Maps, Travel, and Exploration | Newberry

Maps, Travel, and Exploration

Gerhard Mercator. Septentrionalivm Terrarum descriptio. 1595. Fitzgerald Polar

Gerhard Mercator. Septentrionalivm Terrarum descriptio. 1595. Fitzgerald Polar Map 22.

George Franklin Cram. Cram’s unrivaled family atlas of the world. 1883. folio G1019 .G463 1883b.

The Newberry houses an extraordinary collection of maps and sources relating to the history and culture of travel. The geographical coverage is best for the Americas and Western Europe, but all regions of the world are well represented. These materials include maps, published texts, manuscripts, art and photography, and ephemera. The holdings for travel history and culture are also strongest for Europe and the Americas, from the sixteenth through the mid-twentieth century.

Most of these resources may be accessed through the Newberry’s Online Catalog or through separately published specialized catalogs. Many of these materials came to the library as collections assembled by private collectors or corporate entities. Among the most important of these for the study of cartography, travel, and exploration are the Edward E. Ayer Collection, the Everett D. Graff Collection, the William B. Greenlee Collection, the Roger Baskes Collection, the Rand McNally Collection, the Gerald F. Fitzgerald Collection, the H. M. Gousha Collection, The General Drafting Collection, The Illinois Central Railroad Archives, and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Archives.

Search the Online Catalog to locate maps, atlases, travel literature, and related reference materials. Browse Research Guides for subject-specific guides that introduce researchers to relevant materials in the Newberry’s collections; or go directly to Special Map Collections and Strengths or the Concise Bibliography of the History of Cartography. Descriptions of the Newberry’s cartographic collection are in a bibliographic guide, Cartography – Publications about the Newberry Library Collections.

From September 2004 to April 2015, the Newberry maintained a separate Newberry Library Cartographic Catalog (NLCC). Comprised of over 85,000 descriptions of maps, atlases, and references sources on the history of cartography, approximately 59,000 NLCC records have been ingested into the Library’s main online catalog, and the NLCC is no longer a live website. However, a PDF file (18,304 pages in 122 MB) has been made of all of the records in the NLCC and is available both as a historical record of the NLCC and for browsing of its records.

The Maps, Travel, and Exploration collection’s special strengths include:

Maps, including separate maps and maps in series, books, and atlases

Original manuscript maps, tracings, and photostats related to the exploration and settlement of the Americas, including a fine collection of portolan charts dating from the fifteenth into the seventeenth centuries.

Atlases, with examples of all the great printed land and sea atlases from Ptolemy onwards and extensive holdings in nineteenth and twentieth century general, national, state, and county atlases.

Maps of European regions and cities from the sixteenth through eighteenth century.

General maps of the Americas with particular strengths in local history, the West, Midwest and Chicago from the sixteenth through nineteenth century.

Travel and transportation maps, primarily of North America, including the largest catalogued collection of railroad maps in the United States and the largest collection of automobile road maps, including the archive of Rand McNally, H. M. Gousha and General Drafting Co.

Travel Narratives

Narratives dating from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries, including manuscript and printed accounts by individuals, voyages of exploration and discovery, reports of official, scientific, and commercial expeditions, popular travel accounts, and travel fiction.

Particular strengths include:

Manuscript accounts: Accounts to the early twentieth century in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish; focusing on the Americas, with particular strengths in the North and Central America.

Printed (published) accounts: Accounts in all categories, late fifteenth century through 1800, in major European publishing or colonial languages; embracing worldwide travel, with emphasis on the Americas and Polar regions; in all categories, 1800-1900, with increasing emphasis on North and Central America (including Hawaii and the Philippines) and Polar regions, though still embracing worldwide travel. Major languages represented; since 1900, focused on North and Central America, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Polar regions, most volumes pre-date 1950, with selective titles after 1950


Guidebooks published in the ninetheenth and twentieth centuries, including guides for migrants to and within North America and major series of commercial guidebooks of worldwide interest, such as Baedeker, Michelin, Ward Lock, and Hachette’s Blue Guides. Mostly in English, French, and German, though works published in Dutch, Italian, the Scandinavian Languages, Spanish, and other European languages are also present. Guidebooks serving users of all modes of travel are well represented, with strengths in railroad oriented travelers after 1850 and automobile oriented travelers after 1900 in North America.

Travel Ephemera

Ephemera primarily dating from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including travel brochures, timetables, scrapbooks, tickets, and other paper memorabilia. These are global in scope, though the primary emphasis is North American and European travel.

Related Collections of Original Source Literature of Geographical Interest

Geographical textbooks and general geographical works from the fifteenth into the early twentieth century: These include publications for adults and juveniles; and geographical journals. Scientific and popular journals include accounts of expeditions, field work, photography and maps.

Local histories: Including histories of North America, especially Chicago, Illinois, and the Midwest, including city and county directories, gazetteers, and county landownership atlases

Art, views, illustrations and photographs: Materials relating to North America, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Polar Regions from the Renaissance to the twentieth century

Secondary Literature

This includes history of cartography, geography and travel; map reference cartobibliographies; history of printing and travel, exploration/American encounters; and place name literature.

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