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.


  • 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

How to handle prints, drawings and photographs

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

Get a Reader Pass

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

How to handle folded items

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

Using the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)

How to use the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)

How to reuse images of unpublished manuscripts

Guide to the copyright of unpublished documents

Access manuscripts and archives

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

Guide to researching provenance of books now in the British Library

Where do the British Library’s old printed books ‘come from'? Who owned or read them in centuries past? Why does it matter?

How to order images

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

Terms of use for Google Books

This page states the terms and conditions surrounding the British Library’s out of copyright books which have been digitised by Google.

What collection items can I view online?

You can see books, manuscripts, maps, playbills, scores and much more. Researchers can use our collection of electronic resources and databases to help them find material relevant to their research.

Can I take photographs of British Library material myself?

You can take photos of our collection items yourself in British Library Reading Rooms

Can I copy material in the Reading Rooms?

What you need to know about copying British Library collections in our Reading Rooms

How to handle books

See the techniques you should use to keep our books in good shape.

How to handle rolled items

We show how you should unroll items like scrolls, rolls and maps.

Using gloves with books and manuscripts

Should you wear gloves? Here's some advice to help you decide.

Breaches of British Library Reading Room Conditions of Use

These guidelines outline the British Library’s policies and procedures with regard to breaches of its Reading Room Conditions of Use. They are to ensure consistency in the actions taken in response to such breaches and to define the appropriate roles and responsibilities in the process.

Electronic resources

We collect thousands of electronic journals, books and websites and hundreds of databases. You need to come to the Library to access the majority of these resources.

How to request items not in the catalogue

You can use 'Request Other Items' to order items which have no record in Explore the British Library. Also to order most items found in Expore Archives and Manuscripts.

Guide to the British National Bibliography

A guide to help you use the British National Bibliography catalogue, covering: login, search, and how to manage your results

Guide to Explore the British Library

A guide to help you use the catalogue, covering: login, search, how to manage your results, how to order/view items

Free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions: 2019

We offer a range of free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions to help you make the most of your time researching here.