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Africa: Maps

Our collections of maps include printed atlases, sheet maps and topographical views of Africa from the 15th century onwards.

Le Grand Atlas ou Cosmographie Blaviane

Le Grand Atlas ou Cosmographie Blaviane, en laquelle est exactement descritte la Terre, la Mer et le Ciel, J Blaeu, Amsterdam, 1663, Volume 10 : Africa. British Library Maps C.5.b.1. Copyright © The British Library Board

Most British Library maps of Africa are held in the Map Collections, and are consulted in the Maps Reading Room. The maps catalogues are described here.

A particular strength of the early collection is King George III’s Topographical Collection, which includes many maps and topographical views of Africa, mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Modern coverage of African countries is mixed, due to differing availability of detailed and reliable mapping from country to country. Modern series mapping provides comprehensive coverage of former British territories in East and West Africa, as well as official mapping of the former French, Belgian and German territories from the colonial period. We hold topographical and geological maps on all areas of the continent.

The Map Collections also hold Soviet-era topographic mapping at the scale of 1:200,000 for about 75 per cent of the continent. Some scanned Soviet mapping of the African continent, at various scales, is also available. Maps produced by publishers such as ITMB and the French IGN for areas of tourist and adventure interest are another good source of up-to-date information.

Maps of Africa are also to be found in western language Manuscript Collections. Maps in Asian languages are held in the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections. The map collections of the East India Company and India Office contain manuscript and printed maps, charts, harbour plans and coastline sketches. Topographical views from all over the world, including Africa, are well represented in the Manuscript Collections, as well as in the Prints, Drawings and Photographs section of the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections.

Contact

Map Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7702
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7780

E-mail: Ask the Reference Team