Digital mapping

Screenshot of OS Viewer
Screenshot of OS Viewer depicting comparison view of the same area in 1998 and 2008. ©Crown Copyright. Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey®

We collect and maintain geospatial data, cartographic applications, digital aerial photography and scanned-in historic map materials.

About the collection

We receive digital mapping data from a variety of sources. Access and management varies according to the data format, location, and licensing arrangements.

What is available online?

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The Maps Reading Room is the best place to view digital map resources, as many materials require use of specialised software or are limited in their network access. Some map data are only stored, or accessible, on standalone PCs in the Maps Reading Room. All CDs with a 'Maps e-media...' shelfmark are stored in the Maps Reading Room, to be loaded and used on the dedicated PC next to the Reference Enquiry Desk. 

You can search for titles in Explore the British Library, our main catalogue, or browse the list of Maps electronic resources. Some web resources and locally-networked resources are limited to the Maps Reading Room owing to licensing restrictions. Other subscribed resources with cartographic content are available in all Reading Rooms. This is true of online research indices and journals, as well as databases including scanned maps. Please refer to the list of Maps electronic resources for an indication of format and access.


Owing to varying copyright and licensing arrangements, printing is allowed for some, but not all, electronic resources, and is generally limited to non-commercial purposes. Ask staff at the Reference Enquiry desk for details.

How to guides

How to use the Georeferencer

Add points to old maps with our addictive tool.

Guide to Explore Archives and Manuscripts

A guide to help you use the catalogue, covering: login, search, how to manage your results, how to browse the collections and how to request items

How to reuse images of unpublished manuscripts

Guide to the copyright of unpublished documents

About Explore Archives and Manuscripts

With Explore Archives and Manuscripts you can search for information about our rich and unique archive and manuscript collections.

Get a Reader Pass

Access over 170 million collection items for free with a Reader Pass.

Access manuscripts and archives

Accessing manuscripts and archives and obtaining a Letter of introduction or recommendation

How to order images

Instructions on how to order images of the British Library's collections from our Imaging Services

Initiate a new digitisation project with the British Library

Contact us if you want to start an externally funded project

How to handle prints, drawings and photographs

Watch our video to see how you should handle these vulnerable items.

How to handle folded items

Find out how you should hand items like large maps and book inserts.

Find Hebrew manuscripts

Guide to finding Hebrew manuscripts in our online catalogues

Find and request Lord Chamberlain's Plays

How to locate items in our largest single manuscript collection