Mapmaking dates to at least the late 15th century, just a few decades after Gutenberg’s introduction of the first moveable type printing press. By the time of Queen Elizabeth’s reign during the second half of the 16th century, people were already collecting these documents, which were usually bound in books, making them important additions to any self-respecting library.

Some of the most desirable early maps are the colorful engravings from the 1500s, which were quick to integrate, as best they could, the intelligence gleaned from voyages by such explorers as Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Giovanni Caboto, an Italian whose name is frequently shortened to Cabot. The first of these was Johann Ruysch’s 1507 map showing the New World, which was produced more than a decade before Ferdinand Magellan’s crew completed their late-captain’s circumnavigation of the world.

Gerard Mercator’s “Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio,” which was reproduced by his son Rumold in 1587 and published in numerous books and atlases after his death in 1594, gave viewers an equatorial azimuthal equidistant projection (in other words, the equator is the only non-curving latitude in the map) of the world divided into two hemispheres, depicting what we now call North and South America on the left and Africa, Europe, and Asia on the right.

By 1627, the famous London cartographer John Speed produced a decorative, double-hemisphere map of his own, which is notable for showing the state of California as an island. More than 100 years later, in 1750, Emanuel Bowen’s Mercator projection world map, in which all the latitudes and longitudes are parallel, got Baja California correct, but left the northwest corner of North America empty and unmapped.

If the geography depicted on world maps was occasionally a bit fuzzy, cartographers did a better job capturing more familiar places such as cities and towns. Sebastian Munster’s 1552 map of London used the woodblock printing technique to show streets to scale, outsize ships in the Thames, and noblemen and women in the foreground as a decorative touch. By comparison, John Rocque’s 1746 map of the same city almost looks like a satellite photograph—visitors to the city today could probably use it and not get too lost.

Some of the earliest regional maps of North America and the United States were produced by Europeans. Henry Hondius of The Hague created a map of Virginia in 1633 based on an original provided by Captain John Smith, who settled Jamestown. Amsterdam-based cartographer Jan Jansson created definitive maps of the northeast in 1666, and Francis Lamb engraved a decorative map of the Carolina coastline for Londoner John Speed in 1676.

As with Rocque’s 1746 map of London, Robert Sayer and John Bennett’s 1776 map of Florida looks surprisingly contemporary. And Joseph Colton’s large 1854 wall map of the United States is extremely accurate, with states, territories, and topographical features captured in loving detail.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

David Rumsey Map Collection

David Rumsey Map Collection

David Rumsey has put over 15,800 maps online, with a special focus on North and South American images from the 18th… [read review or visit site]

U. Texas Map Collection

U. Texas Map Collection

This comprehensive map archive includes maps of the world, individual continents, and the U.S., as well as speciali… [read review or visit site]

Maps: Finding Our Place in the World

Maps: Finding Our Place in the World

This attractively designed microsite from The Field Museum showcases highlights of their map collection, along with… [read review or visit site]

Harvard University Collections

Harvard University Collections

This portal site highlights Harvard's many web accessible collections, featuring everything from photographs to mus… [read review or visit site]

The American Memory Project

The American Memory Project

This amazing Library of Congress site includes about a hundred photo and document collections (see complete list) o… [read review or visit site]

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library's impressive Digital Gallery offers free access to over 500,000 historical images inclu… [read review or visit site]

Petrol Maps

Petrol Maps

Ian Byrne's virtual glove compartment is crammed with almost 2,000 European petrol (gas) and oil company roadmaps. … [read review or visit site]

Ephemera Blog

Ephemera Blog

Marty Weil's wide-ranging, in-depth blog on ephemera, including lots of great interviews with ephemera collectors. … [read review or visit site]

Ephemera Society of America

Ephemera Society of America

Great reference on ephemera... includes examples and descriptions of various ephemera categories, selected special … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique 1801, 4-vol Illustrated Set, Don Quixote, Foldout Map, Fine Binding, Nr1812 Antique 3-vol Set Books, History Of New Hampshire, Jeremy Belknap 1791 MapWwii Usaaf Pilot Silk Blood Chit Flag Map Estate Find Nice Ww2Original Ww 2 D Day Defences Map Ohmaha Beach Colleville Sur Mar Top Secret 5/44Original Ww 2 D Day Operation Neptune Bigot Top Secret Apr 44 Ohmaha Beach MapOriginal Ww 2 D Day Operation Neptune Bigot Top Secret Apr 44 Ohmaha Beach MapJ.r.r.tolkien~lord Of The Rings Trilogy~1st Editions/10th Impressions,1963/mapsOld Antique 19th Century Atlas 23 Hand Coloured Maps Cartography 1842 America1863 Johnson's Family Atlas Civil War Antique Map Texas Virginia New York BookSuper Rare! Original Wwii 1944 Us Secret Naval Map Of Iwo Jima Uss Bull1599 Geneva Bible Maps No Reserve !!!!Aaf Silk Ww 2 Us Pilot Map Berlin Germany Poland Warsaw Escape Scarf1757 Bellin Map Of Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, Virginia1781 Bonne Map Of The Great Lakes, Canada/usaEarly Australian Ep Silver Map Of Tasmania Picture Frame C1900sOriginal 1958 Disneyland Theme Park Souvenir Guide Map Disney Rare VintageAmerican Continent 1763 De L'isle/buache Antique Original Copper Engraved MapVintage 1961 Large Cartoon Disneyland Map Walt Disney Magic Kingdom MapLarge Vintage 1975 Cedar Point Map Amusement Park Sandusky Ohio Lake ErieVintage Original Disneyland Opening Day Program Guide Map July 17, 19551787 Cary's English Atlas 47 Antique Hand-colored Engraved Maps England Wales Uk1598 Desirable Magini Map Of AfricaSuperb 18th Century Map Of London And WestminsterVintage 1950s Sterling Silver Military Japan Map Etched Zippo Insert Pat 2032895Very Rare Large 1878 Prince Edward County & Hastings County Atlas - Amazing MapsWw2 German Afrikakorps Africa Wehrmacht Folded Map ,nice !Rare Usa Map Irtp 1935 1st National Beer Can Maryland Cone Top Baltimore,md BohVintage 1966 Vietnam Tour Jacket / Embroidered Map,dragon & Tiger Xaun LocVintage 1940/50 Cram Pull Down Classroom Maps American History World1871 1st Ed Life Of Jesus Christ Henry Ward Beecher Map Of Palestine CrucifixionPlagues Inflicted On Egyptians *1794* Bryant Maps Idolatry Fire River Blood Lice1678 Duval Map Of The West IndiesBudapest (buda) Hungary 1690 Bouttats Antique Copper Engraved Panoramic ViewWwii Silk Aviator Map Germany & Western EuropeVintage Tablecloth Cactus Cloth The Shores Of Historical Massachusetts State MapPost Civil War M1874 Blue-grey Kepi With Alabama "map On Tree" Staff ButtonsHarry Potter Noble Collection Map Of Diagon AlleyJ & C Walker Very Rare & Beautiful Map Warwickshire Letts 1860 Linen ColouredMap,course Of The Rhine.holland Germany,etc,c1640,hand Col.by Blaeu,large,faultsAntique 1876 Baskin Forster State Of Indiana Atlas City County Maps 460 Pages1640 Antique Map Africa Blaeu1900 Peking Map Game Board Rare1853 J H Colton's Map Of Michigan Pocket Fold Out Color Geographical Publc Estab 1555 Woodcut Antique Map India Sri Lanka Tabula Asiae X Sebastian Munster1958 A Guide To Singapore - Milerage Charts,maps,advertisements Malaya BookOrdnance Survey Cloth Town Map Of Southampton 1919. Streets, Parks Etc.Asian Continent 1750 Sanson/vaugondy Antique Original Copper Engraved MapLizards Pocket Map Of ScotlandWw2 Wehrmacht German Afrika Original Map Leipzig Printed Dated 1940 AfricaNib Extremely Rare Vintage Zippo®cz167 1997 Camel "map" Brushed Chrome FinishBudapest (pesth) Hungary 1690 Bouttats Antique Copper Engraved Panoramic ViewNice Original Wwii Raf Royal Air Force Silk Middle East MapVintage Solid Brass Tripod Nautical Magnifier, Glass Map/stamp/document ReaderUnited States 1780 Ca. Therry Antique Original Copper Engraved Map1777 Bode Rare Original Handcol. Astronomy Celestial Chart Map1838 Abel Bowen's Picture Of Boston Guide Book Maps Plates Descriptive HistoryBeaurain *1774* Histoire Campagne Prince De Conde Flandre Military Battle MapsAn Early Large Map Of Beijing In Color, Totally In Chinese, 1920Brazil South America 1745 De L'isle/buache Large Antique Copper Engraved MapNorth America Continnet 1780 Bonne/raynal Antique Original Copper Engraved Map

Recent News: Maps

Source: Google News

All those confusing geography terms, explained in a gorgeous antique map
Vox, September 1st

You can see the original map, circa 1870, at the David Rumsey Collection (we've upped the contrast on this digital version to make it slightly more readable). A few of the more confusing terms merit some clarification, so we referred to the Oxford...Read more

Rare Cartography and Exploration Coming up at PBA Galleries
Fine Books & Collections Magazine, September 1st

He contributed articles to such publications as Terra Cognita (newsletter of the Society for the History of Discoveries), The Map Collector, Mercator's World, and the newsletter of the California Map Society. He edited, and largely wrote, California 49...Read more

Turning trash into treasure for your home
Royal Gazette, September 1st

From drab to fab: Monica Dunstan, founder of Luxecycle Bermuda, transforms old furniture into chic and stylish items for people's homes. The 30-year-old stripped the paint off this window and will mould it into a message board (Photograph by Blaire...Read more

Morton Grove Historical Museum to feature antique map collection
Chicago Tribune, August 31st

20 at 2 p.m. the new exhibit entitled Morton Grove Maps will feature a presentation by George and Mary Ritzlin of Evanston's George Ritzlin's Antique Maps & Prints. cComments. Got something to say? Start the conversation and be the first to comment...Read more

The New York Public Library is digitizing its collection of 435000 maps
Crain's New York Business, August 26th

How the New York Public Library digitizes its vast map collection. The library system received a $380,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to help with the extensive project. Aaron Elstein By Aaron Elstein. 0 Comments Email Print. ×. Photo: Associated...Read more

Vintage Maps Show by Hyderabad-based Curator
The New Indian Express, August 12th

An exhibition on the human quest for accurate physical depiction of the earth over the centuries by city-based Kalakriti Archives is on in Delhi. The expo also throws light on depiction of geographies of the Indian subcontinent. The two-month...Read more

Seeing the sub-continent through vintage maps
The Hindu, August 9th

Vintage maps provide a unique insight into how cities and countries evolved over time and how the world looked like without the modern day boundaries that define the way we are used to seeing the world. The Indian subcontinent has looked very different ...Read more

Frankie Meyer: Oklahoma group digitizes map collection
Joplin Globe, August 9th

The Oklahoma State Historical Society has been collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the state since 1893. The staff of the research division recently embarked on another ambitious project: The society has decided to digitize its collection...Read more