King’s Topographical Collection Cataloguing and Digitisation

Uytbeelding vant verschil der bequaamheden, van d'Oude en Nieuwe Brand Spuiten

This project is cataloguing and digitising George III’s collection of around 30–40,000 maps and views.

Published date:

About the project

George III’s extensive ‘K.Top’ collection of around 40,000 maps and views reflects changing impressions of place and space across the 16th–19th centuries through manuscript and printed atlases; architectural drawings and garden plans; maps and records of military campaigns, fortifications, barracks, bridges and canals; records of town and country houses, civic and collegiate buildings; drawn and printed records of antiquities including stained glass, sculpture, tombs, mosaic pavements and brasses; and thousands of drawn and printed views.

The collection includes the work of familiar names from Hollar to Hawksmoor, alongside the works of a host of lesser-known artists and amateurs and much anonymous or unidentified material. The British Library has received support from a number of generous donors to make this material available digitally.

The core aim of the ongoing King’s Topographical Collection Cataloguing and Digitisation Project is to provide free online access to George III’s maps and views. The main outputs are the ongoing creation of detailed and searchable catalogue records on our Explore catalogue and high quality digital images, which will be available there soon. This project has also involved sharing our records with other institutions and initiating research projects.


Since 2013 the project has digitised over 22,000 prints, drawings and maps manuscripts, and fully catalogued over 34,000. The collection had previously been only cursorily listed in the 19th century.

To date our activities have included:

  • An initial assessment of the collection’s size and content.
  • Ongoing conservation.
  • Ongoing photography, including shooting the outsize Klencke Atlas – a timelapse of its transportation to the studio and photography is available.
  • Ongoing cataloguing, including full transcription of titles and the creation of name authorities for all involved (such as artist, printmaker, publisher, previous owner, dedicatee). The resulting records (which can be found by searching for ‘George III’ and the place depicted on our main catalogue) enrich the study of publishing and printing, as well as topographical art and mapwork.
  • Newly catalogued and imaged colour views and original drawings in the collection.
  • The cataloguing of the King’s Topographical Collection underpins the research project Transforming Topography which has involved a 2013 workshop and 2016 conference extending scholarly and public engagement with K.Top and the other extensive topographical collections at the British Library.
  • Material from the collection can be viewed and explored on Picturing Places.
  • The Library is co-hosting a collaborative PhD with Royal Holloway examining the collecting of maps of the Grand Tour through the King’s Topographical Collection.

What happens next?

  • The bulk of the digitisation will take place from April 2017.
  • A parallel research project, Transforming Topography, will continue to encourage research the collection and the digital presentation of our newly created images.
  • A 2017 PhD placement will initiate the study of George III’s parallel collection of sea charts and atlases, the King’s Maritime Collection.
  • Further research will be undertaken on the collection’s formation and structure before it reached the British Library, thanks to a Georgian Papers Fellowship.

The King’s Topographical Collection will be catalogued, with the majority digitised and available online in 2019.

Stay updated

Subscribe to the Maps and Views and Untold Lives blogs for information on recent discoveries and developments on the King’s Topographical Collection Cataloguing and Digitisation Project and other activities in the Western Heritage Collections.

Follow us on Twitter to receive updates and highlights.


The project has been generously sponsored by trusts and individuals including the American Trust for the British Library, Art Scholars Charitable Trust, Blue Rubicon, Viscountess Boyd Charitable Trust, Christies Education, Coles Medlock Charitable Foundation, Cornwall Heritage Trust, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, Daniel Crouch Rare Books, Dunard Fund, Eccles Centre, Englefield Charitable Trust, Edward and Dorothy Cadbury Trust, Hadfield Trust, John R Murray Charitable Trust, Ken Biggs Charitable Trust, Samuel H Kress Foundation, Langtree Trust, London Historians Ltd, London Topographical Society, Maunby Investment Management Ltd , PH Charitable Trust, Peck Stacpoole Foundation,  Pitt Rivers Charitable Trust, Reed Foundation, Sylvia Ioannou Foundation, Swire Charitable Trust, Swinton Charitable Trust, Trefoil Trust, Turtleton Charitable Trust, Cyrus Alai, Caroline and Peter Batchelor, Michael Buehler, Tom Boyd, Richard H Brown, Claire Gapper, William B Ginsberg, Jaime Gonzalez, Martin Halusa, Jerome S Handler, Peter Holland, Tina Holland, Arthur Holzheimer, J Michael Horgan, John Leighfield, Norman Leventhal, Sri Prakash Lohia, Tom and Hilary Lynch, Lynda Partridge, Robert E Pierce, Carolyn Ritchie, David Rumsey,  J T Touchton, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, Peter A Woodsford and others who wish to remain anonymous.


East Asia

Resources for the study of East Asian languages and cultures