The New York Public Library is filled with so many treasures for researchers. Every visit I find new materials to work with. But not everyone is lucky enough to be able to get to Manhattan to research on a regular basis. The NYPL has been working to digitize some of their collections to make it easier for people to access materials.
A couple of weeks ago, the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division made a huge announcement. The division announced the release of “more than 20,000 cartographic works as high-resolution downloads.” But the best part of the announcement was what came next: “We believe thiese maps to have no known US copyright restrictions.” That’s right, these maps are copyright-free.
The division has been scanning maps for 15 years. Much of this digitizing was done through grants from organizations like the National Endowment for the Humanities. Among these maps are:
- 10,300 property, topographic, zoning, and insurance maps for New York City from 1852 to 1922
- 2,800 maps from state, county, and city atlases (mostly New York and New Jersey)
- 1,100 maps of the Mid-Atlantic cities and states form the16th to the 19th centuries
- more than 1,000 maps of New York City boroughs and neighborhoods from 1660 to 1922
- more than 700 topographic maps of the Austro-Hungarian Empire created between 18777 and 1914
While many of the images are black and white or grayscale, a very large number of them are full-color. Even some of the oldest maps are in color. You can browse through or search for maps on keywords. You can send a url to share with friends, or you can purchase a high-resolution digital image. You can also purchase high-resolution prints of the maps. You can also print out a copy difrectly from your browser.
When you look at an image, not only will you see the map, but you will see other information as well:
- Names (of cartographers, etc.)
- Name of the collection it comes from
- Date of publication and publisher
- Library Location where you will find the original
- Subject classifications (called Topics)
- Notes about the map/image
- Identifiers, including the NYPL Catalog number and the RLIN/OCLC number
You can check out the maps by visiting the NYPL’s Digital Collections area. You can use these maps under a Creative Commons license from the NYPL, but as they warn you, you must be careful about any maps that are restricted because of a right of privacy or other restrictions.