Andersen Library is closed until January 19th. We continue to provide scans of requested research materials when possible. Contact or the curator of the collecting area you wish to use for assistance. 

Welcome to the James Ford Bell Library Map Portal

Maps are alluring. They draw us into worlds sometimes familiar, sometimes unknown, but always fascinating. Maps can be understood and analyzed as visual objects, as texts to be read, and as physical artifacts of a particular culture--or all of these things at once. The James Ford Bell Library has a small but important collection of about 300 unbound maps;  the maps found within and among the pages of its books, however, total more than 22,460. We are most grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for a grant funding our "Revealing Maps" project,  which enabled us to find, describe, and digitize these maps.  This page serves as a portal to this diverse cartographic collection. 

To whet the researcher's appetite, below we present two of the most unique and rare maps in the James Ford Bell Library's collection (with links to pages devoted to each), the Matteo Ricci and Zhong Wentao World Map of 1602, acquired for the benefit of the Bell Library by the James Ford Bell Trust, and the Waldseemüller globe gores, upon which the name "America" first debuted.  Scroll down to find information about access points for the rest of our collection.

Matteo Ricci and Zhang Wentao World Map of 1602Matteo Ricci and Zhang Wentao World Map of 1602

Kunyu wanguo quantu, or Map of the Ten Thousand Countries of the Earth, is the oldest surviving Chinese map to show the Americas. It is a xylograph (wood block print) on six scrolls of fine native paper, each scroll measuring approximately 1820 x 3650 mm (each panel is approximately 2 feet by 5.75 feet). The carving of the wood blocks was done by Zhang Wentao.

Waldseemüller Globe GoresWaldseemüller Globe Gores

In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller published both a wall map and these globe gores, intended to be cut out and pasted onto a sphere to form a globe, upon which the name "America" first appears. The James Ford Bell Library owns one of three surviving copies of the 1507 globe gores.  Our map was in the news in December 2017-January 2018 when examination of it in comparison with a newly discovered copy in the possession of Christie's auction house in London proved that recent discovery was a "fake." Read more: NY Times; Minneapolis Star Tribune

Access to Digital Copies of the Maps in the Collection

More than 6,000 of our maps have been uploaded to the University Librarie's digital repository, UMedia.  Here you may browse the collections to find the James Ford Bell Library materials and then select Historical Maps.  To make the maps easier to find for the majority of viewers we titled most of them with the century in which they were created followed by the general location depicted.  For example:  16th Century, France.   Researchers with more specialized knowledge or particular needs may search for the maps by title or cartographer, as well as date, geographic location, cartographer, and language.  We will regularly add digital copies of our maps to this repository until all of the more than 22,000 maps are available digitally.  Digitization and access to the maps in our books was made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Access to Maps through the University Libraries' Online Catalog

Our collection of atlases and unbound maps can be discovered through a search of the Libraries' online catalog.  First, select Advanced Search (use the down arrow next to the word Go to reveal this option); in the next window choose Libraries Catalog.  A selection box titled Search Scope will appear;  use the down arrow to scroll through the list of collections and choose James Ford Bell Library. This will restrict your search to materials in the Bell Library's collection; it also may provide you with links to other copies available from other sources.


Online Exhibits that include Our Maps

In the University Libraries' Gallery are a variety of collection exhibits, including some from the James Ford Bell Library.  Many of our online exhibits are about or include maps.  Below is a current list of exhibits that include maps.  Select the title of the exhibit to be taken to it.  When you are finished looking at the first exihibit you chose, you may browse the gallery for additional exhibits.  Use the link to the James Ford Bell Library in the top right of the screen to come back to our web site.


Additional Resources for the History of Cartography

Imago Mundi. The International Journal for the History of Cartography

Map History/History of Cartography, a web site maintained by Tony Campbell, former map librarian at the British Library

The Portolan. The Journal of the Washington Map Society

Terrae Incognitae. The Journal of the Society for the History of Discoveries

Historical Maps Listed by Cartographer

Olaus Magnus

Olaus Magnus - Carta Marina
Just one example of the Bell Library's maps that can be found on the Historical Map Images web page is the Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus, Archbishop of Uppsala, 1490-1557, published in Rome in 1572.

The Bell Library owns the second edition of this unusual map of the Scandinavian area (along with a 9 sheet hand-colored facsimile published in 1949), which shows numerous details of the economy, history, and commerce of that region. Pictured here is an altered version of the hand-colored facsimile, trimmed so that each sheet fits snuggly together without interior borders.
View a Google Scholar Search for articles about this map.

Other digital map collections at the U of M:

Chinese Ming History seen through Illustrated Maps

Other Digital Map Collections Elsewhere

Van Keulen Maps, Leiden University, the Netherlands

Top of Page