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Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art

Our most popular British Library exhibition ever

“This really is a show that turns the world on its head. I’ll never look at a map in quite the same way again.”

Daily Telegraph


Record numbers of people were inspired by the British Library’s most popular exhibition ever. Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art attracted nearly 227,000 visitors to the Paccar Gallery. Almost as many visited the website, another record. Feedback was extremely positive.

The exhibition presented 100 of the world’s greatest maps in recreated original settings. It featured more than 80 spectacular wall maps dating from 200 AD to the present day, many of which had never been exhibited before. Highlights included a copy of the Fra Mauro world map of c.1450, perhaps the first ‘modern’ world map.



Visitors were fascinated to discover how maps can be works of art, propaganda and indoctrination. “Maps are often pictorial encyclopaedias that are about far more than just geography,” said Peter Barber, Head of Cartographic and Topographic Materials. “Magnificent Maps was a visual extravaganza that intrigued, fascinated and entranced visitors while challenging their assumptions about the very nature and purpose of maps.”

Nearly 3,000 people took part in the exhibition’s learning programme and even more came to public events.

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