In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Maps in the Atlantic World

  • Introduction
  • Cartobibliographies
  • Thematic Studies
  • Cartographic Studies
  • Interpretive Studies
  • Anthologies
  • Historical Atlases and Historical Geographies
  • Journals
  • Digital Map Collections
  • Library and Archival Sites
  • Online Publications and Portals
  • Europe and the World
  • Indigenous Cartography
  • Colonial North America
  • The American Revolution and the Early United States
  • Latin America and Caribbean
  • Latin American Cartobibliographies
  • Africa
  • Urban Mapping

Atlantic History Maps in the Atlantic World
S. Max Edelson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 April 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0298


Maps organized imperial expansion in the Atlantic world. They reflected European advances in mathematics and navigation, documented voyages of exploration, and helped establish claims of sovereignty over New World territories. They were the administrative tools by which imperial states managed colonization, recording land granted to settlers as well as illustrating how rival imperial states established and challenged territorial claims in diplomatic negotiations. Indigenous maps offered visions of the land that countered European representations. As more social science and humanities scholars take the so-called spatial turn that puts geographic ideas and representations front and center in their scholarship—and as new digital reproductions and visualization tools make these artifacts more accessible online—maps will become a more central primary source for understanding the history of the Atlantic world.


Traditional cartobibliographies (epitomized by Tooley 1980) are catalogues of maps, often illustrated with photographs, which provide comprehensive lists of all relevant and extant published maps of a particular place. They provide bibliographic information about the publication histories of the maps; detail the differences among distinct versions, or “states,” of the maps; identify archives and libraries that hold copies; and usually offer brief descriptions and interpretations. These works range from comprehensive studies (Burden 1996, McCorkle 2001, Wheat 1957), which provide ample descriptions and images, to bare-bones lists such as Jackson 1995, Kapp 1974, and Palmer 1965. Sellers and van Ee 1981 describes the Library of Congress’s enormous holdings relating to North America and the West Indies, while Penfold 1967–1982 describes the UK National Archives’ collection of British, African, and American maps. Spain’s Servicio Histórico Militar 1983–1992 compiles a definitive collection of 18th-century Spanish American maps.

  • Burden, Philip D. The Mapping of North America: A List of Printed Maps. Vol. 1, 1511–1670. Rickmansworth, UK: Raleigh, 1996.

    British map dealer Philip Burden has compiled an indispensable guide to maps representing North America published before 1700. Illustrated with black-and-white as well as some color plates, the volumes list the maps in chronological order, and the commentaries offered detailed publication histories and references for 774 maps. Volume 2 was published in 2007 (See Philip D. Burden, The Mapping of North America: A List of Printed Maps, vol. 2, 1671–1700 (Rickmansworth, UK: Raleigh).

  • Jackson, Jack. Manuscript Maps Concerning the Gulf Coast, Texas, and the Southwest (1519–1836): An Annotated Guide to the Karpinski Series of Photographs at the Newberry Library, Chicago. Chicago: Newberry Library, 1995.

    A guide to a valuable collection of manuscript images of the Gulf Coast.

  • Kapp, Kit S. Printed Maps of Central America up to 1860. London: Map Collectors’ Circle, 1974.

    Thorough list of Central American maps.

  • McCorkle, Barbara B. New England in Early Printed Maps, 1513 to 1800: An Illustrated Carto-bibliography. Providence, RI: John Carter Brown Library, 2001.

    A comprehensive list, with images and explanatory notes.

  • Palmer, Margaret. The Printed Maps of Bermuda. London: Map Collectors’ Circle, 1965.

    Cartobibliographic list of maps representing England’s quintessential Atlantic colony.

  • Penfold, Peter A. Maps and Plans in the Public Record Office. 3 vols. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1967–1982.

    Although it lacks images, this three-volume series catalogues the voluminous collections of the UK National Archives, which can also be accessed via the online catalogue. In addition to Volume 1’s focus on Britain and Volume 3’s focus on Africa, Volume 2 arranges thousands of enumerated maps of America and the West Indies in sections named for modern nations, provinces, and states.

  • Sellers, John R., and Patricia Molen van Ee. Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750–1789: A Guide to the Collections in the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1981.

    A printed guide to printed and manuscript maps, charts, and plans of America from the second half of the 18th century, part of the library’s enormous collections. The volume lacks images, but can be used alongside the electronic catalogue, which includes thousands of links to online images.

  • Servicio Histórico Militar. Cartografía y relaciones históricas de ultramar. 9 vols. Madrid: Servicio Histórico Militar, 1983–1992.

    Each regional or national volume of this massive cartobibliography pairs a “volumen descriptive” (listing metadata, descriptions, and transcriptions of text and toponyms) with a “volumen de cartografia” that reproduces the maps in vivid color. An indispensable starting point for understanding the sophistication’s of Spanish cartography in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In Spanish.

  • Tooley, Ronald V. The Mapping of America. London: Holland, 1980.

    A compilation of several pamphlet-length studies by Ronald Vere Tooley (b. 1898– d. 1986), a prolific cartobibliographer and map dealer as well as the founder of Map Collectors’ Circle. All of these publications meticulously catalogue the various states of these enumerated maps and offer detailed notes and descriptions. Other Tooley publications catalogue maps of Africa, Caribbean islands, Scandinavia, and other Atlantic places.

  • Wheat, Carl I. Mapping the Transmississippi West, 1540–1861. 3 vols. San Francisco: Institute of Historical Cartography, 1957.

    A comprehensive list with explanatory essays that categorizes Western maps by period and national origin, including chapters on French, Spanish, and US maps.

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