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 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

Most watched eBay auctions    

17thc Antique 1610 John Speede Worcester Shire, English Copper Engraved Map Nr1754 Bellin - Original Big Folio World Map, Planisphere, Mercator's Projection..1845 Rare World Atlas By W Cooke Taylor 40 Mostly Hand Coloured Maps 172 Yrs OldAmerican Continent 1640 Botero Unusual Antique Original Copper Engraved MapPoland & Lithuania 1690ca Blaeu Unusual Antique Original Copper Engraved MapWw2 France Raf Silk Escape Map C19441732 Voyages In California Canada Newfoundland Hudson Bay Virginia Americana Map1844 World & Geological Atlas By T.b. Loader Very Rare 46 Large Maps & ChartsColonial United States & Canada 1753 Schreiber Antique Copper Engraved Map1809 Smith's Classical Atlas, Ancient History, 22 Hand Coloured Maps, Folio Size1722 Architecture Castle Military Fortification Palace Engineering Design MapsRare Edward Wells A New Map Of North America Shewing.. Hand Colored C1700 Oxford1695 Nicolas De Fer - Original Rare & Complete Atlas With 195 Geographical MapsNorth America East Coast New York Great Lakes Engraving Map Homann 1777 #b900John Muir Book W/ Fold-out Maps The Yosemite 1st Ed? April 1912ΑΘΑΝΑΣΙΟΥ, Athanasius Of Alexandria Opera Omnia, 4 Vols, Manfrè, 1777, MapVintage Disneyland Map 19611754 Bellin - Original Map Of Australia, Sydney, New Guinea, Oceania New ZealandLg. 19thc Antique Victorian Era Wood Document Box Old Library Estate Map Case1666 Raleigh History Of The World +7 Maps Holy Land Arabia Asia Cyprus Near EastOriginal Ww2 Pre D-day Usaaf Raf Airborne Eto Cloth Escape Map Zones Of FranceGeorge Sandys Travels 1673 7th Ed Turkey Egypt Map Plan Illustrations ReserveMagna Britannia Hibernia *1720s* Cox Maps Cheshire Derbyshire Stafford WarwickVintage Florida State Map Souvenir Tablecloth Retro Mid-century 46" X 50" Nice!South Africa & Madagascar 1686 Van Der Aa Unusual Antique Copper Engraved MapPoland & Lithuania 1749 Schreiber Antique Original Copper Engraved Road Map1810 Clarke 'travels' Russia Tartary & Turkey Plates Maps Petersburg MoscowSouth Carolina - Usa: Savannah Columbia Charleston Original Engr. Map 1806 #b900Scarce Original Ww2 D-day Usaaf Raf Airborne Eto Cloth Escape Map Sheet 43 C & D1834-1836 Comprehensive Gazetteer England & Wales 4 Volume Set 44 Engraved Maps Eagle Industries Khaki Modular Assault Pack Map 8/08 - Devgru Seal Mlcs Nsw SofAntique Map Pipe Silver Mounting Unidentified Rb Hallmarked Birmingham 1902Old History Of United States Book 1878 Maps Indian American Revolution Civil War1875 New Historical Atlas Of Fayette County Ohio Illustrated Maps L.h. EvertsAsian Continent 1640 Botero Unusual Antique Original Copper Engraved Map1754 Bellin - Orig. Map Of Australia, South Pacific Ocean, Oceania South AmericaVintage 1966 Original Walt Disney's Disneyland Park Map In Great ConditionTribe Of Asher West Galilee Israel Lebanon 1590 Van Adrichem Unusual Antique Map1810/12 M.brun & Lapie - Orig. Map Of Asia, China, Japan, Korea, Beijing, TaiwanOriginal Wwii Us Air Corps Pilot Silk? Cloth Escape Evasion Map Se China & LuzonLithuania Littaw Hartmann Schedel Nuremberg 1493Central Africa Kingdom Of Prest John 1686 Van Der Aa Unusual Antique MapClassical Conversations Foundations Guide 4th Edition, Cycle 1 Map, Tin Whistle1931 Santa Fe Railroad Brochures Grand Canyon Petrified Forest Ca Maps 7 Diff.India Nepal Burma China Siam Philippines Asia Orig. Engraving Map Mercator 1630Original Old 1910 Buffalo & Susquehanna Railroad Map - Growth Of B&s SystemOld Civil War History Report Book 1864 Red River Louisiana Battle Campaign MapsEagle Industries Molle Modular Assault Hydration Pack Map Khaki Navy Seal SofNorth America Wind Flow Map - Usa Canada Caribbean Original Engraving 1804 #b900Vintage Framed Ocean County Map Lbi Seaside Harvey Cedars Barnegat Toms RiverOriginal 1877 Union County Ohio Atlas W/lithographs & Maps. 108 Lg Pgs L@@k!European Continent 1640 Botero Unusual Antique Original Copper Engraved MapCold War Escape & Evasion Silk Aircrew Map Of Berlin Printed On Post Ww2 VersionOriginal Old 1912 Buffalo & Susquehanna Railroad Map - Connecting Railroads Vtg Unused Cuba Island Map Souvenir Compact W/ Puff Holiday Isle Of The TropicsHighway Map Arizona ,california ,nevada , Utah Rio Grande Oil Co. Vintage MapAntique 1868 Johnson's Family Atlas Us World Maps 'as Is' California Civil War1778 Bonne - Original Folio Map Of Asia, East Indies, Philippines, Sumatra, JavaSyria The Holy Land & Asia Minor Illustrated Bartlett John Carne C1840 Maps Rare1810/12 M.brun & Lapie - Orig. Map Of Asia, East Indies, Java Borneo Philippines