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Cartography Subject Guide

The Map Division of the Clements Library cares for an outstanding collection of printed and manuscript cartography. These images range in detail and subject matter from floor plans of rooms and buildings to maps depicting the Western Hemisphere. The focus of collecting is on maps of the Americas dating from European exploration and colonization to the early years of the twentieth century. The Map Division catalog includes approximately 30,000 maps and plans. About 2,500 of these are manuscript, and many came to the Library with large manuscript collections from the Revolutionary War and Early National period. In addition to individual maps, the Clements holds roughly 1000 atlases dating from 1486 to the end of the nineteenth century. Collection specialties are:

  • Examples, either original or in facsimile, of most of the published cartography of the Americas before 1820
  • Printed maps of the American Revolution, its major battles, and events
  • A broad collection of manuscript maps from the period of Revolution, 1750-1800
  • Extensive printed and manuscript maps of the Caribbean, West Indian islands, northern coast of the Caribbean littoral, and Mexico
  • Cartography relating to other North American conflicts, such as the Indian Wars of the 1790s, War of 1812, and Mexican-American War
  • Nineteenth century travelers’ maps
  • Cadastral and survey maps
  • Student (schoolgirl/boy) maps from 1818 to 1895 representing all regions of the country
  • Town and city plans from the 18th and 19th centuries
  • Fortification plans from the 18th and 19th centuries
  • Ptolemy, Ortelius, Mercator, and Blaeu atlases (16th-17th century)
  • United States county atlases of the 19th century, with heavy representation of the Midwest.

Early in the collecting history of the Library, the staff adopted a policy of only cataloging cartography of the Americas. Most non-American cartography is contained within the 700+ general atlases in the collection. Readers need only identify the time period of the atlases they wish to see to find non-American material.


The Manuscript Map Collection

Many of the manuscript maps derive from collections housed in the Manuscript Division. Most well-known and frequently used are the Revolutionary period maps belonging to the collections of Sir Henry Clinton and General Thomas Gage, under subject headings “Clinton Maps” and ‘Gage Maps.” From the same period is the multi-sheet map of the St Lawrence River, subject name “Murray Atlas of Canada,” prepared by military engineers under the leadership of General Sir James Murray in 1760-61.  The Murray Atlas maps and the Clinton Maps have been digitized, as have been many of the other manuscript maps. Several other manuscript collections from the Revolutionary period, early nineteenth century, and Civil War contain maps.  Subject headings in the catalogue indicate the collection from which they come: for example, Coote, Germain, Harmar, Mackenzie, Schoff, Shelburne, and Simcoe.  Finding aids to the relevant papers may be found in the Manuscript Division. The subject heading “Baldwin Maps” refers to the 479 maps from the collection of family and business papers of Loammi Baldwin and his son Loammi Baldwin, Jr., engineers of Woburn, Massachusetts.


Facsimiles of manuscript maps:

Two collections of facsimiles form a special research aid in the Map Division: the photostatic facsimiles created in the 1920s by Abel Doysié and Professor Louis Karpinski, noted in the Subject guide as “Karpinski Maps” and “Doysié Maps.”  At the behest of Mr. Clements, Abel Doysié, French historian and poet resident in Paris, made photostats of over 150 manuscript maps in the French archives pertaining to North America.  In 1926-27, also supported by Clements, Karpinski, from the University of Michigan’s Department of Mathematics, similarly identified and procured nearly 800 photostats of manuscript maps and documents relative to the American Revolution and the United States found in French, Spanish, and Portuguese archives. Five libraries in addition to the Clements Library subscribed to the latter project and received the complete set of Karpinski Photostats: the Newberry Library in Chicago, the Henry E. Huntington Library in Pasadena, California, the New York Public Library, Harvard College Library, and the Library of Congress. The Huntington Library maintains a short title list to its Karpinski Photostat collection on its website. The Doysié and Karpinski photostats generally include the name of the institution with its original call number or shelf mark, making it possible to search for the original document, today often digitized by the home institution.


The Atlas Collection

The Clements’ large atlas collection builds on the University’s acquisition in 1923 of the collection of Henri Vignaud (1830-1922), native of New Orleans, Secretary to the American Legation in Paris, and president of the Société des Americanistes de Paris.  A scholar of cartography and American history, he published many works and his papers are housed in the Manuscript Division; individual maps from his collection are found under the subject heading “Vignaud Maps.” The atlas collection includes, chronologically, Renaissance editions of the work of Claudius Ptolemy, sixteenth century atlases of Abraham Ortelius and Gerhardus Mercator, seventeenth century atlases of major Dutch publishers, including the twelve volumes of Blaeu’s Le Grand Atlas (Atlas Major), the eighteenth century work of Dutch, French, English, and German geographers and publishers, found both in coherent atlases and composite atlases known as atlas factices.  Nineteenth century American atlases are joined by nearly 400 county atlases, with particular strength in counties from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Midwestern states. Volunteers have collated several of the atlas factices and spreadsheets of the contents are available from the Map Division.


Maps in Books

In the 1950s map curator Nat Shipton undertook the massive task of cataloging all maps found in the Library’s books. This has proven invaluable in identifying smaller printed items still bound in their original volumes. The Clements continues to catalog maps within books.


Manuscript maps in the Clements:

Adams, Randolph G. British Headquarters Maps and Sketches Used by Sir Henry Clinton. Ann Arbor, 1928.

Brun, Christian. Guide to the Manuscript Maps in the William L. Clements Library. Ann Arbor, 1959.

In the years since the Brun guide was published, nearly 1000 manuscript maps have been acquired which are noted in the online catalog as “Not in Brun.”


Printed maps of North America in the Clements:

Marshall, Douglas W., ed. Research Catalog of Maps on North America to 1860 in the William L. Clements Library. Boston, 1972.


Maps printed in America before 1800:

Wheat, James Clements and Christian F. Brun. Maps and Charts Published in America Before 1800, 2nd rev. ed. London, 1985.

Wheat and Brun used the collections at the Clements to form the core of this guide, supplemented by photostats from other institutions.


Maps and Atlases from the Clements Library cited in reference cartobibliographies:

Shirley, Rodney. The Mapping of the World. Early Printed World Map, 1472-1700. London: Holland Press 1983.

Burden, Philip D. The Mapping of North America. Rickmansworth, Herts, England: Raleigh Publications,1996-

Kershaw, Kenneth A. Early Printed Maps of Canada.  Ancaster, Ont.: Kershaw Pub., 1993-

McCorkle, Barbara. New England in Early Printed Maps 1513 to 1800: An Illustrated Carto-bibliography.  Providence, R.I. :John Carter Brown Library, 2001.

Cumming, William P. The Southeast in Early Maps. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.


Atlas bibliography:

Koeman, C.  Atlantes Neerlandici. Bibliography of terrestrial, maritime and celestial atlases and pilot books, published in the Netherlands up to 1800. Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1967-1971.

This core work is being re-edited and updated as Koeman’s Atlantes Neerlandici, compiled by Peter van der Krogt. t Goy-Houten, The Netherlands: HES Publishers, 1997-

Pastoureau, Mireille. Les atlas francais XVIe-XVIIe siècles. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1984.


Other useful bibliographies include:

Nebenzahl, Kenneth. A bibliography of printed battle plans of the American Revolution, 1775-1795.  

Jolly, David C. Maps of America in periodicals before 1800 and Maps in British periodicals. Brookline, Mass.: D.C. Jolly, 1989-90.

These works includes maps found in the Gentleman’s Magazine, The London magazine, and the Universal Magazine, eighteenth century serials which may be found in the Clements’ Book Division.

The Clark Map Library of the University Library provides a research guide to resources for the History of Cartography in general.

Subject Headings

Manuscript maps
Maps shelf
Baldwin Maps
Brun Maps
Clinton Maps
Coote Maps
Doysié Maps
Gage Maps
Germain Maps
Harmer Maps
Karpinski Maps
Murray Atlas of Canada
Shelburne Maps
Vignaud Maps
Real property
Student Maps
Wheat Maps
World maps

Illustrations (marginal illustrations are noted in the catalogue by subject, e.g. Native Americans, beavers, tobacco)

Cartouches (various subjects within and around the decorative cartouches are noted in the catalogue, e.g., slavery, plantations, sugar production, trade, Native Americans, flora and fauna]

Wheat Maps: The subject heading “Wheat Maps” designate maps of the Great Lakes region collected by Renville Wheat (1893-1968), nephew of the library’s founder, William L. Clements, and donated to the library. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and a decorated veteran of World War I, Renville Wheat was a prominent attorney in Detroit. Sharing his uncle’s enthusiasm for rare books and maps, Wheat was a founding member of the Clements Library Associates and chairman of the Board of Governors. His love for Lake Superior led to his collection of well over a hundred maps related to the Great Lakes, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Many of the Wheat maps have been digitized and may be found in the Image Bank using the “Wheat Maps” subject heading.

Catalog Records

All Map Division records are identified in the library catalog with the local subject heading Maps shelf

Online Resources

A large and increasing number of maps and plans may be found in the Clements Library Image Bank. At this time the majority of the manuscript maps have been scanned and added to the image bank. Two complete collections should be noted: Clinton Maps and Murray Atlas of Canada.

Many maps in the Clements collections have been described and discussed in context in the pages of The Quarto, and may be found via a keyword search in these issues.

The Clark Library in the University Library maintains a list of Research Guides in the History of Cartography on their web site.  These provide a good background for further research in the context of the history and production of early maps.

Last Updated 7/30/19