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Catalogues: searching tips for maps and cartographic materials

You can search for maps, atlases, gazetteers and related texts in the Integrated Catalogue as a whole, or you can search only the maps file by selecting "Catalogue Subset Search" in the blue bar under the Integrated Catalogue logo, and then choosing "Cartographic Items". 

If you choose "Cartographic Items", you have more options for refining your search. However, there are cartographic materials in other departments of the Library and you may not find these if you limit your search to the "Cartographic Items" subset. To do a thorough search, use the Integrated Catalogue option. When searching for maps of a particular place in the Integrated Catalogue, choose the search option "Subject" and add the word maps to the name of the place.

General searching tips

Searching for Military Maps

General Searching Tips

Searching under "Any Word" will find your search term in any part of the record. This can often bring up too many results, including items which are not suitable. But it is a good way to start a simple search. More complicated or refined searches can be done by using the "Advanced Search" function on the blue bar, where additional indexes are available under "Search By".

Older catalogue records were not produced to the same standards as records are today. Often the author or cartographer was not listed in the author field of the records for Cartographic items, so it is best to search author names under "Any Word" in the Search By drop down list.

"Word from Author" in the Search By drop down list includes corporate authors (e.g. Ordnance Survey) as well as personal names.

If searching by subject (for example, the name of a country), choose "Subject" at "Search By" rather than "Subject Heading (Library of Congress)" and enter the placename (e.g. France).

Placenames for maps and map series are entered as Subjects in their Anglicised form, although they may appear in the Title in their original language. For example, maps of Florence (Firenze in Italian) in Italy may have the title Firenze but will have the subject Florence.

Sometimes maps of cities and towns in a country are stored together and appear only as a single record, so choose "Subject" and enter the name of the country with towns maps.

If searching for thematic maps, enter the place name and the topic (e.g. geology ) at "Subject".

To find maps from a particular period, select "Publication Year" and enter the dates formatted like this: 1939->1945.

To find maps of London rather than maps published in London , choose "Subject" and enter London.

To find maps published in London, choose "Place of Publication" in an "Advanced Search" and enter London.

By choosing "Advanced Search" on the blue bar, you have more options to search by, most notably by the map's scale. To search by scale, choose "Map Scale" and enter the number to the right of the colon when the scale is presented as a representative fraction with no spaces or punctuation, i.e., to search for 1:25 000 or 1:25,000, enter 25000; to search for 1:1 000 000 or 1:1,000,000, enter 1000000. It is not possible to search on a range of scales.

Maps often come in series and each sheet of a series in not catalogued separately! You may need to consult an index available in the Maps Reading Room to determine which sheet(s) of a series you need. Subject headings for map series are entered under the place that the entire series shows.

To search for shelfmarks, choose "Browse" on the blue bar; choose "Shelfmark" at "Select index to browse"; type in the shelfmark (you can omit any type of punctuation except brackets). If the shelfmark starts with the word "Maps" then it's important to include this.

If you have a long list of results, you can sort it alphabetically by author, title, or date (most recent first). Click on the name of the field you want to sort by at the top of the list (provided the field name is underlined).

Pre-1975 catalogue records which included non-Roman scripts (Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese, Armenian, etc.) do not appear in the BLIC. These need to be searched manually in the British Library Catalogue of Printed Maps which can be found in the Maps Reading Room. Post-1975 catalogue records for maps in non-Roman scripts appear in the BLIC with their titles transliterated.

Searching the British Library Integrated Catalogue for military mapping

The Archive of UK Military Mapping here referred to is a distinct collection of mapping produced by Great Britain's War Office and subsequent departments dating from 1880 to 1970. The collection is being deposited with the British Library Map Collections as part of an arrangement brokered by the Public Record Office in 2001. It is crucial to remember that the British Library collections include extensive military mapping dating back to the early 16th century (and earlier in the Department of Manuscripts) which is not part of the Archive, and includes War Office mapping received separately which is not duplicated in the Archive. Thus, for comprehensive research, searches should not be limited to the Archive. Shelfmarks for items which are part of the Archive of UK Military Mapping begin Maps MOD followed by alphabetic (series) and numerical entries (i.e., Maps MOD GSGS 3906); standard Map Collections shelfmarks begin Maps followed by numeric or alphnumeric entries (i.e., Maps 26305.(12.) or Maps X.3387.).

On the blue bar click on "Catalogue Subset Search" and then select "Cartographic Items".

If you have the series designation number , provided it is fairly distinct (for instance, not 1 or 100), you can search by entering just the number on the Basic Search screen using "Any Word".

Example: Searching for 3906 as "Any Word" returns 7 records for various editions of GSGS 3906, including 4 in the Archive of UK Military Mapping and 3 previously received which have standard Map Library pressmarks.

If you want to see all the series we hold with a specific alphabetic designation, enter the designation on the Basic Search screen using "Any Word".

Example: Searching IDWO as "Any Word" returns 610 records for series designated as IDWO (Intelligence Division, War Office) including those in the Archive and those previously received, and returns records where the designation is given as either IDWO or I.D.W.O.

If you have a specific series alphabetic and numeric designation , you can search the alphabetic and the number on the Basic Search screen using "Any Word".

Example: Searching IDWO 1724 on the Basic Search screen using "Any Word" returns the single record for our holdings of that series (in this case from the Archive)

If you want a list of specific series which came only as part of the Archive (not previously received), you can search using the designation and the term MOD on the Basic Search screen under "Any Word". MOD always appears in the pressmark of material received in the Archive.

Example: Searching GSGS MOD on the Basic Search screen using "Any Word" returns 1,967 records which, with one exception, are all the GSGS series that arrived in the Archive (the exception is one record from previous receipts where we untypically used MOD in the pressmark).

If you want a list of all maps of a particular country which came as part of the Archive , you can search the name of the country and the term MOD on the Basic Search screen using "Any Word". Use the modern name of the country as that is how it will be listed in the Subject field.

Example: Searching France MOD on the Basic Search screen using Any Word returns 239 records for material which arrived in the Archive which show France or have France in the title.

If you want a list of everything that arrived in the Archive, click on "Browse" on the Basic Search screen, then enter "Maps MOD" and choose "Shelfmark" where it says "Select Index to Browse". This type of search takes longer and returns the pressmarks in order 10 at a time. You can advance through the list using the Next Page button. Note that the pressmarks where a number appears directly after MOD will be returned first, followed by pressmarks where a letter appears directly after MOD. Where an opening bracket appears directly after MOD (this is how MoD supplied the data to us and means that the designation in brackets does not appear on the map), this precedes numbers or letters in the listing.

Example: Browsing Maps MOD on the Browse screen by Shelfmark returns 10 pressmarks which are the beginning of a long list which can be paged through using the Next Page button.

If you want to search for all maps of a particular country during a specific time period, click on "Advanced Search" on the blue bar on the Basic Search screen. In the first line under "Search By", select "Subject" and enter the name of the country; in the second line select Publication Year and enter the date span as XXXX->YYYY. Click Enter . If the system finds any records matching both criteria, it will give the number of records at "Total", and clicking on the number will return the records.

Example: To find all maps of Spain published between 1930 and 1950, on the Advanced Search screen in the first line under "Search By" choose "Subject" and enter  Spain to the right, on the second line choose "Publication Year" and enter 1930->1950 on the right and click Go. The system returns 219 records. CAUTION : These records will be for all the collection, not just military maps.

Searching by scale can be done on the Advanced Search screen by selecting "Map Scale" under "Search By". Please note that only exact scales can be searched at this time, scale ranges do not work. To search on a scale, to the right of "Map Scale", enter the figure which appears to the right of the colon in the representative fraction without spaces or commas.

Example: To search for 1:50,000 mapping, enter 50000 on the Advanced Search screen under "Search By Map Scale".

Searching for all military maps of a particular country is not straightforward because there is no general information in any record that says it represents a map or map series produced for military purposes or by a military organisation. You can search for maps of a particular country held in the Archive as instructed above; however, the BL holds a great deal of military mapping which did not arrive as part of the Archive, and searching only in the Archive by using the term MOD will miss non-Archive material. You can narrow a search by adding terms to a basic search that are likely to appear in a record for military mapping, such as "War" (for War Office) or "Intelligence" (for Intelligence Division) or "GSGS" (or other series designations) or by the time period of the conflict (see above).