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Note that only a small proportion of the Map Department's holdings have online catalogue records. To make a comprehensive search of our holdings you will also need to visit the Map Department to search our card catalogue.

The information on this page provides help for searching Newton (the Library's old online catalogue which is available until Summer 2017) for maps and atlases. The information will be of particular help if you have no specific title or author in mind.

Most of the information below also applies to searching iDiscover (the Library's new online catalogue, available from September 2016) for maps and atlases - the major differences are indicated. General information on searching iDiscover can be found here

If you are looking for books on cartography or gazetteers, click here.

Please ask a member of staff if you need help to refine your search further or if you cannot find what you want.

Some categories of material in the Map Department are never catalogued. A more comprehensive list can be found here but some common examples are listed below:

  • Town plans are not all catalogued. Ask a member of Map Room staff for assistance.
  • Maps in series are usually not catalogued individually. This means, for example, that the 1:50,000 Landranger map series published by Ordnance Survey which covers Great Britain in 204 sheets, has one catalogue entry not 204. Individual sheets within map series are identified using graphic indexes in the Map Room. Ask a member of staff for assistance.
  • Maps in atlases are not usually catalogued individually. So, if you cannot find a suitable map in the catalogue think whether one might have appeared in a larger work such as a road or national atlas. National atlases, for example, often include a variety of thematic maps.

Searching for Maps and Atlases of a Particular PLACE

In Newton:

  • Use Advanced search
  • Select Subject from one of the drop down menus on the right hand side
  • Make sure that the central column is set to all of these
  • Type the name of the place for which maps are required and the word 'maps' in the corresponding search box on the left. 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

In iDiscover:

  • Use Advanced search
  • 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
  • This is a much more reliable search strategy than doing a general keyword search and limiting the results by 'Resource Type' maps.

See also Searching for World Atlases

Searching for Maps and Atlases of a Particular TYPE

You may only be interested in maps of a particular type - geology or soils maps, for example, or maps published before 1800, or facsimiles. To find these types of map you need to use additional search terms. Some of the more commonly used search terms are listed below; they can be combined with a place name.

In Newton:

  • Use Advanced search
  • Select Subject from one of the drop down menus on the right hand side
  • Make sure that the central column is set to all of these (unless otherwise stated below)
  • Type your search terms - see list below of the more commonly used terms - in the corresponding search box on the left
  • The search terms can be combined with a place name, e.g. geology maps england

In iDiscover:

  • Use Advanced search
  • Select Subject from the drop down menu on the left hand side
  • Make sure that the central column is set to contains (unless otherwise stated below)
  • Type your search terms - see list below of the more commonly used terms - in the corresponding search box on the right
  • The search terms can be combined with a place name, e.g. geology maps england
early maps For maps and atlases (original and facsimiles) published before 1800
administrative maps  
aerial views  
aeronautical charts  
agriculture maps  
archaeology maps  
archaeological surveying maps  
bathymetric maps  
childrens atlases For children's atlases
If you want maps search for childrens maps
cities towns maps For collections of maps (including atlases) of cities and towns, including world wide collections. Combine with a place name - e.g. a country - for collections of city and town maps of that country
climate maps  
cycling maps Also try bicycle trails maps
facsimiles maps  
geology maps  
globes For globes (and books about globes)
historical geography maps  
history maps  
land use maps  
manuscript maps  
mental maps  
nautical charts  
outline base maps  For outline and base maps
physical maps  
pictorial maps  
pictorial works maps  
planning maps You could also add the terms: city ; highway ; regional as appropriate
railroads maps  
remote sensing images  
remote sensing maps  
roads maps  
soils maps  
topographic maps For maps at more detailed scales, ca. 1:200,000 or larger, though use with caution since some useful maps may be excluded
tourist maps  
transportation maps For maps showing a variety of transport modes. For specific transport types search for: railroads ; roads ; air travel ; harbors ; waterways ; rural transportation ; subways ; urban transportation ; etc maps
walking maps Try also trails maps and hiking maps
weather maps  
world maps For maps of the whole world. See also Searching for World Atlases

These search terms (as well as those listed below) are Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) - hence the American spelling of words like harbor. A searchable list of LCSHs is available here.

It is best to start your search with general terms and then to refine it by using more specific search terms. If you find an item that suits your needs, try searching on the subject terms present in the catalogue record for that item.

Also think, where appropriate, of substituting the word 'maps' with guidebooks - cycling and walking guidebooks, for example, often contain maps - or of dropping the terms maps / charts altogether.

Searching by SCALE

Catalogue entries for most (but not all) maps and atlases drawn at one or two scales include a scale statement in the form of a representative fraction, such as 1:50,000. To search for such items, do a keyword search for 50000 (etc.).

In Advanced Search this can be combined, for example, with a Subject search for a place name. 

Catalogue entries for maps and atlases drawn at more than two scales, or with no, or an unknown scale, may include scale statements such as: Scale not given; Scale indeterminable; Scales differ; Not drawn to scale - or there may be no scale statement at all.

Using PLACE-NAMES as KEYWORDS

If you do not find a map of a place by using the subject searches suggested above, try searching for the place name as a keyword, but keep the word maps in the subject search box. 

Searching for WORLD ATLASES

If you specifically want a world atlas:

In Newton:

Go to: Basic Search
Select: Search within: Subject Headings
Search For: Atlases

This will retrieve a list (index) of subject headings. Under the heading Atlases should be world atlases published in the USA. Under the heading Atlases British, for example, are world atlases published in Great Britain.

Using LIMITS

In Newton:

It is possible to automatically restrict, or limit, your searching of Newton to cartographic materials (i.e. maps and atlases):

  • In Advanced Search, scroll down to Item type or Medium and select Map (to find maps and atlases)
  • The limit will stay in place until you change it

However, since there is a danger that relevant records will be missed when search limits are used, we would only recommend their use if searching without limits yields too many results. 

In iDiscover:

It is possible to refine your searches by clicking the  'Resource Type' maps box. However, you may miss relevant items by doing this and our recommendation is always to do a subject search as described above. 

Printable Version of This Text

See Map Department Information Sheet 5C - Searching Newton for maps, atlases and books on cartography (a MS Word document) or ask a member of Map Department staff for a hard copy

Opening hours

Monday-Thursday

9:00-12:45 and 14:00-17:10 *

Friday

9:00-12:45 and 14:00-16:50 *

Saturday

Closed **

* Monday to Friday 12:45-14:00: If you wish to continue working through the lunch period we can transfer items to the Munby Rare Books Reading Room.

** Items ordered before 12.45 on Friday can be consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room. No fetching or transferring is possible on Saturdays. Please contact the Map Room to discuss your requirements.

Contact us

Map Department 
Cambridge University Library 
West Road 
Cambridge 
CB3 9DR 

Email: maps@lib.cam.ac.uk

Telephone:
+44 (0) 1223 333041
+44 (0) 1223 333042