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Universiteitsbibliotheek – LibGuides

Special material: Maps and atlases


Utrecht University Library holds an interesting collection of maps and atlases. The most recent cartographic documents can be found in the Map Room on the sixth floor of University Library Uithof (room 6.29). The older and less consulted documents are kept in depositories. These maps and atlases can be requested via WorldCat and consulted in the Special Collections reading room. The material is not for loan.


Georeferencing is a technique in which scans of old maps are put on top of modern maps or other old maps. As a result, the georeferenced layers show the changes over time. It also means that the old maps can be better analysed and are more suitable as scientific sources. In addition, the georeferenced maps become visible in geographic search engines.

By georeferencing Utrecht University Library wants to make its collection of old maps accessible for teaching and research purposes. On the Special Collections website you will find a georeferencing page on which the application, fit for crowdsourcing, is explained. Here you have access to the georeferenced scans, for instance via a search engine in which you can search and filter on scale and period. In projects, the georeferenced maps are placed and made available in the worldwide database for old maps Old Maps Online.

Overview of the subcollections

If you want to have an overview of the  many subcollections within the Utrecht Special Collections you can consult the website of the Digitaal Repertorium (in Dutch only). This Repertorium gives an overview of and insight into the thematic (sub)collections of Utrecht University Library, provided that they can clearly be traced as independent collections, because the items are placed together and/or because they have their own catalogue, inventory or list. They cover almost all scholarly fields. The items consist of manuscripts, printed works and maps, historical and recent material. Humanities form the largest part, the field in which manuscripts and printed works are the main sources.


How do I search for maps?

‚ÄčSearching in Worldcat

The maps and atlases held by Utrecht University Library are for the larger part included in WorldCat. Here you can also search for cartographic documents from other libraries. There are several ways to search WorldCat for  maps and atlases:

  • Enter search terms in the search bar of the start screen. A list with results (titles) appears. In the left hand column you can then select Map. For a digitised map click on eMap.
  •  Do you want to know what specific map material Utrecht University Library holds? At Library select 'Utrecht University Library'. Please take care that you have unticked the box  'Group related editions' (under 'Search Tools'). Now the search results will be limited to only the material available in Utrecht University Library. Do you want to have more information about a title? Click on the title and next on 'Description'. 
  •  Do you want to know what material s available in the Netherlands? At 'Library' select 'Libraries in The Netherlands'. If you want to know which particular library holds the publication, click on the title in question and next on 'Availability'. 
  • Or choose the option 'Advanced Search' and limit the search results in the same way.

Finding maps in the Map Room

In the Map Room you will find a large part of the collection of cartographic material published from 1900 onwards: atlases, reproductions, globes, plano (unfolded) maps, folded maps, digital maps and CD-ROMs. Most atlases and reproductions are in open access areas and are arranged by region. In this way you can quickly browse the collection geographically so to speak. In WorldCat almost all modern cartographic documents are catalogued as well.

Other map material published after 1900, such as folded and plano maps, are for the larger part stored in the filing cabinets and cabinets with turning doors. These cartographic documents can be recognised in the catalogue descriptions by a place number between brackets behind the call number (Lk/Lds). You are not allowed to take the material out of the cabinets. Please ask library staff if you want to consult these documents.

If you want to have a full overview of the map collection you can also consult the paper folders with short title descriptions (up to 2004). These folders are in a cabinet in room 6.28 of the University Library Uithof. At your request, library staff may offer them for consultation.

Digitised maps and atlases

 An ever increasing part of the collection of early and rare printed works is digitised and so online available. 

In this way the documents are 24/7 available and great tools for teaching and reseach purposes. There are two ways to find out if a work is electronically available:

  • Via WorldCat. After entering search terms tick the boxes 'Utrecht University Library' (under 'Library') and 'Map' and eMap (under 'Format) ..If you want to continue your search for other digitsed map material from Utrecht University Library, tick the box 'Keep selections for next search' (under 'Selected Filters').  Now you can enter the search terms of your choice, after which the search is limited to the digitised maps held by Utrecht University Library. Please note: in WorldCat a part of the digitised maps and atlases has the format 'Downloadable archival  material' at the moment. We are working on a solution. Next click on 'View now,  'View eBook' or 'Access online'. You arrive on a website where you can study the document. You can browse the books, maps and manuscripts and go to specific pages. Often you will find scholarly notes as well. With the help of a viewer you can zoom in to the details. Please note: in WorldCat the description of the physical document also contains a link to the digitised version: click on 'View eBook', 'View now' or 'Access online'. 
  • Via the browser for digitised material of Special Collections. By using Ctrl F(ind) you can search on words from the title.

A part of the digitised map material is collected coherently by means of several thematic digital exhibitions. These exhibitions are part of the Special Collections website. Below you will find direct links to the digital exhibitions:

  • Maps of Holland and Utrecht, with a selection of maps of the economically most important Dutch provinces from the 16th to the 19th century
  • 100 thematic maps, about the development of thematic cartography by using Dutch examples
  • Toonneel des Aerdrijcx, with an overview of some important cartographical treasures in the Utrecht University Library

Publications about Special Collections

How do I get hold of the material?

Consulting material in the Map Room

The greater part of the collection of maps published after 1900 can be consulted in the Map Room. Most atlases and reproductions are in open access areas and arranged by region. For other material published after 1900, such as folded and plano (unfolded) maps, please ask library staff. They are happy to give you the maps for consultation.

Consulting material in the Special Collections reading room

Maps published before 1900 and less consulted modern cartographic documents can be consulted in the Special Collections reading room. These atlases and maps can be requested in WorldCat.

Requested material is kept ready for you at the desk of Special Collections for a period of seven days. Do you wish to extend this period? Please ask the desk staff.
Not all atlases and maps can be consulted just like that. Special permission from the curator is needed when you want to consult material that is very vulnerable or precious. It may also happen that special materials are on loan somewhere else or are being restored.

Consulting online

An increasing part of the collection of maps and atlases is digitised and online available via WorldCat. In additon, the computers in the Map Room give you access to a large collection of digital and digitised maps which are listed by region via a Windows folder structure. A manual is available.
The Utrecht University Library has a collection of about 12,000 aerial photos from the time period 1930-1975, concerning Dutch, French, and Indonesian regions. The photos of Dutch regions are digitally accessible via DotKa. Recent satellite images can be found at Sentinel Hub Playground.
A very convenient web site especially for geodata is Geoplaza of the Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam. Here you can consult various digital map sets, often accessible for external use as well. The web site Publieke Dienstverlening op de Kaart (PDOK) also gives access to a lot of spatial data sets, originating from governmental bodies.
An easy tool for comparing and sharing maps of the Netherlands on a national scale is
A complete overview of the interdisciplinary field of the history of cartography is given by the gateway Map History/History of Cartography.

Reference library

On the 6th floor of the Utrecht University Library you will find a reference library, next to the reading room for special collections and map room. Here you can consult reference works in the fields of manuscripts, early printed books, maps and atlases, and private collections. Part of this library is for loan.

For an overview of the different rubrics in the reference library PDF's per material type are available (in Dutch):