Maps and views

Delve into the mysterious world of maps and views and reflect on the founders’ curiosity about the universe.
The British Library has one of the largest collections of maps, plans and topographical views in the world, with around 4.5 million collection items. The earliest of these, made over 2,000 years ago in the Roman Empire, can be found on a coin, while the latest appears as pixels on a computer screen. As well as geographic documents, maps can be works of art, propaganda pieces, expressions of pride or tools of indoctrination.

The Duke's Plan of New York

The Duke's Plan of New York

New York began life in the 1620s as the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam before being captured by the English in August 1664. 

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Psalter world map

Psalter World Map, f9

This Psalter is famous for, and named after, its full-page miniature of a map of the world, which is related to the famous medieval map of the world (Mappa Mundi) at Hereford cathedral.

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Matthew Paris map of Britain

Matthew Paris's Map of Britain

The maps drawn by Matthew Paris (1200-59) offer a unique impression of mid-13th-century Britain.

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Saxton's England and Wales proof maps

Christopher Saxton's England and Wales Proof Maps

William Cecil, Lord Burghley (1521 - 1598) commissioned surveyor Christopher Saxton to map the counties of England and Wales in previously unsurpassed detail. 

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Anglo-Saxon world map

Anglo Saxon Mappa Mundi

This map was probably created at Canterbury between 1025 and 1050, but is probably ultimately based on a model dating from Roman times. 

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Klencke Atlas

Map of Brazil in the Klencke Atlas

The Klencke Atlas is one of the world's biggest: it measures  176 x 231 cm when open.

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Great Fire of London map

Hollar's map of London before and after the Great Fire of London

Much of the City of London was destroyed by fire between 3 and 6 September 1666, a major blow for the Czech artist Wencelaus Hollar, who had been hard at work on a large bird's-eye map of the whole of the City and Westminster.

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Dutch Baroque gardens

On this specially printed Volume 1 title page Beudeker announces: 'The Theatre of Dutch Pleasure Gardens. First Part displaying the royal palace of Loo and Dieren, Voorst, Rosendael and the celebrated Zorgvliet outside The Hague. Assembled in the year 1718.'

These views of Dutch country houses and gardens form three volumes of an atlas devoted to the Netherlands.

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View of Benares

Shivala Ghat, Benares. Thomas Daniell, Benares, 1789-90

This is a fine watercolour view of Benares (Varanasi) in northern India by the topographical artist William Daniell (1769-1837).

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Chinese terrestrial globe

Chinese Terrestrial Globe, drawn and painted in 1623. By Manuel Dias and Nicolo Longobardi, probably in Beijing.

This beautiful Chinese globe dates from the early 17th century.

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Copyright: © British Library

Universalis et integra totius orbis hidrografia ad verissimam Luzitanorum traditionem descripcio Ferdinãdo Este livro fes Fernão Vãz Dourado

Fernão Vãz Dourado, ‘Universalis et integra totius orbis hidrografia ad verissimam Luzitanorum traditionem descripcio Ferdinãdo Este livro fes Fernão Vãz Dourado

This decorative atlas was constructed in Lisbon by the mapmaker Fernão Vãz Dourado for the Portuguese king Sebastian in 1573. It contains seventeen sea charts known as ‘portolan’ charts.

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'Liber secretorum fidelium crucis' by Marino Sanudo

Liber secretorum fidelium cruces by Marino Sanudo. c. 1321.

This set of maps by the Genoese mapmaker Pietro Vesconte forms a supplement to a work by the Venetian author Marino Sanudo entitled Liber secretorum fidelium cruces (the book of secrets for faithful crusaders).

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Nova et accurata Terrae Marisq. Sphaera, denuo recognita et correcta à Gulielmo Blaeu.

Willem Janszoon Blaeu, Nova et accurata Terrae Marisq. Sphaera, denuo recognita et correcta à Gulielmo Blaeu.Amsterdam, 1606 (1621)

This terrestrial globe with a diameter of 13.5 cm was produced by one of the leading mapmakers of the 17th century.

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‘Cheonhado’ world map

‘Cheonhado’ world map. Seoul, c. 1800. Maps C.27.f.14.

This world map is from an atlas produced in Korea in around 1800. It is one of a group of maps known as ‘Cheonhado’, meaning ‘Map of all under heaven’.

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