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

Most watched eBay auctions    

Walter Raleigh *1634* History World Battle Plans Maps Mythology Arabia BindingAuthentic 1658 Antique 17thc Nicolaus Visscher Tinted Engraving Switzerland Map1783 Rare Book With Early United States Map Revolutionary War John Adams More16thc Antique Authentic 1599 Copper Engraving City Map, Prague Czechoslovakia NrChina Provinces Tibet Korea Peninsula Japan Taiwan Asia Map Mercator 1630 #b762World Map Hemisphere - Planets Armillary Sphere - Copper Map J.b. De Nolin 1785World Map America Europe Africa Asia Terra Incognita Orig. Mercator 1630 #b762Ww Ii Silk Escape Survival Map- Zones Of France-dated Mar. 1944North & South America California Mexico Cuba Brazil Orig.map Mercator 1630 #b76218thc Antique 1736 Dutch Brass & Leather Bound Bible + World MapNorth America 1745 Gebauers/delisle Unusual Antique Original Copper Engraved MapBerkshire England 1612 John Speed Antique Copper Engraved Map First EditionNorth Pole Artic Circle Greenland America Russia Engr. Map Mercator 1630 #b762Continent Africa Abyssinia Congo Nubia Madagascar Engr. Map Mercator 1630 #b7621801 Faden Map Of The Cross Roads Of Great Britain - Slip Case - Charing Cross.1890 Rand Mcnally Atlas Of The World Rare Old Color Map Montana Indian TerritoryAsia Arabia Russia Persia India China Korea Siam Engr. Map Mercator 1630 #b7621704 Bodenehr Rare World Map In 2 Hemispheres, Terrestrial Planisphere, AmericasId'd Wwii United States 3rd Marine Corps Sgt Lot Wounded Guam Maps Photos HelmetWwii Secret Marked Us Xix Army Corps Document & Map Lot 1945 Germany Late War Continent Europe England Spain Italy Russia Turkey Engr. Map Mercator 1630 #b7621704 Bodenehr Rare Map: Poland & Lithuania, Polen, Prussia Vilnius Warsaw KrakowAmerican Continent 1795 Zatta Unusual Antique Original Copper Engraved MapWwii Hyper Rare Overlay Map Of 101st Airborne D Day Drop Zones, 506th 501st 377Annual Register, 1768, 4 Folding Maps.La Cite 1739 Exclusive Schumacher Hand Print On Linen 8'9" X 4' MapIceland Halar Kalla Eirar North Atlantic Orig. Engraving Map Mercator 1630 #b7625 Phenolic Bakelite Scotty Dog Serviette Rings Silver Tasmania Map Souvenir DecoCyprus Nicosia Larnaca Greece Islands Europe Orig. Engr. Map Mercator 1630 #b762Ukraine Kiev Crimea Russia Moscow Region History Engr. Map Mercator 1630 #b762American Continent 1731 D'anville Unusual Antique Original Copper Engraved MapThe Wild Turkey In Virginia Mosby And Handley Hunting Book Excellent With Map Nr1704 Bodenehr Rare Map: Spain, Andalusia, Cadiz, Gibraltar Malaga Cordoba MurciaAntique Vintage 19th Century Map Texas Texas Frontier 1852 Mitchell Framed GreatAaf Silk Cloth World War Ii Us Pilot Map Japan & South China Seas C-52/53 1945Ireland Hibernia Dublin Kilkenny Limerick Belfast Engr. Map Mercator 1630 #b762Russia Ingria Belarus Ukraine Tartary Ural Orig. Engr. Map Mercator 1630 #b762Antique 1870's Houston & Texas Central Railway Map W/ Indian Territory Railroad Lithuania Estonia Latvia 1660 Blaeu Antique Original Copper Engraved Map6 Antique Leather Bining Shelf Case Reference Maps Atlas Dictionary Book Set1690 De La Croix Atlas Map America - Canada California - United States Mexico1695 De Fer Atlas Map Asie - Asia - China Japan Coree India Korea Indonesia40 Vintage / Recent Damaged License Plates Lot For Crafts Maps Artists LettersVtg 1950s Florida State Map Souvenir Tablecloth Fabulous Graphics Super NiceParis France 1580 Sebastian MÜnster Antique Original Woodblock Engraved MapIsrael Holy Land 1662 Jansson & Horn Scarce Antique Original Copper Engraved MapAstroworld Map Vintage1704 Bodenehr Rare Map: South Russia, Ukraine, Romania Crimea Black Sea Bulgaria 1801: * 17 Engraved Maps * Presentation Copy Of The English TravellerAmerica - Hemisphere - Polar - Copper Map Guillaume De L´isle 1740Rare Ransom & Doolittle 1869 Map Of California & Nevada Large Foldup Pocket MapPhilip's Planisphere Antique Astronomical Star Chart Instrument Map1704 Bodenehr Rare Map: South Spain, Andalusia, Seville, Cadiz, Gibraltar MalagaEaston Press Book Maps In A Mirror Orson Scott Card Signed 1st Edtion Sci Fi Montgomery Of Alamein Ww2 Hero "german Front Lines Map We Used" 1967 Als Rare Wwii D Day Silk Escape Map 1943 Ww2 Europe 43 K Double Sided France SpainNew Zealand - Australia - Hemisphere World Copper Map Guillaume De L´isle 1740Incidents Of Travel 2 Vols, 1845, Map, Plates, Egypt Arabia Petraea, Holy LandDisney Animal Kingdom Kiliminjaro Safari Harambe Reserve Wdw Souvenir Map PosterPoland Silesia Polish Kingdom 1660 Blaeu Antique Original Copper Engraved Map