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 with almost 2,000 European petrol (gas) and oil company roadmaps. While Ameri… [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    

World Map America Europe Africa Asia Australia Engraving Stoopendaal 1682 #b3801740 Matthaus Seutter Antique Original Copper Engraved Hemispheric World MapAmerican Continent 1740 Matthaus Seutter Antique Original Copper Engraved Map1676 Original Antique Map By Speed: Kent Canterbury Rochester Dover London1587 Zuallart Pilgrimage To Jerusalem Holy Land Palestine Greece Italy Rome MapsBroughton A Concent Of Scripture 1590 Ortelius World Map Rembrandt 6 Plates NrAustralian Ww1 Canvas Leather Map Holder And Contents. German Map Of France.Paul Journey Turkey Israel Syria Orient Engr. Map Keur & Doornick 1682 #b380Original Ww2 Airborne Silk D Day Escape Map For France,holland Belgium, GermanyConstantinople Istanbul Bosporus Byzantium Turkey Engr. Map Lotter 1750 #b247History & Antiquities Scarborough *1798* Hinderwell 1st Engrvs Map BindingExodus Israelites Moses Holy Land Egypt Engr. Map Keur & Doornick 1682 #b380Isle Of Wight *c1834* Barber's Picturesque Illustrations Bartlett Engravings MapHoly Land Judea Israel Palestine Jordan Orient Orig. Engr. Map Homann 1720 #b247 American Worcester World Modern Atlas 1827 - Boston - 11 Handcolored Maps-Jerusalem Plan Salomon Temple Israel Orig. Engr. Map Keur & Doornick 1682 #b3801613 Grand Duchy Of Lithuania Large Original Wall Map Blaeu Radziwill Radvila African Continent 1740 Matthaus Seutter Antique Original Copper Engraved MapHoly Land Paradise Eden Garden Arche Orig. Engr. Map Keur & Doornick 1682 #b380Large 1733 Map Homann India Sri Lanka Ceylon Goa Golkonda Puducherry MadrasIreland 1716 Johann Bapist Homann Antique Original Copper Engraved Map Vintage Hand Made London Underground Map Lamp By Jasmine Redfern New York Nr YqzCanaan Israel Jerusalem Bethlehem Holy Land Engr. Map Keur & Doornick 1682 #b3801878 Africa Dark Continent Travel Savages Slavery Congo Maps Natives Hunting 1stEuropean Continent 1740 Seutter Antique Original Copper Engraved MapRare Large Colton's 1871 Hand Colored Pocket Map Of New York City-advertisingVintage Electric Telechron Nautical Time Zone World Map Clock - Works Great !§ 1819 1st Edition John Smith With Plates + Map Virginia Chesapeake Bay MarylandOttoman Empire Anatolia Orient Egypt Arabia Persia Engr. Map Lotter 1750 #b247Original 1693 Collins Greenville Map Sea Chart Ireland Dublin Bay Howth DalkeyShanghai Japanese Antique Map International French Concessions 1932 China Ww2*6719th Century Antique Wooden Map Making-surveyor Compass~protractor Tool!Poland Lithuania Latvia 1739 Tirion/salmon Antique Original Copper Engraved MapVtg Ww1 World War 1 Letters Journal Red Cross France Us Army Old Maps Postcards1700 Capt. William Dampier Voyages With Engraved Folding Maps - Volume Ii OnlyCrawfurd *1818* History Renfrewshire Stewarts Antiquities Col Maps EngravingsSouth America 1720 Moll Very Large Wall Antique Original Copper Engraved Map1751 First Issue Vaugondy Map Of Colonial North AmericaRare 4 Sheet Sectional Hand Col. Wall Map: Upper New York City/nyc Athletic ClubIsland Crete Candia Chania Iraklio Cyclades Greece Engr. Map Homann 1720 #b247Eagle Industries Aor1 Modular Assault Map Pack Dev Gru, Navy Seal Issue!Rare Original Map, Valentijn,kaart Van Het Eyland Formosa 1720,taiwan, FormosaOld Map Showing New England & New York Circa 1700New Kjv Giant Large Print Ref. Leather Bible 14pt Red Letter Map Thumb IndexedOld Map Ca 1735 Italy Lazio Rome Lago Di Bracciano Ostia Anzio Terracina Formia1670 Ca Antique Original Map Western Hemisphere- California Island- John Ogilby. Five (5) Brazil Starbucks Gift Cards Map 2014 Release, Collectible, MintPhilip’s Handy Atlas Of The Counties Of England 1891 48 Maps Railways Parliament1st Garden Of Surrey *1829* Sketch Dorking Environs Map ThorneRussia Scandinavia Crimea Ukraine 1784 Lotter Antique Copper Engraved Map License Plate Artwork Usa Map Iii 90788 NRare Vintage Old Ordnance Survey Aviation Map 1934 Sheet 11 England SouthVintage Nystrom Pull Down Wall School Canvas Map Set Chart Classroom Industrial Antique Victorian Trade Card Lot Of 18 - Arbuckle Bros. Coffee Maps & CountriesUs World War Ii Army How To Read A Map And Compass Instruction BookletVintage 1966 Walt Disney Disneyland The Magic Kingdom Souvenir Poster MapLinco Gasoline Marathon Motor Oil Ohio Map Findlay1735 Large Rare Wall Map East Prussia Germany Lithuania Minor Memel Klaipeda1598 Decorative Ptolemy/ziletti Map Of N. Africa, Sardinia, SicilyAlexander Ritchie Iona Past And Present With Maps

Recent News: Maps

Source: Google News

Twitter-Stalking the Rise of SFMOMA; Inside SF's Endangered Flower Mart ...
Racked NY, August 28th

SAN FRANCISCO—Continuing our obsession with all things historic, we bring you 10 vintage maps of San Francisco guaranteed to cartographically blow your mind. SoMa—The Flower Mart is a San Francisco institution, but have you ever actually been ...Read more

Tatters vintage shop in Uptown closing
TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press, August 28th

As far as the vintage maps of the world that have long decorated the walls of the 34-year-old shop, Denham is selling those through a silent auction on the Tatters' Facebook page. Maps include prewar Europe, 1938 Asia and 1965 Africa. Print Email Font ...Read more

The Patchwork Maps That Helped Prospectors Track Mining Claims in the ...
Slate Magazine (blog), August 28th

(The remaining maps from Bolitho's atlas can be seen on the David Rumsey Map Collection website.) In 1872, a new Mining Act straightened out the complicated mess of property rights that had developed in the American West, where prospectors had been ...Read more

10 things to do today, Aug. 27, in Boulder County
The Daily Camera, August 27th

Corresponding maps range from antique maps to aerial photographs; celestial charts to contemporary expressions of map design, 7 a.m., Benson Earth Sciences Building at CU, 2200 Colorado Ave., Boulder, free; 888-659-1938. TALKS & LECTURES...Read more

USGS Historic Map Project Leader Feted by Librarians
DirectionsMag.com (press release), August 20th

The USGS Historic Topographic Map Collection (HTMC) and the USGS Publications Warehouse, both described by Weessies as critical resources in map librarianship, are ongoing, large-scale projects which deliver free, archive-quality digital images of ...Read more

Artist Creates Work Using Digital Map Collection of New York Public Library
PSFK, August 19th

Electric Objects brings visual objects from the Internet into our homes, a project that received overwhelming support and enthusiasm during a month long Kickstarter campaign. The unique platform displays virtually anything from a web browser onto a...Read more

How One Man Ripped Off Millions in Rare Maps, Including in Chicago
DNAinfo, August 18th

An East Coast native who lived on Martha's Vineyard, Smiley was one of the top map collectors in New York. But the field had grown increasingly competitive since the 1990s when map prices began rising and ... But extravagance also left Smiley in a deep...Read more

Catastrophe Mapped
Harvard Magazine, August 15th

The centerpiece of an exhibition now at the Harvard Map Collection is a pieced-together map eight feet high by nine feet wide [the second image above] that shows at a glance the dimensions of the Western Front in World War I. German trenches are...Read more