The David Rumsey Map Collection contains more than 150,000 maps from around the world, more than 95,000 of which are freely accessible through the online collection.

The collection focuses on rare 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, as well as maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania.

David Rumsey has been collecting maps since the mid-1980s. By 1999, he realised his map collection had not only grown quite large but was also full of rare images that others might be interested in. He began digitising his collection and sought to find a way to put them online for everyone to access. The problem was, it was the nineties and online media was not exactly streamlined just yet. To get around this issue, Rumsey created a new company, Luna Imaging. This new company’s software offered a new way to display large images and is still used by libraries and museums around the world today.

[the collection] includes rare 16th through 21st century maps of America, North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Pacific, Arctic, Antarctic, and the World.

You can explore the whole collection yourself at davidrumsey.com. We’ve also included three of our favourite maps from the collection below. If you find any stand-out maps in the collection let us know, we’d love to see them.

Australia: The Land Down Under

This map from the Sunday Times (New York, 1942) was designed to show Americans how important Australia was to the World War 2 strategy. Icons throughout the map display key areas of defense within the country.

This continent … is the great prize of the Pacific. Its conquest by the Japs would unfurl the Rising Sun flag in the Far East almost from Pole to Pole. On the other hand, if successfully held, it becomes a mighty base for the ever-increasing strength of the United Nations and a springboard for counter-offensive.

Part of the text on the bottom-left of the map
Australia, the Land Down Under. August 9, 1942.

The Grand Canyon

This detailed map of the Grand Canyon was drawn by classic artist Jo Mora. There are so many details spread throughout the map that makes it great fun to explore.

I will add the caveat that this was drawn in 1931, so some of the illustrations and footnotes wouldn’t be acceptable today. You will also have trouble seeing all the details without zooming in, so we have included a gallery of some of our favourite illustrations below the full map. You can also click on the map to see the full image on davidrumsey.com.

Grand Canyon, 1931
The map shows many scenes and the activities common at the time in Grand Canyon and vicinity. Many landmarks are shown in a cartoony way with historical notes.

Celestial Map, 1674

This map of celestial bodies is made up of 6 different panels, designed to be seen as a cube. Each sheet has engraved text panels in Latin and French.

The paths of several important comets are shown, as well as constellations, and other celestial bodies. These charts served as models for the star charts of other astronomers.

The plate(which) shows Hercules, Ophiuchus] Scorpius, Sagittarius, Aquila, and Lyra,..is one of the most stunning compositions in the history of celestial cartography.

Linda Hall Library exhibition catalog
Plates 1-6 joined and unprojected in Geographic.
Paris, 1693