SOAS University of London

Key Information

  • Collection Name: SOAS Library (Map Collections)
  • Reference Number: 566
  • Date of last revision: 10 July 2017
  • Address: Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
  • Person in charge: Christine Wise, Assistant Director (Research Library Services)
  • Main contact: Archives & Special Collections
  • Contact telephone number(s): 020 7898 4180
  • Contact email address:
  • Website:
  • Opening hours: The Special Collections Reading Room is open from 09.00 -17.00 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The Reading Room is closed on Wednesdays, at weekends and on public holidays.
  • Access: Maps are held on closed access and may be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room. Access by Reader’s Ticket (available on application). Access conditions detailed online at
  • Facilities for copying: Information on reprographics service available at
  • Catalogues available: All maps are listed on the SOAS Archive Catalogue available at


SOAS Library holds a historical collection of pre-1900 maps relating to Asia and Africa, in the Archives & Special Collections department.

The Library also holds a collection of regional atlases and gazetteers relating to Asia and Africa, located with the regional book collections in the Main Library.

The Council for World Mission Archive includes a substantial map collection dating from the mid-19th century, relating to Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Papua New Guinea and the West Indies. The collection includes printed and manuscript maps and plans collected or prepared by the London Missionary Society, and reflects the regions in which the Society worked or had an interest.

The Dr Cyrus Ala'i Map Collection of Persia was presented to SOAS by Dr Cyrus Ala’i in 2013. The collection comprises 260 maps and prints of Persia from an external perspective, dating from 1513 to 2010, and is arranged to reflect the two books written by Dr Ala'i, which are included in the collection: 'General maps of Persia (Brill, second edition, 2010) and Special Maps of Persia (Brill, 2010). The earliest maps in the collection are Ptolemaic maps based on the descriptions of the world by the Greek geographer Ptolemy and later maps by mapmakers from Italy, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Britain, the USA, Turkey and Portugal. Other maps are of the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf; notable towns, maps of specific areas of Persia and of routes across the country.

Published by: Clare Gordon

Clare Gordon