Old maps

Tips for searching maps and atlases

We are always looking for ways to facilitate the search among and use of our collections.
A handout contains information on the following topics:
  • Map search
  • Bibliographic data
  • Copyright & citation of maps
  • Use & services
Maps and atlases: Tips for searching 
(PDF, 2.97 MB)


The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek currently preserves 415,000 printed maps, more than 80,000 among them from the time before 1850. Even if the modern maps constitute the majority of the collection in numbers, it is this outstanding old part which makes this collection one of the most important map libraries in the German-language area and beyond. The collection of maps of the 16th century in particular is of world renown.

Among the 80,000 old maps there are:

  •   9,500     of the 16th century
  • 29,500     of the 17th century
  • 26,600     of the 18th century and
  • 16,300     of the time between 1800 and 1850

Furthermore, also views of cities (vedute), bird's eye views, street maps of cities and atlases form part of the collection. Individual maps incorporated in geographical, historical and other works are registered here as well.

Corresponding to the collection of old printed works, the maps of the 16th century assume a special position within this collection group. In view of both numbers and quality, they represent the top stock of its kind in Germany and far beyond. Works by Abraham Ortelius, Gerhard Mercator, Gerard de Jode and Lucas Jansz Waghenaer are outstanding in this context.

The collection's focus is on cartographic works of the 17th and 18th century. Here, the Dutch cartographers and/or publishers Jodocus Hondius, Joan and Cornelis Blaeu and Willem Janszoon Blaeu should be mentioned as examples standing for numerous others, also from other European countries.

All maps published before 1850 were catalogued in the project "Altkartenerschließung" (cataloguing of old maps) funded by the German Research Foundation between 1985 and 1997, and entered in BSB DISCOVER! and in the special database IKAR as well.


IKAR – Printed maps before 1850


America: das frühe Bild der neuen Welt. Ausstellung: Hans Wolff. München, 1992. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 58.

Bubenik, Claudia; Jahn, Cornelia: Niederländische Wandkarten. In: Bibliotheksmagazin 3 (2020), p. 29-36.

Cartographia Bavariae: Bayern im Bild der Karte. Ausstellung und Katalog: Hans Wolff. Weißenhorn, 1988. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 44.

Die Vermessung Bayerns: 450 Jahre Philipp Apians Große Karte. Herausgegeben vom Landesamt für Vermessung und Geoinformation in Zusammenarbeit mit der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. München, 2013.

Philipp Apian und die Kartographie der Renaissance. Ausstellung und Katalog Hans Wolff. Weißenhorn, 1989. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 50.

Seifert, Traudl: Die Karte als Kunstwerk: dekorative Landkarten aus Mittelalter und Neuzeit. München, 1979. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 19.

Vierhundert Jahre Mercator, vierhundert Jahre Atlas: „Die ganze Welt zwischen zwei Buchdeckeln“. Ausstellung und Katalog: Hans Wolff. Weißenhorn, 1995. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 65.

Wiegand, Günther: Die Erschließung historisch wertvoller Kartenbestände: Ziele, Verlauf und Bilanz eines Förderprogramms der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft. In: Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie 40 (1993), p. 22-31.

Wolff, Hans: Die Erschließung von Altkarten an der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 14 (1986), p. 105-121.

Outstanding pieces

Etzlaub, Erhard: Das ist der Rom-Weg (...) (This is the way to Rome). Nuremberg, around 1500.
Magnus, Olaus: Carta Marina Et Descriptio Septemtrionalium (…). Venice, 1539.
Apian, Peter: Tipus Orbis Universalis (…). S. l., 1520.
Fries, Lorenz: Carta Marina Navigatoria Portugalien Navigationes. Strasbourg, 1530.
Reisch, Gregor: [map of the world]. Strasbourg, 1504.
Jenichen, Balthasar: Nova Totivs Palestinae Sev Terrae Sanctae (…). Nuremberg, 1595.
Pisani, Ottavio; Verbiest, Peter: Octavij Pisani Globus Terrestris Proiectus. Antwerp, 1637.
Mercator, Rumold; Blaeu, Willem Janszoon: Nova Et Accurata Totius Germaniae Tabula. Amsterdam, around 1630.
Danckerts, Justus: Novissima Americae Tabula. Amsterdam, before 1682.
 ♦   Setznagel, Marx: Saltzburgensis Episcopatus seu Iuvaviensis dioeceseos Chorographia acuratißima elaborta. Antwerp, 1578.
Etzlaub, Erhard; Gourmont, Jérome de: Beschreibung des weith Berumpten Deudtschlandt (…) (Description of the widely famous Germany). Nuremberg, 1569.
Seltzlin, David: Das heiligen Roemischen Reichs Schwaebische Krais (…) (The Swabian region of the Holy Roman Empire). Ulm, 1579.

Dutch wall maps

Europae tabula nova multis locis. Antwerp: Cornelis Claesz, 1604. (Mapp. II,1 t)
Asiae tabula nova multis locis. Amsterdam: Cornelis Claesz, 1602. (Mapp. XIX,1 f)
Americae tabula nova multis locis. Amsterdam: Cornelis Claesz, 1602. (Mapp. XXI,O w)