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PCA 202: Introduction to Art History - Special Collections Tour

Maps in Special Collections

The department of Special Collections, Rare Books, and University Archives at Butler University has a selection of maps in its collections. However, not many are digitized or available online.

The following are a selection of digital collections of maps available through other institutions. Follow the links to access the digital collections and view their materials.

This digital collection from IUPUI includes multiple issues of two map publications: The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and the Baist Real Estate Atlases. These maps were published during the late-nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries and provide information on buildings (including specific construction details--building height, stories, door and window locations, building material--and building use), neighborhoods, and streets in various cities. During the time of their publication, these maps were used by insurance and real estate agents to assess properties of their value. Today, historians use the maps for the research of historical buildings and neighborhoods, attempting to learn more about structures that still stand or used to stand in a location.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps include three sets of maps (1887, 1898, and 1914-1915). The Baist Real Estate Atlases also includes three sets (1916, 1927, and 1941). While you can do a keyword search in the digital collection, it is recommended that you first find the index for a given map set, determine which section/plan your property is located within, and then proceed to find that specific section/plan.

Below are a few map prints from Special Collections. Each photo includes a link that leads to a large-format image.

Selection of Maps (Primarily Reproduction Prints) in Special Collections

Collection of Cityscape Prints (unknown origin and publisher)

Decorative Old Maps of the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: Six Fine Prints in Full Color (circa 1953)

Collection Description (as written by publisher on the collection container)

"The six maps contained in this portfolio are among the finest examples of 16th, 17th and 18th Century cartography, and were reproduced from the hand-colored and hand-engraved originals in full-color collotype. 

Although the history of amps and map-making dates back to the ancient Babylonians, who molded them in clay, the art of fine map-making did not really begin until the Renaissance, when the invention of printing and the perfection of copper engraving gave a tremendous stimulus to modern cartography.

In the hands of the Dutch and French, notably a few men like Abraham Ortelius, Mercator, De l'Isle, the Blaeu Family and N. J. Visscher, the art of map-making flourished as never before. Their skilled craftsmanship was exceeded only by their love of beauty and they fashioned their maps into true, enduring works of art.

Fascinating, curious and full of interest, with their magnificent cartouches and ornaments, their old-fashioned symbols and quaint spelling of place names, they summon up all the romance and adventure of faraway lands and forgotten times, of days when trade and travel were just awakening to a man's new concept of the world around him. The voyages of exploration they inspired, and the studies in geography, history and astronomy they advanced are too great to calculate, but of this we are certain: they are incredibly beautiful to behold and a joy forever."


Email Butler University Libraries
Irwin Library: 317-940-9227
Science Library: 317-940-9937

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