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    

East Indies & Southeastern Asia 1599 Ptolemy & Ruscelli Unusual Antique MapArctic Lands Canada Iceland Greenland 1599 Ptolemy/ruscelli Unusual Antique MapNorth & South America Western Hemisphere 1683 Manesson Mallet Antique World MapChina Korea Japan East Indies Malay 1791 D'anville & Harrison Large Antique MapVirginia United States 1683 Alain Manesson Mallet Antique Copper Engraved Map1723 Limiers Atlas Map China - Coree - Japan - Chine Korea Japon AsiaEuropean Continent 1599 Ptolemy & Ruscelli Unusual Antique Copper Engraved MapArabian Peninsula 1599 Ptolemy & Ruscelli Unusual Antique Copper Engraved MapSenegal Angola Guinea Northwetsern Africa 1670 Van Der Aa Unusual Antique MapEurope Iceland Norway Russia Germany Italy Greece Engr. Map Homann 1743Madagascar 1670 Pieter Van Der Aa Unusual Antique Original Copper Engraved Map1780 Bonne - North America, United States, Massachusetts, Connecticut Boston UsaFbi - Detroit Field Office - "d" - Map Version Challenge Coin1780 Bonne - North America United States North & South Carolina Virginia Georgia1893 Civil War History Of The 15th Connecticut Volunteers Union Battles MapsVintage 1935 Mickey Mouse Globetrotter Promo Bread Premium Map- Vvg Cond1780 Bonne - North America, Canada, Nova Scotia, Halifax, Acadia, Newfoundland1853 Boston Almanac 1st Edition Illus Foldout Map New England Jobs Church Govt $East Indies Southeastern Asia 1803 B. Baker Islington Antiquecopper Engraved MapOriginal 1874 Deed & Maps Nprr Prr North Pennsylvania Railroad Abington Pa1761 Desnos - Orig. Celestial Map, World Map, Ptolemy System, Tycho Brahe SystemGreece Eastern Europe Crimea Russia Turkey 1791 D'anville & Harrison Antique Map1780 Bonne - North America, Canada, United States, Great Lakes, Ontario MichiganIran Persian Kings 1719 Chatelain Large Antique Original Copper Engraved Map1775 Histoire De Maurice Comte De Saxe Vol. 1 - Maps, PlansSpartacus Vengeance Costume / Prop Card Mira's MapsNew York United States 1836 Cooper Unusual Antique Original Steel Engraved Map1902 Gold Belt Map & Prospectus,empire Tunnel,gold Mining,milling & Transport CoFlorida 1930's Travel Brochure & Vintage Map Lot Tampa, Ft Lauderdale Palm BeachIndia & Sri Lanka 1788 D'anville & Harrison Large Antique Engraved MapEngland & Wales Dated 1753 Robert De Vaugondy Antique Large Copper Engraved Map**early 1901 Gold Fields Of Cripple Creek Advertising Brochure**railway**w/ MapOpryland 1978 Souvenir Map Of Nashville Tennessees Theme Park1761 Desnos - Orig. Celestial Map, World Map, Solar System, The Planets, Mars 1992 Disneyland Paris Souvenir Map - Item Is FoldedNew York Mohicans United States 1836 Cooper Unusual Antique Steel Engraved Map1927 Travel Booklet Bungalow Camps In The Canadian Pacific Rockies 40-pg + MapWorld Mountains & Rivers 1840 John Dower Antique Original Steel Engraved MapArctic Lands 1683 Manesson Mallet Antique Copper Engraved Hemispheric World Map1706,xl-tartary,siberia,russia,moscow,st.petersburg,yekaterinburg,omsk,kazan,ufaVintage Associated Gasoline Map, Washington-oregon, 19328~ 1945 Thru 1967 Washington D.c. Capital Transit Street Car/bus Line Guide MapsThe Gentleman's Magazine Year 1766 Original Vintage Periodical W/ MapThe Diary Of Anais Nin Framed Poster 1931-1934 Newyork & Paris Character Map1548 - Ptolemy Map Of Africa Tabula Africae Iiii Egypt Nile Elephant AphricaSanta Clara County California Book Of Parcel Maps San Jose Title Company C 19491749 Bellin Map Of Gulf Of Bengal, Malaysia1604 Scarce Ortelius/hulsius Map Of Elbe Estuary, N. GermanyNice Vintage Florida Souvenir Tablecloth Map Surrounded By Polka DotsArabian Peninsula 1752 Thomas Salmon Antique Original Copper Engraved MapGreece Cyprus Balkans Middle East 1790 D'anville & Harrison Large Antique MapOld Cloth Farm Corn Seed Sack Iowa State Hybrid Elkhart Iowa State Map1988 Canada's Wonderland Guide Booklet With Fold-out Map & Shows InsertOriginal Viet Nam Map. Perfect Display Size. With Insets. Sharp. From Ap News1787 Bonne - Rare Map Of Central America, Caribbean, Guadeloupe, Martinique 1896 Usgs Colorado Silver Cliff Rosita Hills Geology Color F/maps Plates Gpo 1stToulon 1710ca Anonymous Antique Original Copper Engraved City MapBerlin Germany 1840 John Dower Antique Original Steel Engraved City Map2, Maps Of Lehigh Valley Railroad Both In Nice Shape CompleteOriginal Ww2 German Amies-reims-paris France Map Wehrmacht Marschkarte 2.wk !!