Episode 4
census maps #2
Episode 2
GLOBES, maps digital archives #3
Episode 3
census free digital archives maps
Episode 4




Mappa di Torino, 1833.
Mappa di Torino, 1833.

Plans, maps, geographical advertising, globes: these are useful tools in many fields across humanities and social sciences: belonging to Digital Humanities, they can be helpful in military /administration / political / naval / economical history, as well as geopolitics, migration studies, cultural and visual studies, communication & propaganda, and many others. Plus, a nice map can be precious to draw a beautiful poster or improve a paper presentation (we’ve written about that).

Here we propose an ongoing – since these resources are virtually infinite – census of the digital collections and archives whic provide a free access / download to their cartographical documents. More precisely in this first episode we focus on a few public/national institutions.

If you need to organize your archival sources in an efficient way, take a look at our tutorial/review of the free software Tropy.

Library of Congress

 Chart of the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and the coasts of western Europe and northwest Africa
[Chart of the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and the coasts of western Europe and northwest Africa]

The world’s most impressive library welcomes 10.000 to 15.000 new books every day. It holds more than 40.000.000 books and 70.000.000 manuscripts in 470 languages, plus the audio & video collections. It is hard to tell exactly how many things are in the LoC, and even harder to imagine all that amount of stuff. Of course, this library has a large collection of maps and globes – abour 5,608,003 items (2018).

  • Topics and time range: all topics and eras.
  • How many: about 40.000 digital items.
  • How to: looking for an item in the digital catalogue is extremely simple thanks to the search engine. When you find what you’re looking for, you can “download” the item by simply clicking on the button below the picture. You can choose among different formats, including Jpeg2000 and TIFF for super-hi-res pictures; in this case beware that the file size can be of several hundreds MB.




Humoristiques (Cartes). - A humorous diplomatic atlas of Europe and Asia
Humoristiques (Cartes). – A humorous diplomatic atlas of Europe and Asia

Gallica, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF).

Among the several millions of available items, about 78000 maps, globes and plans are digitalized. They are organized in several collections.

  • Topics and time range: all, starting from X century.
  • How many: about 78.000 maps.
  • How to: The advanced research allows to find any map. Then you can download it in JPEG or PDF in different resolution; it is also possible to select a portion of the document and download it in a higher quality.

Biblioteca Nacional de Espana

  • Topics and time range: all.
  • How many: a bit less than 1000 items.
  • How to: once you’ve found your item through the usual filters, you can click on “ver obra” (up left) and then download the file.

British Library

The British Library holds one of the most important collections of maps and globes, counting 4.500.000 documents. The online part holds 14 collections of maps, plans and globes.

  • Topics and time range: 2000 years of global history.
  • How many: unknown (we could not establish the exact amount of items).
  • How to: Browsing the collection is not particularly easy. It is organized in 14 collections, and you have to find “what’s available online” in each one; then you can browse the traditional database. For most collections there is also a georeferencer that allows you to put the map… On the map.

MAEA France – French Diplomatic Archives. 

These archives hold a large collection of diplomatic documents – correspondences, treaties and maps.

  • Topics and time range: French history, colonial history, global history.
  • How many: unknown (we could not establish the exact amount of items).
  • How to: maps can be freely downloaded in Jpeg and PDF format.

Mappa di Brno, 1928 (dettaglio)
Mappa di Brno, 1928 (dettaglio)

Moravská zemská knihovna – Czech Republic

  • Topics and time range: Mittel-Europe, European history, global history.
  • How many: more than 11.000 items organized in several collections.
  • How to: when you’ve found your item you can simply click on the up-left button to download the file. It’s not possible to choose the quality / size of the picture. 
  • Extra: The MOLL collection holds many XVIII century maps, mostly about parts of Europe.



Call for participation:

Since these digital archives about cartography and maps are astonishingly numerous and some of them belong to narrow niches, we cannot know about all of them: please tell us if you know a collection, so that we can put it in the next episode.

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