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Navigating Research at the Map Division: Getting Started at the New York Public Library: Searching the Catalogs

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

Introduction to Catalogs

For the collection at the Map Division, there are two ways to find items of interest:

  • Online Research Catalog
    • Includes materials held at NYPL, Columbia University, Princeton University, and Harvard University
    • Includes option to request electronic scans of texts. [If available, option will be included under "Request" button]


  • Dictionary Catalogs aka GK Hall
    • Includes material that was added to the collection before 1971. Some material listed in these catalogs are not in the Online Research Catalog

    • All 10 volumes are digitally available on HathiTrust


Tips for Searching the Catalog for Maps

  • Be flexible with the dates that you are the parameters of your search (+/- 5 years)
    • If you are looking for a 1915 map, give yourself the flexibility to take a look at maps from 1910-1920


  • Rethink what a "Creator"/"Author" is. Remember that companies, organizations, and government entities can be considered as the "Creator"/"Author" of a map
    • Example: If you are looking for subway maps, you can search by using "New York (State) Metropolitan Transit Authority" as the "Creator"/"Author"


  • Remember that locations can change names, be found under multiple names, and have changing boundary lines. Often, these changes will be reflected in how you search for a map, as well as the data present on a map. Check our research guide, Finding Places, that lists gazetteers that will be useful in locating a place, its various names, and its changing boundaries. 
    • Example: Pre-1991 Ukraine maps will be found under "U.S.S.R." Meanwhile, post-1991 Ukraine maps will be found under "Ukraine."

Online Research Catalog

The Online Research Catalog can be accessed by clicking "Research" on the NYPL Home Page. From that page, click "Search the Research Collection" from the left panel in order to reach the page below.

You can either type in keywords here, or click "Advanced Search."


nypl research catalog



In "Advanced Search," you can restrict your search by date, material type (you would choose cartographic for map), language, and combine various search terms. 


nypl research catalog advanced search


What is on a record in the Online Research Catalog?

When using the Online Research Catalog, a record for a map would look like the following. The various pieces information included will help you fill out a call slip: 

  1. Title of Map
  2. Creator of Map
  3. Call Number (Map Div. #)
  4. Additional Authors
  5. Subject Headings
  6. "Check with Staff" vs. "Request"
    • "Check with Staff" : Will be for maps. Email for access.
    • "Request": Will be for map texts. You can either request to see the physical item or [if applicable] digitized scans of the book.
  7. Indicates if digitally available in NYPL's Digital Collection

NYPL catalog record example

Dictionary Catalog aka GK Hall

The Dictionary Catalog is arranged alphabetically, by either location name, creator name, or subject. 

Looking at the example below of a page from Volume 8 (Pid-San), you can see that we have records for a map created by George W. Pirtle as well as a map of Pisa, Italy. 

These are further organized by date.

NYPL Dictionary Catalog NYPL

To learn more about the Dictionary Catalog, please review Maps in the Gap: Discovering The Map Division’s Dictionary Catalog, Now Online

What should you fill out on a call slip?

A call slip is used to help library staff identify which specific map you are looking for. When filling out a call slip at the reference desk, you should include:

If the item is from the Online Research Catalog: 

  • Title of Map
  • Creator of Map
  • Year of Publication
  • Call Number (only available for items that are in the Online Research Catalog)
  • Your NYPL Library Card Number

If the item is from the Dictionary Catalog: 

  • Title of Map
  • Year of Publication
  • The volume and page number that the item appears on
  • The specific row (1-7) and specific column (1-3) that the item is located on the page
  • Your NYPL Library Card Number

Always remember, the more information provided, the better!