghiera could have known about Florida/Bimini two years before its discovery, and whether Ponce de León only discovered Florida while on a quest for something even more mythical.

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“They were discussing what on this map could have led Ponce de León to want to search out the fountain of youth,” Clausen said.

Within a few months of moving to Bird Rock from New York to accept his current job in 2016, Clausen made his mark by identifying a 1507 map offered by Christie’s auction house in London as a fraud. That discovery alone shook the world of antique maps to its core. However, Clausen also discovered that another hand-made copy of that map — housed in Germany’s Bavarian State Library — was also faked. (That got the story, along with Clausen’s photo, published in The New York Times.)

“By far, Alex is the best person in the world at what he does,” said Barry Ruderman. “He will probably rise to one of the most prominent names in my trade. That’s why I hired him — to take over my business.”

Clausen said he’s been in love with history, geography and art since attending grade school in Minneapolis.

“In no other field do these three subjects come together as completely as they do in cartography,” Clausen said, “and when you have three passions that come together, you can spend 24 hours a day doing it and not get tired of it.”


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