Maps and Plans
The Royal Library’s collection of maps and plans consists of:
- more than 100,000 maps and plans on loose leaves, usually on large paper formats
- approx. 600 atlases
- around thirty globes
- a substantial collection of books and journals on cartography
Many of the hand-drawn, engraved and printed maps dating from before 1800 belong to the collection of valuable objects.
The cartographical documents held by the Maps and Plans Department date from the sixteenth century to the present day, representing Belgium and the whole world. They include:
- maps of the world
- celestial maps
- nautical charts and portulan maps
- maps of continents, national, regional and local maps
- street plans of towns
- cadastral maps
- military maps, maps of battlefields, topographic maps
- aerial photographs
- thematic maps
Pieces from the collection can be consulted on request in the Department’s Reading Room. The collection is regularly expanded by means of donations, purchases and acquisitions through the Legal Deposit.
How to search for maps and plans
There are several ways of looking for a document in the collection:
Using the online catalogue
Using the topographical catalogue (on paper)
Using the catalogue of towns (on paper)
Using the catalogue of authors (on paper)
All documents dating from after 1997 are listed in the online catalogue, but the best way to search for older documents is to search both the automated catalogue and the paper catalogues.
Cartesius, the online portal
Many of the maps and plans from the collection became available online in August 2015, following the launch of www.cartesius.be. The Royal Library of Belgium, the State Archives of Belgium, the Royal Museum for Central Africa and the National Geographical Institute have made their historical geographical data available to a wide public by means of the Cartesius Project. The online portal contains maps, plans and aerial photographs of Belgium and Central Africa.
The online collection is increasing gradually, so it’s well worth checking the Cartesius website regularly.