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Foyle Reading Room

Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers) holds one of the largest private collections of maps and related material in the world. Books and periodical literature on cartography as a discipline are held by the Society's Library. There are over one million sheets of maps and charts, 3500 atlases, 40 globes (as gores or mounted on stands), and 1000 gazetteers comprising the core of the map collection's material. Emphasis since foundation in 1830 has been on the acquisition of scientifically surveyed maps and charts from official agencies at home and abroad: currently these include maps of Ordnance Survey [of Great Britain and of Northern Ireland] at scales of 1:25,000 and smaller, British Geological Survey, and of UK Hydrographic Office (all regular Admiralty Charts), geological surveys of Japan, the topographic series at 1:24,000 scale of the United States Geological Survey, 1:200,000 topographic atlases of Russia and of Ukraine, town plans and up-to-date administrative mapping of Russia etc. It includes printed items (on paper, vellum, and on cotton or silk) dating as far back as 1482, manuscript items from 1716 onwards, aerial photography from 1919, satellite imagery maps and CD-ROMs. Maps of radio emissions from Cassiopeia A, geology of the Moon, ice thickness in Antarctica, a navigational atlas for the Yenisey River, trekking maps for Nepal, an estate plan of land acquired for the Great Exhibition of 1851, and vegetation maps of Brazil are just a few samples of the types of material held. Also held are one of the most comprehensive collections of Survey of India mapping of southern Asia from 1827 onwards, large numbers of pre-Revolutionary Russian hydrographic charts, a sizeable amount of trench mapping from WW I, much of the cartographic & geographic output of [British] War Office's Geographical Section General Staff and its precursors from the 1870s, a large representative collection of German WWII mapping and associated reference material covering Europe, Near East, and North Africa, and probably the most complete topographic & geologic mapping collection of Directorate of Overseas Surveys (and its precursors & successors). Also to be found are a selection of carto-bibliographies, catalogues, and directories of both modern and antiquarian maps, and of map dealers and researchers.

Gazetteers, in various languages, of the world and of the British Isles from the eighteenth century onwards are held. These, together with facsimiles and current awareness publications, help to make this collection a major national and international resource for all forms of cartographic research. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS: M.C. Andrews (B in British Isles, Ireland, and portolan charts), received in 1934; Sir H.G. Fordham (post-road books, maps, and itineraries especially of British Isles and of France), received 1926-32; and G.B. Greenough (topographic maps of Europe etc., many annotated by him geologically), received in 1855. The date range of these printed items is from c.1570 to c.1855; there are published lists to the Fordham and Greenough Collections. The Map Room also has some archival, reference, working, and proof copies of materials from the firms of Laurie & Whittle, G. Philip, and E. Stanford (incorporating Arrowsmith firm) received from 1879 onwards.

Apart from an A3-format self-service photocopier, the facility of a large-format colour scanner and printer - in lieu of the former A0-format xerox copier - is now available by arrangement with Foyle Reading Room staff; the Society's Picture Library [] deals with photography, transparencies, and reproduction fees. A partial OPAC of former Map Room and Library holdings can be searched via much Picture Library material (including, e.g., portraits of cartographers and surveyors) is also to be found there; for Archives (i.e. correspondence with surveyors, map-makers, and map publishers ; and RGS internal records from 1830) access is through 'Access to Archives' [].


1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR

Main contact

Telephone number

(020) 7591 3044

E-mail address
Opening hours

Mon-Fri 1000-1700




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