Gazetteers are listings of geographic names. They may include just cities and towns, or all sorts of geographic features, and they can vary in the type and amount of information they provide: some include only the type of feature and its location, while others give lengthy descriptions and histories of a place.
The two largest collections of gazetteers in the British Library are held in Humanities and the Map Library. The general Humanities collections hold a substantial number of specialist and historical gazetteers for places throughout the world.
The Map Library holds a good collection of worldwide gazetteers, most of them on open access in the Maps Reading Room. Among the most useful gazetteers in the Maps Reading Room are:
- Ordnance Survey gazetteers of Great Britain and Ireland
- Samuel Lewis’s topographical dictionaries of England (4 volumes, 1842)
- Scotland (2 volumes, 1846), Wales (2 volumes, 1833) and Ireland (2 volumes, 1837)
- The Domesday Gazetteer by Darby and Versey
- Imperial Gazetteer of India (26 volumes, 1908)
- Gary Mokotoff’s Where Once We Walked, a guide to the Jewish communities destroyed in the Holocaust
plus over 150 volumes of individual country gazetteers produced by the United States Board on Geographic Names.
The Map Library also purchases many official and commercial gazetteers produced in foreign countries. Access is provided in the Maps Reading Room to online gazetteers such as the Columbia Gazetteer of the World (with over 165,000 fully searchable entries); the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (especially helpful for historical name variations and those appearing in art history); and the U.S. National Imagery and Mapping Agency’s (NIMA) GEOnet Names Server (the constantly updated sequel to the BGN volumes).