British Library Acquisitions

This issue contains the first of a two part series of antiquarian acquisitions made by the British Library's Map Library.  It focuses on the some of the important, rare, interesting and unusual maps, while the second will focus on associated items, such as catalogues, prospectuses, and manuscript sources that throw some light on the background to maps, and help to place them in a more personal context.

All that most readers in the British Library (or indeed, in any Map Library) will see of the Library's activities is the physical processes of delivering items to the reader.  Of course, behind the scenes, there are a huge number of other tasks being carried out.

As a Copyright Library, the British Library year receives large numbers of modern maps, reference books, and so on, that all have to be processed, catalogued and shelved.  An equally important role played by the Library is adding to its vast antiquarian holdings. Some acquisitions, such as the so-called 'Mercator Atlas of Europe', have been made in the full glare of publicity, but much of the work in this area is done quietly, and without fanfare, as curators research items that are offered to the Library or read through catalogues received, to check if the Library has a particular item, and then evaluate its importance within the context of the collection.

It has therefore been a great privilege to see so many hitherto unrecorded items, so assiduously assembled.

Thanks are due to Tony Campbell, Map Librarian, for permission to see uncatalogued items, and to Debbie Hall, Map Specialist, responsible for the antiquarian cataloguing, who very kindly retrieved items from the antiquarian cupboard.

All illustrations reproduced here are courtesy of the British Library Board, and copyright, while the cataloguing, and opinions expressed here, are solely those of the author. In particular, contrary to cataloguing practice employed by the Library, dimensions are expressed height by width of the outer neatline of the engraved border.

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