Maps Reading Room catalogues

There are various methods of accessing the map collections, depending on the type of material and its age. Map card catalogues, indexes and lists are available only in the Maps Reading Room, but an increasing number of map and atlas records are now in the main catalogue.

Although Map Collections does not produce a published catalogue, our holdings of pre-1850 maps of Scotland (acquired prior to 1983) are detailed in the two-volume 'The Early Maps of Scotland to 1850', edited by D G Moir (Edinburgh: Royal Scottish Geographical Society, 1973, 1983).

If you visit the Maps Reading Room we recommend that you ask Map Collections staff for assistance before consulting the catalogues.

 Main catalogue

Records for most map and map-related material in volumes (atlases, gazetteers, cartographic reference books and periodicals) acquired after 1967 have been in the main catalogue for some time. Retroconversion of card catalogues for post-1800 volumes is nearing completion.

From 2000, new single sheet maps are being catalogued online, but not map series. A retro-conversion programme for map records began in 2000, starting with the Map Card Catalogue, and will take some years to complete.


 Map card catalogue

This catalogue includes records of atlases, single sheet maps, reference books, some map series (at series level), and maps in books elsewhere in the library. The format and quality of records vary, as they have been compiled over several decades with different cataloguing rules (originally based on British Museum practice, now using AACR2). The catalogue is in two parts:

  • The Area Catalogue has subject headings by PLACE.- Topic.- Form.- Date.
    e.g. SCOTLAND.- Geology.- Maps.- 1975.
  • The Name Catalogue includes personal and corporate names such as mapmakers, surveyors, engravers, authors, publishers, etc.
    e.g. PONT, Timothy.

 Slip indexes

Several different categories of material are recorded in over 20 slip (sheaf) indexes, particularly map series (some at series level, others at sheet level), special collections and early material. Slip indexes include:

  • Modern map series (Place - Scale)
  • Admiralty charts (Sheet number - Date)
  • Various Ordnance Survey series (Scale - Sheet number - Date)
  • Various UK Geology and Soil Survey series (Sheet number - Date)
  • Ordnance Survey large-scale town plans (Place - Scale - Date)
  • Early maps of Scotland (Place - Date)

 Graphic indexes

Most map series have graphic indexes, annotated with Library holdings so that coverage may be seen at a glance. Smaller graphic indexes are held in a central file, while larger indexes are in drawers with the appropriate maps. These are available on request.

 Shelf list

This is particularly useful for the foreign sheet maps which are stored in classified order (by area) based on the Ministry of Defence GSGS 5307 (Parsons) classification, e.g.

  • B1 World
  • C1 Europe - C16 British Isles - C18 Scotland
  • D1 Asia
  • E1 Africa...

 Shelf list databases

Some shelf lists have been entered on databases which also serve as finding lists. These are not yet available online outside the Maps Reading Room, but extracts or printouts may be available on request.

  • Database of large scale (1:2500 and 1:1250) Ordnance Survey National Grid (post-1945) paper maps of Scotland. 100 kilometre grid squares NO, NS and NT have been compiled and other areas are in preparation.
  • Database of manuscript maps held in the Map Library (some manuscript maps are held by Manuscript Collections)
  • List of Board of Ordnance manuscript maps (18th-century military maps of Scotland).

For more information about Maps Reading Room catalogues and indexes, contact


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