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Navigating Research at the Map Division: Getting Started at the New York Public Library: NYPL Digital Resources

Learn methods and strategies, to search for maps at NYPL's Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division.

What can you find online?

NYPL provides a number of materials available online, for the public to utilize in their research. Such materials include digitized maps, instructional courses, guides to assist you in specified research, and databases. Please see below for a selection of these digital resources and materials.

If you would like to learn more about our online resources, please review Research at NYPL: Remote Access to Collections and Services to see additional resources and databases from NYPL that are available from home! Please note that some material will require you to have a NYPL Library Card. If you do not have one, you can sign up for a digital card by clicking here.

And, if you have any questions, you can always reach us with further questions by emailing

Click on the tabs, to discover what NYPL resources you can find online!

The NYPL Digital Collections can reached by either:

Some highlights of cartographic materials that you can view in NYPL's Digital Collections can be found on the following lists: 

To access digitized materials for your own research topics and interests, there are 2 ways you can search in NYPL Digital Collections: 

General Keyword Search

1. You can do a general keyword search on the main page, as seen below.

 NYPL Digital collections home page


Using "New York" as an example, when a simple keyword search is done, materials from across all the research divisions are shown. To find map-specific resources, go to the left-side panel and click "Divisions." From there, you can click either "Map Division" or "Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division" to find map-specific resources that relate to your keyword search.

NYPL Digital collections facets


2. Browsing Division-Specific Material

On the main page of the Digital Collections site, click "Browse." In the drop-down menu, click "Divisions."

NYPL Digital collections home page


On the new page, scroll down till you see "Map Division." Click on it, and you will be redirected to the following page. You can search the Map Division's digitized items, via collections. 

NYPL Digital collections divisional page for Map Division

High Resolution Digital Reproductions

For a large percentage of the map images in NYPL’s Digital Collections, researchers are able to download the digitized images.

Before doing so, we do advise that you scroll down the page of the digitized image and look for the "Rights Statement." This statement will indicate the copyright uses related to said image.

To download an image, the page of the digitized image will include a section called "Download Options." Feel free to click the appropriate file size of your choosing to download.

Please contact Permissions at for further questions relating to obtaining digital files for reproduction.

The Map Division has created a number of Research Guides that you can use to help with your research.

To get to these guides:

  • Click the "Research" tab on the NYPL Home Page. 
  • Scroll down till you see Research Guides to Online Resources. Click that.
  • In the following list, scroll down till you see "Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division" Click that, and you will see our guides. 

Available Guides:

Finding Places: Guide on how to use gazetteers and other place-name resources. Useful for locations that have changed names, varied spellings, and/or changed boundaries. 

Historical Travels: Guide on how to reconstruct journeys from the past, using maps, travel guides, time tables, and additional resources. 

NYC Metro Area Interactive Maps & Geographic Information Systems Resources: Guide includes links to a wide variety of digital maps on the Internet describing the New York City metropolitan area, including parts of suburban NYC, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Topics include architecture & urban design, communities & neighborhoods, the environment, transportation, and political boundaries.

NYC Urban Ecosystem Toolbox : Guide on primary and secondary resources regarding the environmental aspects of New York City. 

NYC's Early African American Settlements: Guide and resources regarding the four best known pre-20th century African American settlements in NYC

Remote Map Research at NYPL: Guide on how to conduct virtual research via the Map Division's collection

Other Guides of Note

Additional list of resources that reference staff from the Map Division has compiled:

Under "Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy" in "Research Guides to Online Resources":


As a division, we also post blogs and recordings of past events, via our NYPL Blog

Topics for blog posts can surround popular topics or popular questions, while recordings can include past events and classes. Some examples of useful blog posts include:

In addition, scroll down, to check out some of our past recordings about materials in our collection!

You can also use Articles & Databases, as they pertain to your research. Under Subject, if you click "Maps, Atlases, and Geography," you will pull up a number of databases that are pertinent to our division. Please note, that Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970 does require a NYPL library card for access.

While using these resources,  remember that maps can be utilized with a number of other types of resources. Feel free to search this portal, to see if you can cross-reference material from other databases with maps.

  • Example: Addresses from census records in NYPL's subscription to Ancestry Library Edition can be cross-referenced with material from Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970.

articles and databases website nypl

Map-Specific Databases:

  • Digital Sanborn Maps, 1867–1970 NYPL Library Card Required: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are highly detailed city plans providing researchers with a wealth of information about urban change in American cities. These maps were originally produced between 1867 and 1970 for the purpose of assessing risk and cost of insurance. The Sanborn maps are arranged by state, then city and release data.  Currently there are over several sheets from city sets online in the following states: Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.
  • National Atlas of the United is the one of the most complete sources of national maps and geographic information for the United States. It contains an online map maker, dynamic maps, printable maps, articles, free GIS data, and additional resources for geographic information about the United States.
  • National Geographic Virtual LibraryFull content from National Geographic Magazine, from 1888 to the present.  Search covers, articles, images, maps, and advertisements, or browse by issue.  Also included are topic guides and Common Core teaching resources.
  • National MapThe National Map is a collaborative effort among the USGS and other Federal, State, and local partners to improve and deliver topographic information. It has many uses ranging from recreation to scientific analysis to emergency response. The geographic information available from The National Map includes orthoimagery (aerial photographs), elevation, geographic names, hydrography, boundaries, transportation, structures, and land cover.
  • SimplyAnalytics (formerly SimplyMaps)Simply Map includes thousands of demographic, business, and marketing data variables. 

Additional Databases to Supplement Cartographic Research

When conducting cartographic research, it is also useful to search through other general databases that the Library subscribes to. For instance:

  • a general scholarly articles database might include some articles related to maps and cartography
  • a periodicals database might have articles that are supplemented by maps
  • genealogy sites might include records (i.e. the census, immigration records, etc.) that correspond with information on the maps

As such, please see below for a few examples of other general databases at NYPL that could include and/or supplement cartographic resources.

Scholarly articles and reference texts:

  • Academic Search Premier: A multi-disciplinary database of more than 4,600 magazines and journals, including full text for nearly 3,900 peer-reviewed titles. In addition to the full-text, this database offers indexing and abstracts for 8,470 journals. Of note is that this database also includes content from such subject-specific journals as Cartographica and Cartographic Perspectives
  • Proquest Research Library: Provides articles from periodicals covering arts, business, children, education, health, humanities, law, multicultural studies, sciences, social sciences, and general interest. Full text is available for nearly two-thirds of its titles. 
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library: Gale eBooks (formerly Gale Virtual Reference Library) is an online library of reference titles for multi-disciplinary research, including texts related to American and world history, biography, health, arts, business, travel, religion, and multicultural studies. 
  • JSTOR: A searchable, digitized archive -- from the first date of publication to the last three to five years -- of major scholarly journals in many academic fields.  Of note is that JSTOR provides discovery and full-text for one of the premier journals in the history of cartography, Imago Mundi.
  • Business Source Premier: The Business Source Complete database includes full text business journals and magazines, covering all disciplines of business, including marketing, management, accounting, banking, finance and more. 
  • Credo Reference: Provides full-text online access to hundreds of multidisciplinary reference book collections, including art, history, law, medicine, psychology, technology, bilingual dictionaries and encyclopedias.  
  • Oxford Reference Online: Oxford Reference Online brings together language and subject reference works from one of the world's biggest reference publishers into a single cross-searchable resource.  Titles cover a wide range of humanities, social science, performing arts, and general reference subjects.  
  • Project MUSE: Provides full-text access to over 500 peer-reviewed scholarly journals and top quality book-length scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. Cartographic-related examples include Map Worlds: A History of Women in Cartography, by Will C. van den Hoonaard and The American Indian Quarterly's Trading Paths: Mapping Chickasaw History in the Eighteenth Century, by Wendy St. Jean.


  •  America’s Historical Newspapers: Searchable full-text and page images of newspapers from across the country including early newspapers, 1690-1922; America's Urban Centers Newspaper Collection, 1807-1880; African American Newspapers, 1827-1998; Ethnic American Newspapers from the Balch Collection, 1799-1971; Caribbean Newspapers, 1718-1876; and Hispanic American Newspapers, 1808-1980; Early American Newspapers, Series 15, 1822-1879: Immigrant Communities.
  • The New York Times, 1980-present: Full-text articles from The New York Times.   
  • is the largest online newspaper archive consisting of 300+ million pages of historical newspapers from 11,100+ newspapers from around the United States and beyond, with a special focus on full runs and portions of runs of well-known, regional and state titles in addition to small local newspapers. The collection includes a broad range of dates, mostly covering the 19th and 20th centuries.  
  • Wall Street Journal, 1889-present:  Full text of the Wall Street Journal, 1984-present.  


  • Ancestry: Access billions of names in thousands of genealogical databases including Census and Vital Records, birth, marriage and death notices, the Social Security Death Index, Passenger lists and naturalizations, Military and Holocaust Records, City Directories, New York Emigrant Savings Bank records, and African American and Native American Records. Library version of

Les Anciens Plans de Paris title pagePublic Domain and Research Books

The Library, in partnership with Google, has digitized more than 400,000 books from its historic collection. These books published before 1925 are in the public domain and can be found here in Google Books. Additional public domain books digitized from NYPL and other research library collections can be found at HathiTrust.  Among these, you can find books about mapping and the history of cartography, cartobibliographies, and gazetteers to locate places on old maps. Some examples include:

  • The History of the Survey of Ireland, by Thomas Aiskew Larcom
  • Les Anciens Plans de Paris, by Alfred Franklin


In addition, NYPL has developed Digital Research Books, an early beta test of a new project that collects digital versions of research books from many different sources — including Open Access publications — into one convenient place to search. There are multiple digital versions available for many books (from various editions and sources or in multiple formats), and Digital Research Books makes it easier to understand the differences between them.

Image courtesy of HathiTrust. Franklin, Alfred. Les Anciens Plans de Paris. Paris : Léon Willem, 1878-1880.

E-Books and E-Audiobooks

Among the more than 300,000 e-books and e-audiobooks available to borrow at NYPL, there are some about maps.

Find accessible e-book offerings in the catalog- to do so, after you do a general keyword search, your results page will include a column called Refine Your Search. In this column, make sure to click either E-BOOK or E-AUDIOBOOK under Format.  Learn about downloading e-reader apps to your device at E-Book Central.

Here are a few examples of e-copies that are available to borrow:

  • The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology, by Simon Winchester
  • Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America, by Susan Schulten
  • Never Lost Again: The Google Mapping Revolution that Sparked New Industries and Augmented Our Reality, by Bill Kilday