Maps and views

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. 

View images from this item  (1)

Usage terms Public Domain

Map Psalter

Psalter World Map, full-page illustration showing Christ holding the orb of the world, flanked by two angels. Jerusalem is marked in the centre, with Rome appearing slightly below it, and the rivers Ganges and the Danube drawn in blue

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.

View images from this item  (4)

Usage terms Public Domain
Held by© British Library

Matthew Paris's map of Britain

Matthew Paris's 13th century Map of Britain. Rivers are marked in dark blue, the sea is blue-green. The shape of Britain is not as we know it to look now but the island is clearly recognisable as Britain. Scotland is joined to the mainland by a bridge at Stirling, Hadrian's wall is clearly visible, and Rochester, Canterbury and Dover are erroneously situated due south of London. Windsor (‘Windleshores’) is depicted as a castle straddling the River Thames, but Runnymede is not represented. No fewer than 252 places are recorded on this particular map, including 81 cathedrals and monasteries, 41 castles and 33 ports. Place names are highlighted in red ink

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

View images from this item  (1)

Usage terms Public Domain

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. 

View images from this item  (1)

Usage terms Public Domain

Anglo-Saxon Mappa Mundi

A map of the world from an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon miscellany, containing the earliest known, relatively realistic depiction of the British Isles, seen in the bottom left hand corner

This map of the world was probably created at Canterbury in about 1025. Like other medieval world maps, it is orientated with east at the top (British Library, Cotton Tiberius B V/1, f. 56v)

View images from this item  (1)

Usage terms Public Domain

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.

View images from this item  (49)

Usage terms Public Domain

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.

View images from this item  (1)

Usage terms Public Domain

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.

View images from this item  (3)

Usage terms Public Domain

View of Benares

Illustration of Shivala Ghat, with ships approaching on the water

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

View images from this item  (1)

Usage terms Public Domain

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.

View images from this item  (4)

Usage terms Public Domain

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.

View images from this item  (1)

Usage terms Public Domain

'Liber secretorum fidelium crucis' by Marino Sanudo with maps by Pietro Vesconte

Large manuscript with a drawing of the world surrounded by text

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).

View images from this item  (9)

Usage terms Public Domain

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

A large globe on a stand

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

View images from this item  (1)

Usage terms Public Domain

‘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’.

View images from this item  (1)

Usage terms Public Domain

The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License.