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Exhibitions and Events

Maps has a small display area for regularly-changing exhibits just outside of the Maps Reading Room, available to the public whenever the building is open. Former major exhibits of maps are available online.

Online Exhibitions

Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art - This immensely popular exhibition ran 30 April - 19 September 2010; the website contains podcasts of related events and interactive, high resolution images of the Psalter world map (c.1265), the Fra Mauro world map (c.1450), the Gutiérrez 1562 map of the Americas, and Walker's "The Island" map of 2008 London.

London: A Life in Maps - Major exhibition that ran in the Pearson Gallery of the London St Pancras building from November 2006 until March 2007. This link to the Online Gallery includes selected scanned images, the curator's blog, and videos.

Lie of the Land (not updated since 2002 – preserved by the UK Web Archive) - For those who missed the fascinating British Library exhibition in 2001-02, this site gives a tour of some of the highlights.

Maps Reading Room lobby display

Miniature Maps


Huntingdon S. [playing card] London: Morden, R, ca.1676.

Display of a variety of miniature (less than A5 size) maps, including examples from playing cards to postcards.

Past exhibits

Elizabethan maps

Entitled Augustine Ryther: a skilled craftsman in the right place at the right time, this display comprises four very different maps produced during the last quarter of the 16th century.



Hollar as a Mapmaker

This small display celebrates the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Czech artist and etcher Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677). Best known for his landscapes, portraits, fashion plates and depictions of antiquities, Hollar also had a lifelong love of maps and earned a living by etching them. Some of the most outstanding but little-known decorative examples of his work are featured, with an accompanying leaflet. Included are views, portraits, and his anguished cartographical portrayal of the English and Czech civil wars and what is perhaps the most minute panorama and bird's-eye view of London ever to be created.

Maps as art: the works of Jacques Portier

There is a long tradition, going back many centuries, of figurative maps showing a country as a person or animal. These have sometimes been drawn for political, satirical or symbolic reasons, or sometimes simply to create something beautiful. The French artist Jacques Portier has created many maps of this type over the past few decades and has donated dozens of them to the British Library. The display in the Maps Reading Room lobby is just a very small sample of these beautifully executed watercolors with fine detail. His themes appear to have been selected to show the people and wildlife of the areas portrayed, as well as for aesthetic reasons.

Geographic technologies on the web and in the British Library

The use of electronic maps and geographic technologies has become increasingly accessible and mainstream, as evinced by the plethora of mapping tools used online and developed commercially to distribute and display data, and the move by many mapping agencies to digital-only production. This brief display presents a snapshot of contemporary digital mapping and the various technologies used to make it available. The maps here were created using a number of types of data and software, and represent a selection of resources in the BL Map Library's collections, as well as map resources available freely on the web.

Not Just Maps: A miscellany from the Map Collections

The British Library Map Collections are a source of geographical and topographical information in a multitude of forms. These include textual sources such as travel accounts, cartographic instruction manuals, gazetteers and learned volumes, as well as topographical views, plans, and drawings. This display showcases items in less conventional formats that shed light on the manufacture, distribution and use of the maps themselves. A never-used copperplate map of Cork, the trade card of Thomas Jefferys, a print-maker, and the German 'Flag-map' are a few pieces displayed alongside other revelatory cartographical curiosities.

D-Day June 6th, 1944: Europe on the threshold of liberty

This display provides a snapshot of both sides of the Channel - France and England - on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, a day of monumental importance in European history. Both sides bristle with defences - Britain against potential Luftwaffe raids on the D-Day invasion fleet and the beginning of the V1 flying bomb campaign - the German forces in France against the invasion they knew must come. The maps displayed are from the extensive donations made by the Ministry of Defence to the British Library which provide an invaluable historical source for 19th and 20th century British military history.

Maps and Society Lectures

For information on venues and dates go to the Map History / History of Cartography website.