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Geography and Map Division


Atlas Collection
Title Collection
Set Maps
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Reference Collection

The division maintains a small collection of approximately six thousand books in its Reference Collection, including about fifty published cartobibliographies related to the Library's map and atlas holdings. In addition to full-length monographs on maps and mapmakers, there is a pamphlet file of articles about specific items in the collections written by division staff members or scholars studying the Library's maps and atlases. An extensive collection of unpublished inventories and indexes is also available.

The reference collection contains basic works on the subjects of history, geography, and cartography; catalogs related to other major map collections and exhibitions; and two major bibliographies that are particularly helpful for historical researchers. The Index to Maps in Books and Periodicals by the American Geographical Society, Map Department (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1968; Z6028.A5) [catalog record] provides access to materials that may be found in other special format divisions of the Library of Congress and in the General Collections. It also gives publication information about individual items housed in the division that may have been removed from other works. The U.S. Serial Set Index and Cartobibliography of Maps, part 14, by Donna P. Koepp (Bethesda, Md.: Congressional Information Service, Inc., 1995; Z1223 .Z9 C65 1975) lists the maps that are found in the Congressional Serial Set that were originally published by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as part of official reports. Subject headings that are useful in searching these works for information about American women are “population,” with the subheadings of “sex distribution, U.S.,” followed by “foreign born,” or “race proportions by gender” and similar demographic terminology.

A large preservation project is in progress that involves removing folded maps from the large Congressional Serial Set volumes from the Law Library. After the maps are flattened and repaired, they are labeled and filed as a collection in the Geography and Map Division.

Another resource is The Bibliography of Cartography published by the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, in five volumes (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1973; Z6028.U49 1973); [catalog record] and its First Supplement, [catalog record] in two volumes published in 1980. This finding aid includes articles about cartography published in a variety of periodicals, listed by author and title. It includes subject headings. More recent articles have been indexed and are in card form, available for use in the division. Its usefulness in finding material about women mapmakers and geographers is considerable if the name of the author writing articles about women is known.

A small collection of place-name literature describing how specific locations have come to be named is also included in the division's reference collection. Most of the place-names in the United States have been designated by explorers, early settlers, surveyors, mapmakers, and government officials. Some of these names honor wives, sisters, daughters, or sweethearts who can be identified by using this material. Such works are generally devoted to a single state, although occasionally a volume pertains to a larger geographic area or to certain kinds of names, such as those related to Native Americans. Except for a few items in the pamphlet file, place-name literature is fully cataloged and can be found under the name of the state.

Place-names reflect the history of the area. For example, California, with its Spanish, Mexican, Russian, Native American, and American heritages, reflects the rich variety of sources from which the names of physical and cultural features are named. The town “Benicia,” which served as the capital of the state in 1853-54, was named for the wife of General Mariano G. Vallejo, Francisca Benicia. Another California town, called “Marysville,” went through several name changes before a group of residents at a town meeting in 1850 finally named it to honor Mary Murphy Covillaud, a survivor of the Donner party; she was also the wife of the principal owner of the townsite.11

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