The Bodleian holds nearly two million maps and around 20,000 atlases, including material dating from the 14th to the 21st century. The collection is international and includes maps from all over the world, although it is strongest in British material and maps from countries with a historical connection with the UK. There are early printed maps, town plans, manuscript estate maps, topographical series, scientific and geological mapping, sea charts, air charts and maps of the stars.
Almost 2,500 maps and atlases are available on Digital Bodleian, with more to come soon.
Portolan charts are manuscript maps of coastal areas intended for maritime navigation. They are derived from mariners' observations of compass bearings and estimated distances between given points on the Earth -- typically ports. The term 'portolan' originates from the Italian 'portolano,' meaning 'related to ports or harbours.' During the Age of Exploration, portolan charts were closely guarded secrets, especially among the main European naval powers.
The Bodleian Libraries' collection comprises 22 individual portolan charts and another 10 portolan atlases. These span the period from the 15th century to 1741, including work by Dutch, English, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish mapmakers.
The Todhunter Allen Collection
The Todhunter Allen Collection of maps and county atlases dating from 1573 to 1900 acts as a microcosm of three centuries of British cartography. It was put together early in the twentieth century by Hugh Todhunter, and later George Allen, and came to the Library in 1987. The listing phase of the project was completed in 1997, and the online cataloguing onto SOLO finished in June 1999, increasing access to the collection, which contains several rare or unique editions of atlases.
Ordnance Survey maps
Members of the university can access OS map data through the Digimap service (see 'Making maps'), and thanks to electronic legal deposit, all Bodleian readers can view digital post-1998 annual updates of the largest scale OS maps on a dedicated PC in the Map Room. The Bodleian holds an almost complete collection of all OS maps from the first sheet dated 1801 to the present, way in excess of 300,000 sheets in total.
WWI trench maps
The Bodleian Libraries have approximately 2,500 maps of the Western Front, at scales of 1:10,000, 1:40,000, and 1:80,000. The GSGS published several editions of these maps throughout the war, although most are from late 1915 onwards. The series include both standard and 'secret' versions -- the secret maps showed British trench systems in addition to German ones. These sheets were individually numbered and it was forbidden to take them close to the front lines in case of capture. The 1:10,000 series indicate individual trenches and their names or numbers.
Other map collections in the Bodleian
The Commonwealth and African Aerial Photograph Archive holds a part copy of the Ordnance Survey International Collection. This comprises approximately 1.5 million aerial photographs of countries in Eastern, Southern, and Western Africa, as well as parts of Asia and the Americas. These images were taken by the Directorate of Overseas Surveys (DOS) mainly in the 1940s-1970s, to enable them to produce maps at ground scales of 1:30,000 to 1:50,000. Enquiries about this collection should be directed to the archivist (firstname.lastname@example.org).