RBSC Home Library Home Princeton University Home Search
Historic Maps Collection
Department and Collections Conducting Research Catalogs, Databases, and Finding Aids Exhibitions New and Notable Visiting Fellowships

The Historic Maps Collection was created in 1986 when all post-1919 flat maps (and all topographic maps of any period) were separated from the map collection in Firestone Library and moved to the Map Collection in the Lewis Library. The remaining maps were established as The Historic Maps Collection, a separate entity in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. These maps range from the 16th-century through World War I and are for the most part flat sheets, with a small group of cased maps. While they include depictions of all areas of the world, and a few celestial sheets, the collection is especially rich in maps of North America and Western Europe. The American West (including Mexico) is a particular strength in view of the additional maps in Princeton’s collections of Western Americana. The collection also includes an extensive set historic Sanborn insurance maps (1884-1950) for hundreds of New Jersey communities (now digitized and viewable online) and a growing collection of pre-1919 guidebooks containing maps.

Besides these printed maps, there is a small collection of manuscript maps, principally road maps of New Jersey (reproduced in Howard C. Rice, Jr., New Jersey Road Maps of the 18th-century, Princeton, 1981). Among the manuscript works, the greatest treasures are a 16th-century Aztec map on deerskin, lienzos from colonial Mexico, and the original manuscript version of one-half of the depiction by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon of A Plan of the Boundary Lines Between the Province of Maryland and the Three Lower Counties of Delaware... and A Plan of the... Boundary between the Provinces of Maryland and Pennsylvania, 1768. Other manuscript maps are found in collections in the Manuscripts Division, most importantly the maps created by Louis-Alexandre Berthier during the American Revolution (reproduced in Howard C. Rice, Jr. and Anne S. K. Brown, The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783, Princeton, 1972).

Records for a large number of the printed flat maps are available in the Library's online catalog; many contain links to digital images of the maps. Use the author, date, keyword, and subject indexes to find maps of interest. The most useful is the subject index: one can find individual maps arranged by region and date. Example: "Maps - New Jersey -1800" [as subject search string] will find all New Jersey maps beginning with the date of 1800. Similarly, "Maps - North America" [subject search string] would find all maps of North America. For world maps, use "World maps -[date]".

It should be kept in mind that some of the most important maps in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections will be found not in the Historic Maps Collection but in printed volumes in the rare book collections. The extensive collection of Ptolemys and other printed atlases and the early American maps in books in the Grenville Kane collection suggest the range of map materials in the Department, from the depictions of 16th-century explorers to 19th-century county atlases. The researcher is advised to mine the Main Catalog and Supplementary Catalog for bound works that include original maps. Relying solely on the collection of flat and cased maps is to ignore the greater map resources in the Department.

See online map exhibitions:
Nova Caesarea: A Cartographic Record of the Garden State, 1666-1888
First X, Then Y, Now Z: Landmark Thematic Maps
Of Maps and Men: In Pursuit of a Northwest Passage
To the Mountains of the Moon: Mapping African Exploration, 1541-1880
Strait Through: Magellan to Cook & the Pacific
Philippe Vandermaelen's Atlas Universel (1827)

John Delaney
Curator, The Historic Maps Collection

Email: delaney@princeton.edu
Telephone: (609) 258-6156 Fax: (609) 258-2324
PU home
2001 Princeton University Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, New Jersey 08544 USA
Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
Email: rbsc@princeton.edu 
Tel: (609) 258-3184
Fax: (609) 258-2324

Copyright infringement reports

 http:// www.princeton.edu /rbsc/department/maps/index.shtml
 Last modified Thursday, 04-Sep-2014 13:47:46 EDT