King George III Topographical and Maritime collections

A View of London from Greenwich Park
H. Haseler, A View of London from Greenwich Park, London, 1815. Lithograph. Maps K.Top.21.57.5.

The Geographical collection of King George III includes the King’s Topographical collection of maps, views and atlases, and the King’s Maritime collection of sea charts.

About the collection

The King’s Topographical collection, the map collection of George III, is one of the world’s most important historical resources. Donated to the nation by George IV in 1828, it comprises approximately 30–40,000 maps, plans and views, both printed and hand-drawn, of all parts of the world, particularly Great Britain and the then British Empire. The material ranges in date from about 1540 to 1824, and is extremely varied in terms of format and size.

The Maritime Collection of George III consists of hand-drawn and printed sea charts and atlases of the 16th to 19th centuries. It was donated by George IV to the Admiralty, and from there to the British Museum in 1844.

Highlights

  • Some of the earliest European printed maps, such as the so-called ‘Lafreri’ copperplate maps produced in Rome in the mid-16th century
  • The complete range of British county maps dating from 1579 to the early 19th century
  • Administrative maps
  • Planning maps including maps of proposed railways and canals
  • Presentation maps, such as the ‘Duke’s Plan’ of New York, made to celebrate its capture by the English from the Dutch in 1664
  • Estate maps and maps of Royal palaces
  • Architectural drawings, including a large archive of working drawings by Nicholas Hawksmoor, the architect of Christ Church, Spitalfields in London
  • Printed and hand-drawn or painted views, including examples by Wenceslaus Hollar, Samuel Hieronymus Grimm and Paul Sandby
  • The results of large-scale surveys, including a manuscript map of part of Newfoundland by James Cook, and William Roy’s military survey of Scotland
  • A large archive of maps and plans of Hannover and Northern Germany

What is available online?

  • In our Online Gallery you can see over 2,500 watercolours, drawings and prints from the King's Topographical collection
  • We are currently raising £100,000 to catalogue, conserve and digitise the London and South East collection of maps and views

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

All of the King’s Topographical collection and the King’s Maritime collection are listed on Explore the British Library, and can be ordered to the Maps Reading Room.

What is available in other organisations?

Further topographical material from the collection of George III forms the King’s Military collection, now in the Royal Library at Windsor. Copies of this collection are available on microfiche in the British Library Maps Reading Room.

Further information

Further information on King George III’s library and collecting can be found at George III Collection: the King's Library

The colour views in the King’s Topographical collection have been catalogued, conserved and digitised thanks to a gift from SP Lohia. See the views on the SP Lohia Foundation website.

How to guides

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