NY Public Library puts 20,000 high-res historical maps online for free

The New York Public Library has just posted 20,000 high-resolution maps, and other cartographical historical records dating from the 1600s, online, for free.

It’s totally fun. I spent two hours last night going through and downloading them.

It’s easy to do. Just go and create an account, then start browsing. They walk you through the project in some detail, if you’re interested.


Here’s more from the Library on what they did and how they did it. Note the reference to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. That’s one of those programs that Congress keeps on trying to kill.

A little background on how we got here… We’ve been scanning maps for about 15 years, both as part of the NYPL’s general work but mostly through grant funded projects like the 2001 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funded American Shores: Maps of the MidAtlantic to 1850, the 2004 Institute of Museums and Library Science (IMLS) funded Building a Globally Distributed Historical Sheet Map Set and the 2010 NEH funded New York City Historical GIS.

Through these projects, we’ve built up a great collection of: 1,100 maps of the Mid-Atlantic United States and cities from the 16th to 19th centuries, mostly drawn from the Lawrence H. Slaughter Collection; a detailed collection of more than 700 topographic maps of the Austro-Hungarian empire created between 1877 and 1914; a collection of 2,800 maps from state, county and city atlases (mostly New York and New Jersey); a huge collection of more than 10,300 maps from property, zoning, topographic, but mostly fire insurance atlases of New York City dating from 1852 to 1922; and an incredibly diverse collection of more than 1,000 maps of New York City, its boroughs and neighborhoods, dating from 1660 to 1922, which detail transportation, vice, real estate development, urban renewal, industrial development and pollution, political geography among many, many other things.

We in the Map Division are all very excited about this release and look forward to seeing these maps in works of art, historical publications, movies, archaeological reports, novels, environmental remediation efforts, urban planning studies and more… Enjoy!

And here are a bunch of interesting maps and pages of book that I downloaded. A lot of them, if not all of them, are from the 1600s and 1700s. How totally cool.






I threw an old map of France from around 1700 in there too.







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