Picture research for business / professional users

We are often asked to provide suitable old maps for publications, exhibitions, television programmes, pub walls, table mats, theatrical props, etc., and can usually suggest an appropriate illustration.

Maps show more than just map information. Decorative early maps may have illustrations in the cartouche or border. For example, one of the oldest illustrations of tartan is on an early map; or, maps are often decorated with ships or navigation instruments, so can illustrate maritime history.

As this type of search depends on staff knowledge of the collections (there are no picture indexes), such a search can take some time, and it is wise to contact us well in advance. It is not feasible for us to look for more than one or two topics at any time, and we cannot undertake exhaustive research.

However, even if you needed it yesterday we may be able to help!

What do you need?

It helps us if you can provide the following information.

  • What do you wish the map to illustrate? How does it fit in with your theme?
  • What dates do you need?
  • What size of illustration will be on the end-product? A large map will not reduce satisfactorily to an A4 page.
  • Do you prefer landscape or portrait? For example, portrait may be suitable for book covers, while landscape fits a TV screen better. Bear in mind that maps of the whole of Scotland tend to have portrait orientation because of the shape of the country.
  • Do you require a coloured or uncoloured map?
  • Do you wish the map to be simple and clear, or detailed?
  • Will you be using digital images to produce the end-product? Special licences apply.
  • What is your deadline?

We can provide illustrations in several formats:

  • For black and white illustrations we recommend that you hire a 5" x 4" black and white negative. We can provide photographic prints, but the quality of the end product will be better if you work from the negative.
  • For colour illustrations we recommend that you hire 5" x 4" colour transparencies. It is possible to create black and white illustrations from colour transparencies, but the quality may be affected.

Hired negatives and transparencies are returnable within three months. Penalties apply for late return, so do not borrow them too far in advance.

  • We are increasingly being asked to provide digital images. Please ask for details.
Supervision of Photography

Photographs will normally be taken by the Library photographer. In exceptional circumstances (by prior arrangement) outside photographers may be permitted to photograph Library material with supervision, and a supervision fee will apply for each staff member required. This also includes supervision of filming for TV and video.

  • £30.00 per hour or part hour per staff member
Are you in a hurry?

If we have transparencies in stock, we may be able to produce something immediately, but the choice will be limited. Customised photographic orders usually take around three weeks. Black and white photocopies are possible for certain items in 1-2 working days.


Ordnance Survey and other Crown copyright maps less than 50 years old may not be copied without permission. Most other maps less than 70 years old may not be copied, unless you have the publisher's permission in writing.


You must apply to the National Library of Scotland for advance permission before making further copies of the map (e.g. for publication) or displaying it to third parties (e.g. broadcasting). A permission fee may be charged.

How much does it cost?

There is no charge for a basic search. There are fees for:

For further information contact maps@nls.uk.

Maps services for business / professional users

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