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Physical & Digital Collections

Cartographic resources: Finding maps

Describes the collection of Cambridge University Library's Map Department, give tips on finding maps, etc., and points to other resources, including the Map Department web pages

Will there be online catalogue records?

Online library catalogues are relatively recent facilities and many libraries have not yet managed to create online catalogue records for all of their collections. This is true for Cambridge University Library Map Department as well as for many other map (and other) collections worldwide. 

So, although many online catalogues include descriptions of maps and atlases they may not describe the whole of a collection. The bulk of the Cambridge University Library map collection, for example, is only described in its card catalogue. In addition, most libraries do not catalogue separately each map in an atlas, or each map in a map series.

If you can't find what you are looking for in an online catalogue, contact the Library directly.

Finding maps in Cambridge University Library


Since 2000 Cambridge University Library Map Department has catalogued all new acquisitions (including current and older material) only in the Library's online catalogue, iDiscover

Card catalogue

Catalogue entries for Map Department items catalogued before this time will only be found in our card catalogue, located in the Map Department.


The Map Department has also listed some parts of its collection in ArchiveSearch the University's archive catalogue. Most of the items listed will only be found via ArchiveSearch and cannot be identified via iDiscover or the card catalogue. 

... so you may need to look in all three places.

Further information

There are some items which are never catalogued so If you can't find something please ask!

More information about the Map Department catalogues

Searching iDiscover for maps and atlases

For more information see Map Department webpages and the Search for Maps and Atlases Quick Guide. Other Quick Guides to searching iDiscover are also available.

Quick guide to searching:

  • Use Advanced search
  • Select Cambridge Libraries Collections
  • Select Subject from the drop down menu on the left hand side
  • Make sure that the central column is set to 'contains'
  • Type the name of the place for which maps are required and the word 'maps' in the corresponding search box on the right, e.g. Cambridge maps
  • This search will retrieve maps and atlases of Cambridge and parts of Cambridge. If you wish to distinguish Cambridge England from Cambridge Massachusetts add the terms: England or Mass

View of iDiscover advanced search highlighting important fields for finding maps in iDiscoveraps

Searching CUL Map Department's card catalogue

Map Room card catalogue drawerCambridge University Library Map Department's card catalogue is consulted in the Map Room, the Map Department's reading room.

The cards are arranged in one alphabetical sequence arranged by the area covered by the map, and then by map type (general, topographic, administrative, geology, railways, etc., etc.) and date.

This means that it is not possible to go to one place in the card catalogue and see all the maps of, for example, England and all its parts. The trick is to first search for the most specific place of interest - a village, say - and then work up the geographical / administrative hierarchy - parish, county, country, continent ...

More detailed information on the card catalogue is available on the Map Department's web site. 

Other library catalogues

Searching other online catalogues can provide an idea of what might be available at CUL (remembering that much of CUL's map collection - in common with many libraries worldwide - is not catalogued online), and point you to other places where maps might be consulted or from whom scans might be requested. 

The most useful online catalogues are:

Library Hub Discover - a catalogue showing the collections of major academic libraries in the UK

Royal Geographical Society in London has an extensive map collections some of which is listed in its online online catalogue (and not included in Library Hub Discover). Also try Wiley Digital Archives: Royal Geographical Society for images of some of the RGS collection, including some maps.

WorldCat - a catalogue that searches the collections of major international libraries, 

What current mapping might be available?

The Map Department cannot collect everything that is published. But sometimes we don't have current mapping because it is not available. To find out what might be available have a look at the Buying Maps page of this LibGuide

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