Maps in the Institute of Historical Research Library

Sheet maps and drawings

The Library has always held an excellent collection of sheet maps, both originals and facsimiles, and they have now been catalogued, classified (classmark M) and stored in the new map cabinet which was funded by the IHR Friends. For anyone studying particularly the history of London and its surrounding counties, these are an excellent resource. The collections also includes various maps of other English counties, along with a few non-English maps including maps of Aberdeen and Edinburgh when Scotland belonged to the Roman Empire, and a map of South Wales in the fourteenth century. It also includes some of Great Britain as a whole.

Alongside the maps are various views and drawings and a few architectural sketches, mostly from the London Topographical Society and some as donations to the Library. The earliest cartographic materials include facsimiles of maps of Great Britain from the early fourteenth century, through many representing London in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, right up to the numerous twentieth century maps held at the IHR. It is worth noting that some of the maps recently catalogued are too large for the drawers, and so have been moved into closed access along with various other oversized items. The following can be requested from the onsite store:

Atlases and bound editions of maps

Map holdings in the rest of the IHR's collections are shelved according by subject area and are therefore spread across the library. Most of the geographical collections have a separate place for maps, although maps in particular subjects may be shelved according to the subject rather than material type. The following are a few examples, please ask for further help if you are interested in any particular collection not covered here:

Britain and Ireland



General British: There are several items at classmark BB.087, including some general atlases and compilations of historical maps.

London collection: A number of bound maps at classmark BL/BLL.1 and in the map drawers, including:

Ireland: Most items are at classmark BI.083, including the Irish historic towns atlas.
Scotland: Most items are at classmark BS.156 (guides are at B.0724)
Wales: Most items are at classmark BW.156 (guides are at BW.0724)

English Local History: There are numerous maps stored in the various English local collections. They are shelved within the individual county collections, and also in the general local history section where there are many historic itineraries, guides and directories covering travel by road, railway and canal.



General European material is at classmark E.243. Individual country's classification schemes tend to have a section for maps, for example French history at EF.15, Germany at EG.095, Spain at ES.16. Some are shelved with the local/regional subsection, and others by subject. Here are some examples:

Rest of World


There is some overlap with colonial/trade history where material is held in the collection relating to the administrating country rather the geographical location, for example the Grote atlas van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie and Afrika in de XVIde eeuw en de handel van Antwerpen. Some other examples of cartographic material of areas outside Europe:

Special subjects


Covering a variety of subjects, including:


Gazetteers and other related material

A few examples:

Map guides and general secondary works

Many maps collected by the IHR have accompanying guides, or can be used in conjunction with some of the secondary works available in the library. These include historical guides, survey guides and a select number of journals relating to cartography or local history which may have relevant material for your research. Some examples of these include:

Other relevant libraries/institutions

To compliment any study into the geography of Britain or further afield, there are various other libraries and institutions in London that can help any research in this area. The following locations house extensive map collections:

  • The British Library has an extensive collection of maps including the Crace Collection which consists of around 1200 manuscript and printed maps of London.
  • The Guildhall Library has a collection of London maps.
  • The Royal Geographical Society is the most authoritative body in London on maps and surveys and houses one of the world’s largest private map collections.
  • Senate House Library map collection.

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