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Manuscript Maps in the United Kingdom: Renaissance and later

This guide provides an introduction to manuscript map holdings in national, university and local libraries, and references to published catalogues and other reference works. It provides a point of entry for locating a variety of types of manuscript maps.

British estate plans from 1575

British Library Manuscript Collections
The main collection. Indexed under place and cartographer where known. Detailed descriptions can be found under Ms. No. in the printed Catalogues of Additions or the Manuscripts online catalogue.

British Library Map Library
Holds numerous printed and manuscript examples.

The National Archives, Kew
Holdings: many thousands of estate maps. A selective catalogue lists just a few of these. Maps and Plans in the Public Record Office, vol. 1 (London, 1967). Annotated copies of the catalogue are available there (post-1780 material).

The National Archives of Scotland and Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
Estate plans are strongly represented in these collections. For Scotland, see
Ian H. Adams, L. R. Timperley, Descriptive List of Plans in the Scottish Record Office, vols. 1-4 (HMSO, 1966-88). Describes the first 4999 plans in the NAS maps and plans collections.

National Library of Scotland
Holds some 4,000 estate plans. Many are found in the Sutherland, Elliots of Minto (Roxburghshire), Saltoun (East Lothian) and Lockhart of Lee (Lanarkshire) manuscript collections. Selected maps of Scotland from the 16th century to the early 20th century may be viewed online.

National Library of Wales
A large collection of manuscript farm and estate maps relating to Wales, ranging from c.1580 to the late 19th century. Their holdings are described in Estate Maps of Wales  1600-1836 by Robert Davies (Aberystwyth, 1982).

University libraries
Bodleian Library, Oxford; Cambridge University Library; John Rylands Library, Manchester; libraries of the older Oxford and Cambridge colleges.

Local, county and municipal record offices
Locations: addresses of these record offices may be found in Record Repositories in Great Britain. A geographical directory (London: HMSO, 11th ed., 1999). Some offices have published holdings lists and catalogues, some of which are held by the British Library Map Library. The Access to Archives project has made the catalogues of nearly 200 repositories available online.

Muniments rooms and estate offices of land-owning families
See published (HMC) reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, and the reports sent to the HMC by the owners of private collections (NRA [National Register of Archives] reports).

British enclosure and tithe plans

R. J. P. Kain & H.C. Prince, The Tithe Surveys of England  and Wales (Cambridge, 1985).

BL Manuscript Collections
Holds very few tithe maps, but many more private enclosure maps.

The National Archives, Kew
The vast majority are held by The National Archives at Kew and the equivalent organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and local county record offices.

National Library of Wales
Holds tithe maps for the whole of Wales. The collection is discussed in detail on their web site. Also holds some enclosure awards and maps.

Local record offices
Hold the majority of tithe and enclosure maps.

Military and topographical maps

BL Manuscript Collections
The main source for pre-1700 mapping, especially for Tudor and Early Stuart mapping, is the Cotton Collection, but this is supplemented by numerous single items.

BL Map Library
Holdings include the King's Topographical Collection, (strong on pre-19th century areas of British military and colonial activity) and the drafts and fair copies of William Roy's surveys of Scotland (1747-55).

BL Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections
Holdings include manuscript maps of India and of British settlements in the East Indies, in the India Office Records (formerly the East India Company) map collection.

The National Archives, Kew
Extensive collections of manuscript military maps in various parts of its collections. Some of their catalogues are on open access in the BL Map Library. See The National Archives web site for more information.

National Library of Scotland
Holdings include the Board of Ordnance and Wade collections (18th century plans and architectural drawings, all viewable on Military Maps of Scotland, Sir George Murray collection (Peninsular War; Canada); and the Haig Papers (First World War); and topographic mapping of Scotland (16th-17th centuries).

Other locations
The Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth holds around 2,000 manuscript maps, atlases, portolan charts and plans, principally from the 17th century. The areas covered reflect the Navy's interests at the time; many items cover North America, India, the East Indies, the Caribbean , the Mediterranean and the Baltic. The National Army Museum (Royal Hospital Road, London SW3) holds maps from 1700 to the present day. Hatfield House (Hertfordshire) has examples of Tudor military mapping. The Imperial War Museum has virtually no manuscript maps, and they all date from after 1914. The Royal Library at Windsor Castle holds the Cumberland Collection (approx. 4,000 items covering military and naval activity from the mid-16th to early 19th centuries). Contact information for access is here. The National Library of Scotland holds material relating to Scottish campaigns.

Preparatory drawings for printed maps

BL Manuscript Collections
This is the main source. It holds a copy of the manuscript Ordnance Survey of Jersey by Thompson, Longmore and Harris at 6in to the mile (1783-95).

BL Map Library
The Map Library also has some drawings, if the connection to printed maps was known when they were acquired. It holds the preliminary drawings, at the scales of 2, 3, and 6 inches to the mile, for the first edition of the Ordnance Survey 1 inch to the mile survey of England and Wales (1789-c.1840). These cover the country south of a line drawn from Preston to Hull. See Yolande Hodson's Ordnance Surveyors' Drawings 1789-c.1840 (Reading, 1989) for catalogue and index map.

Other collections
BL Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections holds some manuscript material relating to military maps. Map publishers' archives occasionally hold preparatory drawings.

Sea charts

BL Manuscript Collections
The main source for maps c.1327-1850. See, for instance, Richard Pflederer's Catalogue of the Portolan Charts and Atlases in The British Library (2001).

BL Map Library
Holds some manuscript sea charts, some dating from the mid-17th century.

Caird Library, National Maritime Museum
Catalogues on open access in BL's Map Library Reading Room.

Howse, Derek & Pat Billings. National Maritime Museum. Handlist of Manuscript Sea Charts and Pilot Books executed before 1700 (Greenwich, 1973). The earliest manuscript chart dates from 1420.

National Maritime Museum. Catalogue of the Library, 4 vols. (London, 1968-72).

The Royal Naval Museum
The collections include sea charts and portolan charts.

Hydrographic Data Centre, UK Hydrographic Office
Manuscript hydrographic surveys, primarily c.1760 to the present day, reflecting British exploration.

Other collections
These include the Bodleian Library, which has has 30-40 portolan charts; the BL Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections contain pre-1860 fair-copy manuscript charts destined for print.

Mapping of Europe

BL Map Library
Holds the King's Topographical Collection, which was given to the nation by George IV. They include maps of Europe and its parts organised according to prevailing international politics before 1772.

The National Archives, Kew
See Maps and Plans in the Public Record Office, vol.4 (London, 1998) (includes Turkey).

European mapping of areas outside Europe

BL Map Library
Holds the King's Topographical Collection. It is strong in manuscript maps, drawings and topographical views from the colonial period. Some were official printed maps with significant manuscript annotations, such as the 'Red-lined map' of North America, which was used at the negotiations of the Treaty of Paris (1783).

BL Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections
Holdings include manuscript maps of India and of British settlements in the East Indies, in the India Office Records (formerly the East India Company) map collection.

The Royal Naval Museum Library, Portsmouth
Holds 2,000 manuscript maps, atlases, portolan charts and plans, principally from the 18 th century. The areas covered reflect the Navy's interests at the time; many items cover North America, India, the East Indies and the Caribbean.

The National Archives, Kew
Volumes 2 and 3 of Maps and Plans in the Public Record Office (London, 1974, 1982) cover maps of America, the West Indies and Africa.

Other collections
These include the Cambridge University Library; the Bodleian Library; the National Library of Scotland, and the Royal Geographical Society, London, (manuscript maps from 1716 onwards).

Indigenous African, Oceanic and American mapping

BL Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections
Holdings include manuscript maps, generally associated with literary, religious and historical manuscripts in oriental languages, particularly Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Hebrew.

Other collections
These include the British Museum Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (holds several Aztec maps formerly held by the Department of Manuscripts); and the Bodleian Library, Oxford (examples of medieval Islamic mapping). The British Library Map Library holds the 19th century American 'Birchbark map'.