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Yale University Library

Map Collection, Sterling Memorial Library

Collection Profile

The Yale Map Collection has the largest collection of print maps in Connecticut and one of the largest university collections in the United States. Its collections are geographically comprehensive and consist of over 200,000 map sheets, 3,000 atlases, and 900 reference books.

The Map Collection holds approximately 11,000 rare map prints and manuscripts. These are generally identified as pre-1850 maps and can manifest themselves as large and small flat sheet maps, covers, globes, globe gores, and wall maps, as well as copper- and woodblock-engraved plates. These rare maps cover the world in scope. The majority of the rare collection focuses on North America and includes many maps associated with American history.

Visitors can view maps owned by prominent American figures such as George Washington, early world maps showing geographic perceptions of the period such as Johann Ruyches's 1507 map of the world (Universalior cogniti orbis tabula ex recentibus confecta observationibus), claimed possessions of North America such as John Mitchell's Map of the British and French Dominions in North America, significant historical boundaries such as Charles Mason's Map of the Mason-Dixon line between Maryland and Pennsylvania (1768), and the beginnings of American cities such as the 1721 French manuscript map of New Orleans (Plan de la Nouvelle Orleans). In addition to the main Yale Map Collection, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library contains important collections of rare early mapping, in both atlases and separate sheets. These include such treasures as drawings and charts from the Lewis and Clark expeditions.

The Yale Map Collection is also the central support facility for the use of modern mapping technology at Yale University. At the Map Collection, researchers find state-of-the-art hardware and software resources for the capture, management, and analysis of spatial data, as well as support specialists who provide expert advice and consulting services. The Map Collection staff is well qualified to provide the type of interdisciplinary support required by Yale University's research community. The Map Collection provides instruction in the use of geographic information systems (GIS) for cutting-edge analysis of spatial relationships, as well as the use of mobile mapping technologies such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) to capture the geographic data necessary for the examination of those spatial relationships. The Map Collection is also active in providing services on projects requiring a high level of technical expertise and ranging in focus from the digital mapping of archaeological excavations to the use of 18th-century German postal route maps and modern GIS data to trace James Boswell's route in his travels through Europe.

The Yale Map Collection is a focal point for the collection and availability of cartographic information, regardless of format, at Yale University. The Map Collection augments the collection and use of print maps and atlases with the application of geospatial information systems and imaging software towards a goal of building an internationally renowned collection of cartographic resources in both print and digital forms.

Collection Profile and Overview: Stacy Maples and Michael Colavolpe
Illustrations: Courtesy of Map Collection, Yale University Library

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