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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. Remember also to search ArchiveSearch

The information on this page provides help for searching iDiscover (the Library's new online catalogue) for maps and atlases. The information will be of particular help if you have no specific title or author in mind. If you are looking for books on cartography or gazetteers, click here.

There is usually more than one way to construct and refine a search. Different search strategies will use different parts of the catalogue record and so may produce subtly different results, so it is usually worth trying more than one type of search.

See iDiscover LibGuide for more information on searching iDiscover, including a detailed Search for Maps and Atlases guide. Please ask a member of staff if you need help or if you cannot find what you want.

Note that 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

  • 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
  • This is a much more reliable search strategy than doing a general keyword search and refining your 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.

  • 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 (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 works 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  
battlefield 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  
Game Maps  
geology maps  
globes For globes (and books about globes)
historical geography maps  
history maps  
imaginary places maps  
land use maps  
literary maps  
manuscript maps  
mental maps  
military 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 with topographical information (relief, settlements, etc.) at more detailed scales of ca. 1:200,000 or larger. Use with caution since some useful maps (and, e.g. town plans) 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., plus maps
walking maps Try also trails maps and hiking maps
war maps  
weather maps  

world maps

[as a phrase]

For maps of the whole world. See also Searching for World Atlases

These search terms 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 an 'any field' (i.e. 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.



If you do not find a map of a place by using the subject searches suggested above, try searching for the place name as an 'any field' (i.e. keyword) search, but keep the word maps in the subject search box. 


Searching for WORLD ATLASES

If you specifically want a world atlas:

  • Select Cambridge Libraries Collections
  • Go to Browse
  • Select Browse by Subject and type the word ‘atlases’ in the Search Box
  • Click on to retrieve your results
  • This will retrieve a list of subject headings beginning with the word ‘Atlases’
  • Look for ‘Atlases (LCSH)’. Click on this to see World atlases published in the United States of America (you can largely ignore the ‘Atlases’ headings followed by other strange abbreviations!)
  • If you want World atlases published in other countries add the name of the appropriate country (Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, Netherlands …) to the ‘Browse by Subject’ search box


It is possible to refine your results by selecting 'Resource Type' maps. However, you may miss relevant items by doing this and our recommendation is always to do a subject search in Advanced Search, as described above. 

Printable Version of This Text

See Map Department Information Sheet 5C - Searching iDiscover for Maps and Atlases (a MS Word document) or ask a member of Map Department staff for a hard 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 are closed lunch time, in the evenings and on Saturdays. However, given sufficient notice, we may be able to transfer Map Department items to the Rare Books Reading Room for consultation during these closed periods. 

Remember: Pencils only in the Map Room and No food or drink!

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. 

We are very close to the Tea Room.

If you have you visited, please take a few moments to give us feedback on your visit via our survey:

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