The cartographic collections contain original maps, atlases, globes, books, and scientific instruments, dating from 1475 to the present. They emphasize first Maine and New England, then the USA, the Americas, and the world. Special care has been taken to acquire exemplars of the many modes, periods, and national contexts of past cartographic practices across different human cultures. As of Fall 2009, the combined collections number more than 300,000 maps, as separate sheets or bound in atlases and books. These books include works on cosmography, astronomy, and navigation, as well as geography and history. The original materials are supplemented by a substantial collection of facsimile reprints and a growing reference works.

The collections were founded by two major gifts from the late Lawrence M. C. and Eleanor Houston Smith and from Dr. Harold L. and Mrs. Peggy L. Osher. Several further generous donations from other collectors have substantially augmented the collections. These other collections are (or will be) identified separately on this website.

The curator welcomes inquiries about donations of maps and related materials, as long as such donations adhere to the library’s collections policies.

Individual items are identified by an “accession number” in the form AA-xxxx-n[-m] where xxxx is the date of the item, n a sequential counter, m the possible reference to a particular element within the item, and AA the collection code ( * indicates open collections, to which items are still being added).