Digital mapping

Screenshot of digital maps viewer depicting a comparison view of St Pancras in 1998 and 2021.
Screenshot of digital maps viewer depicting a comparison view of St Pancras in 1998 and 2021. ©Crown Copyright. Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey®

The library receives digital maps and geospatial data under non-print legal deposit. These publications are made available to readers through the legal deposit libraries’ digital maps viewer which is accessible in the Maps Reading Room of the British Library.

About the collection

Over the last two decades digital maps have become deeply embedded in our lives through innovations such as web mapping interfaces, satellite technologies and mobile GPS. Libraries have responded to this development through new practices of collecting, archiving and presenting digital map collections. The six legal deposit libraries – the Bodleian Library, British Library, Cambridge University Library, the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales – have taken steps to ensure that the digital maps that are published in the United Kingdom are available for current and future generations. To this end, we receive deposits of diverse digital maps and geospatial data every year. These maps are born-digital in that they originate in digital form and have not been digitised or scanned from a print or physical equivalent.

What is available online?

Our collection of digital maps and geospatial data deposited under non-print legal deposit is only available to readers on-site at St Pancras through a digital maps viewer located in the Maps Reading Room. Some of our collections of digitised maps, those that have been digitised or scanned from a print or physical equivalent, can be found here.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The viewer is based on web mapping technologies that provide user-friendly functionality that will be familiar to anyone who has used a ‘slippy’ maps interface like Google, Bing or Apple maps. Please note that although the viewer is open to all, at busy times a booking might be required. To book, please speak to Reading Room staff on arrival in the Maps Reading Room. Do please be aware that at busy times there may be a wait or you could be asked to come back on another day. Printing of sections of the maps is possible from the viewer for non-commercial purposes and for a cost. Please ask Maps Reading Room staff for details.

The digital maps viewer allows readers to browse born-digital maps and geospatial data that the Library has collected over the last twenty years. Over that period we have received digital maps from the following publishers:

The Library receives large-scale snapshots from Ordnance Survey Great Britain and Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland annually. The six UK LDLs began acquiring Ordnance Survey's Land-Line™, their initial electronic mapping data product in NTF format, in 1998. Keeping pace with technological advancements in geospatial data production and management, Ordnance Survey replaced that product with a feature-based, OS MasterMap™, in 2006. It is possible to make comparisons between snapshots from different years in the viewer as shown in the screenshot at the head of the page. This historical comparison functionality has proven useful to many including students, those with an interest in recent local history or others exploring personal historical interests like genealogy.