Click here to skip to content

Catalogues: Maps and Cartographic Materials

Most of the map collections are searchable through the British Library online catalogue.

Those searching for Map Library materials should review the searching tips for maps, as some awareness will greatly improve results. A separate set of guidelines have been prepared specifically for identifying military mapping using Explore the British Library.

Explore the British Library

Most of the map collections are searchable online via Explore the British Library the British Library's consolidated online catalogue.

Those searching for Map Library materials should select "Catalogue Subset Search" from the blue bar of the initial search screen, and then choose "Cartographic" from the list. A Basic Search allows a number of keyword searches (title, publisher, subject), as well as searching by Shelfmark (format: "maps27b5" for Maps 27.b.5). An Advanced Search allows one to combine field searches, as well as search by Scale (format: "50000" for 1:50,000).  However users are advised that because of the differing standards of cataloguing the most basic searches are advisable, at least as a first step. Users should also note that not all maps are individually catalogued: i.e.  not all maps in antiquarian atlases are listed and ephemeral town plans are only listed by country.  Maps in non-Roman scripts are only occasionally catalogued electronically.

To search for manuscript maps, you may wish to also consult the Manuscripts Catalogue online or the printed catalogues in the Maps or the Manuscripts Reading Rooms.

COPAC Online Catalogue

The maps catalogue is also available online through the Consortium of Online Public Access Catalogues, a union catalog of most major research libraries in the UK allowing searching across many catalogues at once.

Select "Map Search" for cartographic materials, a mechanism that allows searching by location, scale, and other keywords.
* If you cannot find what you are looking for, search the full database via Subject search (eg. Hydrology) or Author/Title search, as not all records are correctly identified as maps.

The file is updated monthly. If you have any problems or suggestions, please communicate them to us via maps@bl.uk.

British Library Map Catalogue on CD-ROM

Available from terminals in the Humanities, Rare Books & Music, and Maps Reading Rooms, the CD-ROM catalogue contains records for materials up to 1997, since when it has not been updated or revised. Much of the British Library's materials relating to maps, atlases, globes, printed books and periodicals on cartographic subjects are locatable, as well as many maps held by the Department of Manuscripts. Coverage of material in non-Roman scripts is patchy.

Printed Map Catalogues

Multi-volume, printed catalogues of the British Library map collections are available in the Maps Reading Room Index area.

1) Catalogue of Printed Maps, Charts and Plans...to 1964. (1967) plus a Ten-year supplement to1974.

Consisting of 16 volumes and arranged alphabetically by geographic heading and mapmaker, it includes many records of items in non-Roman scripts which are not available in the online catalogue. It can also be found in many major UK libraries.

2) Cartographic Materials File (1975 - 2004).

Microfiche catalogue arranged alphabetically by geographic heading and name/title. Discontinued with the advent of Explore the British Library in May 2004.

3) Rodney W. Shirley. Maps in the atlases on the British Library: a descriptive catalogue c. AD 850 -1800 (2004).

Includes maps not individually catalogued. See the standalone terminal in the Maps reading room to consult the index to the volume, which was created electronically only; there is not index in the book.

Catalogues of Individual Collections

Cartographic materials in the Manuscript Department

Some of the British Library's maps are held in the Manuscript Department. Please note that this collection is not represented in Explore the British Library, and must be searched in the separate Manuscripts Online Catalogue.

Maps of scientific interest such as geological maps are also to be found in the Science Technology and Industry collections. The Asia, Pacific and African Collections hold manuscript and printed maps in oriental and western languages.

Printed catalogues of the Manuscript Collections consist of the 3-volume Catalogue of Manuscript Maps, Charts and Plans ... (1844-60) and Indexes to Manuscript Maps (1992), a three-volume printout of a database with entries for all manuscript maps (but not topographical views) in the British Library collections. Fuller details of many of the maps in this index are available in the Catalogue of Additions to the Manuscripts in the British Museum. All of these items are on the reference shelves in the Maps and the Manuscripts Reading Rooms.

Map Library Collections

Though included in Explore the British Library, two collections cataloged in print format are worth mention. The Catalogue of the King George III Topographical Collection (1829) and the Catalogue of the The King George III Maritime Collection [1829] are copies of the original printed catalogues arranged alphabetically by geographic heading. Fuller entries, however, are given in Catalogue of manuscript maps... The catalogue of the Crace Collection (1878) lists plans and views of London. There is a Revised Edition of the Plans section of this catalogue edited by Peter Barber. The plans are held in the Map Library and the views in the British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings. Many of the plans are not listed in the Catalogue of Printed Maps... 1200 items from this collection have been scanned and are viewable online via Collect Britain.