Historical maps

Introduction: McGill’s historical map collection consists of approximately 6,000 maps and 500 atlases, dating from about 1550 to 1970. The collection strengths lie primarily in the discovery and exploration of North America (especially Quebec) and Europe. Among the non-Western materials are a notable collection of over 200 maps covering various regions of the Muslim world, mostly from the 20th century.

Extent: The collection consists of approximately 6,000 maps and 500 atlases.

Types of material: Small maps, large maps, wall maps, maps in books, folded maps, travel maps, and atlases. These maps also offer examples of different illustration techniques, from woodblocks to copper engravings and lithographs.

Collection highlights: Early maps of Canada are well-represented in this collection; some of the highlights can be accessed digitally in our W.H. Pugsley Collection of Early Canadian Maps. Also included are a wealth of rare maps of Montreal, many of which have been scanned, and are available through Internet Archive. One of the most popular aspects of the collection among genealogists is a series of Ontario county atlases, published in the 19th century.

In addition to reference sources and history books, a number of different kinds of historical sources help to interpret and make sense of maps: fire insurance maps and municipal directories provide detailed information on cities and towns, Lovell’s Montreal Directory being a case in point.

Date range: Approximately 1550 to 1970.

Language/s: The collection includes maps in English, French, Latin, Italian, German, and Dutch, along with a few examples of non-Western maps, such as Persian and Arabic.

Geographic coverage: Our maps cover land masses and bodies of water throughout the globe, with a particular focus on Europe and North America.

Provenance: Several individual collectors have added considerably to McGill’s holdings: maps from William Pugsley (1912-1993) and Alfred John Pick (1915-2010) greatly enhance the collection’s offerings on North America; and the collection of Stephen Casey (1926-) has added significantly to the early European maps. The collection continues to be added to through purchases and donations.

Access to the collection: Approximately 75% of the map collection has been catalogued, and can be requested via the McGill Library catalogue. Uncatalogued material may be requested by contacting the curator. This webpage offers an excellent list of digitized maps available to researchers, both at McGill and at other Montreal institutions.

Librarian: Lauren Williams, Liaison Librarian (e-mail: lauren.williams [at], telephone: 514-398-1364)

Maps of Quebec & Montreal

Date range and highlights: Montreal maps span the years 1556 to 1940. Examples of these are: Gastaldi's La Terra de Hochelaga nella Nova Francia (1556) from Ramusio's Navagationi, John Adams' Map of the city and suburbs of Montreal (1825) and James Cane's Topographical and pictorial map of the city of Montreal (1846). Early maps of Quebec include the manuscript map of Samuel Gale and John B. Duberger's Plan of part of the Province of Lower Canada, 1794 & 1795, Jean Deshayes La grande rivière de Canada (1715) and Gabriel Pelegrin's manuscript map Fleuve de Saint Laurent, 1755. The Division has four major collections of fire insurance atlases for Montreal: Henry W. Hopkins Atlas of the city and island of Montreal (1879), Chas. E. Goad's Atlas of the city of Montreal (1890), Pinsoneault Atlas of the island and city of Montreal (1906) and Chas. E. Goad's Atlas of the city of Montreal and vicinity 4 vols. (1911-14). There are also a number of county atlases for the province, as well as fire insurance maps for about 100 cities and towns in the province, dated 1896-ca 1940. Of particular interest is Canada[:] Plans of barracks or War Department property zincographed in the Topographical Department of the War Office ; Col. Sir Henry James, Director. (London: War Office, Topographical Department, 1862) with its 12 maps of Quebec City, Sorel, Montreal and Kingston, Ontario.

Librarian: Lauren Williams, Liaison Librarian (e-mail: lauren.williams [at], telephone: 514-398-1364)

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