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Map Collection

The University Library curates approximately 50,000 maps and 5,500 atlases. This LibGuide explains how to find the physical and digital maps you are looking for as well as how to use them and where to look for further research.


The University Library curates approximately 50,000 maps and 5,500 atlases. This LibGuide explains how to find the physical and digital maps you are looking for as well as how to use them and where to look for further research. If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to contact the curator. 

Port of Amsterdam


The Port of Amsterdam, Dienst Publieke werken, ca. 1930 (Universiteitsbibliotheek Vrije Universiteit, LL.01063gk).

Finding maps in Libsearch

All maps and atlases belonging to collection of the University Library are registered in the central library catalog Libsearch. A general explanation is provided in the LibGuide How to use Libsearch. When searching for maps, you should consider the following:  

  • Go to 'Format' and select 'Map'. The results will now only show map-related items. These can not only include maps, but also atlases, globes, or even literature about maps. 
  • Go to 'Format' and select 'eMap' to search for digitized maps only. Click on the 'Online access' button to go to the Imagebase. Here you can view the digital image of the map in detail and download it.  
  • If the 'Group Related Editions' (under 'Group This Search') box is checked, only physical copies will be listed in the results. The digital copies will be, if available, only visible after selecting a physical item.  

Be aware that libraries do not catalogue the individual maps belonging to an atlas or a map series separately. If you can't find what you are looking for, do not hesitate to contact the curator.

Consulting maps

Would you like to consult a map or an atlas? You are most welcome in the Special Collections reading room. The reading room is located at the main entrance of the library, on the first floor of the main building (room 1C-02a). Click here for the opening hours of the reading room or here to find out how to request a library card.    

If you are planning on visiting us we recommend that you request the desired items in Libsearch in advance to ensure that the items you wish to see are available. Request an item by selecting 'Place Hold'. If you submit your request before 3 p.m., the item will be ready for you the next working day from 9.00 a.m. The status of the request can be checked in Libsearch under 'My Account' or directly at the Special Collections Desk (1C-02a).

Maps and atlases cannot be borrowed. You are welcome to bring a camera to photograph the items you are working on (depending on the item's content and associated copy rights). Scanning facilities are also available to make digital copies (maximum format A3).

grab to zoom in

Principality of Asturia, by Johannes van Essen, 1713. The map collection maintains a number of unique manuscript map (Universiteitsbibliotheek Vrije Universiteit, LL.03199gk).

Finding digitized maps

In our collection, all maps (ca. 3,500) made before 1900 are scanned and available online. These maps are available either on the Imagebase and the Old Maps Viewer. New digital maps will be added to the collection on a regular basis.

Libraries do not catalogue the individual maps belonging to map series separately. A map series is a group of separate items (map sheets) related to one another by the fact that each item bears, in addition to its own title, a collective title referring to the group as a whole. For example: the Waterstaatskaart is composed of 124 map sheets covering the Netherlands in its entirety. Every sheet has been revised a number of times. Mapseries Database is a tool developed by the VU to facilitate searching for specific sheets in the Waterstaatskaart and the Rivierkaart.  

All digitized old maps from the VU's collection are available in the Geoviewer. The viewer also allows to compare old maps with current topography.

Referencing maps

We always appreciate people making use of our Map Collection, whether it is in your blog, essay or publication. That's why almost all maps in the Imagebase are available according to the Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 4.0). The responsibility to respect copyright lies on the user. However, given the age of most maps (100 years or older), the risk of (unintended) plagiarism is very low.

A good reference starts with 'University Library VU University Amsterdam', followed by the map's signature. A signature is a code that starts with LL and ends with gk. It can be found in the the map's description in the Imagebase, under 'data from the digitization'. See the images in this LibGuide for examples. 

When citing maps remember that the scale is an important element to cite as well as the publication-, and (when possible) survey-date (on top of typical elements such as title, author, publisher, etc).

GIS and Geodata

GIS stands for Geographic Information System and is an umbrella term for software with which spatial data can be viewed, analyzed and visualized. Spatial data has x and y coordinates, allowing it to be mapped. An overview or analysis of spatial patterns and development can be useful to many disciplines. Think of house prices (economy), age structure (social sciences), earthquakes (earth sciences), corona infections (health sciences) or archaeological finds (humanities). 

Reference library

To understand maps and atlases in their context, you can consult our extensive reference collection. This includes:  

  • Standard works about historical cartography such as the multi-volume Atlantes Neerlandici, Monumenta Cartographica and History of Cartography. The collection also contains biographies of various cartographers as well as cartobibliographies, which provide an overview of all maps for a specific area of study. 
  • Journals in the fields of cartography, geodesy, astronomy and GIS. 
  • Facsimiles are reproductions of maps and atlases that correspond as closely as possible to the original. Many influential maps and atlases (e.g. those of Van Deventer, Sgrooten, Blaeu,) are available in facsimile. 

Some of the reference works as well as the latest acquisitions can be consulted directly in the open display of the reading room on the first floor. All other materials can be requested through Libsearch. While some items from these collections have restrictions on borrowing, you can always contact the curator to see what is possible.   


grab to zoom in

Detail of the first sheet of Amsterdam from the Waterstaatskaart (second edition), Topografische Inrigting, 1878-1879. The waterstaatskaart is an example of map series that is composed of many sheets (Universiteitsbibliotheek Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, LL.03513gk).