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Scope of the Card Catalogue

The card catalogue includes entries for items in the Map Department collections, i.e. mapsatlasesviewschartsgazetteers, general books on cartography and on the cartographic history of specific areas. 

The card catalogue also includes reference to some maps, atlases and books held elsewhere in the Library. 

Map Department items all have classmarks beginning with one of the following: Maps Atlas S696ViewsMS.PlansMaps.Ms.Plans 

The classmark is to be found in the top right of the catalogue card.


Series maps are catalogued at series level (e.g. the 1:50,000 series published by Ordnance Survey which covers Great Britain in 204 sheets has one catalogue entry NOT 204). Individual sheets must be identified by using graphic indexes. Ask a member of staff for assistance.

Maps and views in atlases and books may not have been catalogued separately.

Apart from the individual sheets in map series and most maps in atlases and books, other Map Department items that are not catalogued individually include: some town plans, Admiralty charts, particulars of sale … For more details see click here.

IMPORTANT! Please note that:

  • Catalogue records for items added to the Map Department collections since August 2000 will only be found in iDiscover, the Library's online catalogue (see the iDiscover Quick Guides or the 'Finding Maps' links on the left hand side of the screen).
  • Catalogue entries for books and most atlases added to the collection before August 2000 will be found in both the card and online catalogues; however, catalogue entries for maps added to the collection before this date will only be found in the card catalogue (though this situation is gradually changing as more cards are converted to machine-readable form and added to the online catalogue, see for example, the retrospective conversion project described here)
  • Author entries for some books and atlases will also be found in the Guardbook catalogue (the Library's old printed catalogue which can be consulted in the Library's Catalogue Room at the top of the stairs leading from the Entrance Hall). Note: Since 1 October 2005 the catalogue records in these volumes have also been, mostly, available online via iDiscover. 
  • Some Map Department items are only catalogued in ArchiveSearch, the University’s archive catalogue.

So, to make a comprehensive search of our holdings you will need to search both the card and online catalogues as well as ArchiveSearch.

Arrangement of the Card Catalogue

Main Headings

Catalogue entries are arranged in two separate sequences:

Geographic Headings : (catalogue drawers with white labels)

  • The geographic headings represent, as specifically as possible, the area covered by the map or atlas. It is the principal type of heading and is usually the first geographic place-name mentioned in the title, though additional entries may be made.
  • The cards are filed in one alphabetical sequence so, for example:
    • Paris will be found under ‘P’
    • France will be found under ‘F’
    • Europe will be found under ‘E’

i.e. maps of parts of a given country are scattered throughout the catalogue.

The suggested search strategy is to start with the smallest place of interest and then look at cards for the wider area - village, parish, county, country, continent, world. 

Author Headings : (drawers with yellow labels)

  • The name of the author or mapmaker. These may be personal names or those of corporate bodies.
  • The cards are filed in one alphabetical sequence in the drawers with the yellow labels.

Sub Headings

Geographic and Author Headings may be further subdivided. (Note that some, but by no means all, of the subdivisions are marked by green index cards).

Subdivisions within Geographic Headings

In the following list of possible sub-headings:-

  • general = topographic maps and atlases
  • special  = thematic maps (including series maps) and atlases. This broad heading is further sub-divided as appropriate, e.g. administrative, geology, roads etc.

Within each subdivision the cards are arranged in date order, earliest first.

Atlas (general) Atlases that include predominantly topographic maps
Maps (general) Further subdivided into:- facsimile collections - individual maps - series maps (arranged by scale, largest - i.e. most detailed - scale first)
Maps (parts) Maps of parts of the larger area.  (Primarily used with town names)
Special Thematic maps and atlases, including, e.g., national atlases Charts · Including maritime atlases
Views (collections)  
Views (particular) Views of particular buildings etc. (Primarily used with town names)
Environs (general) Maps of the area around the place in the heading. (Primarily used with town names)
Environs (special) Thematic maps and atlases of the surrounding area. (Primarily used with town names)
Miscellaneous Used mostly for books. 

Further sub-headings are:- cartography (books about the cartography of the place) - distance tables - gazetteers - glossaries - guide-books - pilots' guides - road books, etc.

Books on map-related subjects not directly related to a place will be found under the heading World - cartography which is further divided by subject - map readinglibrarianshiptechniques, etc., etc. 

Subdivisions within Author Headings

Headings under the name of the author or map-maker are arranged by geographical area, i.e. by the geographic heading assigned to the item, e.g. [America (North) - general]. Please note that prior to the 1950's these geographic headings were not typed onto the catalogue cards so the geographic area must be deduced from the title information on the cards.

This text is also available in Information Sheet 5A - The Card Catalogue (a MS Word document) or ask a member of Map Department staff for a copy


Opening Times

Map Room Opening Times

Monday to Thursday 9am to 12:45pm and 2pm to 5:10pm
Friday 9am to 12:45pm and 2pm to 4:50pm 

i.e., we will be closed lunch time, in the evenings and on Saturdays. However, given sufficient notice, we may be able to transfer Map Departmet items to the Rare Books Reading Room for consultation during these closed periods. 

Note that there are very reduced catering facilities in the Library.

Where to Find Us

Library Floorplan

The Map Room - the Map Department's Reading Room - is on the first floor of the Library at the far end of the North Gallery. At the top of the stairs from the Library's Entrance Hall, turn right and the Map Room is at the end of the corridor. 

Contact us

Map Department 
Cambridge University Library 
West Road 
CB3 9DR 


+44 (0) 1223 333041
+44 (0) 1223 333042
Our LibGuide may help with some enquiries