The Library of Congress > American Memory
banner image
return to home page table of contents about the guide abbreviations search banner image

Geography and Map Division


Atlas Collection
arrow graphicTitle Collection
Set Maps
Special Collections
Reference Collection






Title Collection

The vast majority of maps in the Geography and Map Division are neither cataloged nor classified. Unless they are unusually rare, these maps are found in either the Title Collection or the Set Map Collection. Both groups of materials are arranged by geographic area and are most efficiently used when the research area and inclusive dates have been carefully defined. Research projects that focus on a particular geographic or political unit such as a state, county, or city are most easily supported by cartographic material.

Individual maps received before 1968, including many of the items of greatest interest to historians, are among the 1.5 million maps in the Title Collection, sometimes referred to as the “Single Map Collection.” Virtually all of the nineteenth-century maps and those received by the Library before the advent of machine-readable cataloging in 1968, make up this category of material. Historians will find cartographic sources filed under “North America,” “United States,” and the names of regions, individual states, and administrative units such as counties and cities. The holdings are frequently further subdivided by subject, but few, if any, maps are filed under the subject of “women” or “women's history.” In addition, there may be several possible filing locations for identical copies of the same item or very similar items, and a variety of additional filing locations for closely related items.

It is important to remember that the quality and quantity of cartographic information that is available vary considerably over place and time. Although rich resources may exist for some locations, other areas—particularly less affluent rural communities—may not be as well represented in the collections simply because fewer maps were made of these places or fewer maps were collected and preserved.

The Title Collection includes a wide range of kinds of geographic and cartographic products. Some of the maps are atlas plates or maps that originally were included in monographs or serials but have been removed from their bindings. A significant and often overlooked category of material found in this collection is photoreproduced copies or facsimiles of material held by other repositories either in the United States or abroad.

Access to this collection, which includes some of the division's most heavily used material, is facilitated by many published finding aids and bibliographies. Materials related to

  • the American Revolutionary War era,
  • the Civil War,
  • county landownership,
  • railroads,
  • panoramic maps,
  • literary maps,
  • and maps showing Spanish exploration and settlement in North America
are listed and described in excellent bibliographies that are widely available in university and large public libraries.

A vast amount of cartographic information awaits discovery and analysis by diligent researchers. For the most part, however, using the portions of the title collection not covered by published bibliographies requires the assistance of highly trained reference and specialist staff members who are experienced in locating specific kinds of resource material for researchers. Frequently, the staff can suggest items that are particularly useful for specific studies. Although suggestions can be made through correspondence, it is preferable for researchers to visit the reading room in order to determine what material best serves their needs.

red line
Home Table of Contents About the Guide Abbreviations Search
The Library of Congress> > American Memory