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Maps and Plans Department

A department dedicated to preserving atlases, maps, plans, and terrestrial and celestial globes and studying the geographical sciences.
Collections on the following topics are available for consultation in the Maps and Plans Department (département des Cartes et plans):

In addition to these major topics, materials held by the Maps and Plans Department may be helpful for studying astronomy, exploration, the history of discoveries, the history of photography, the history of cartography, and maritime history.

Alongside a general collection consisting of printed materials and manuscripts (the former collections of the National Library and documents obtained under the legal deposit scheme), there are various other collections:

  • the Anville collection of 10,500 maps from the 16th to the 18th century
  • the collection of the Navy Hydrographic Office (plans of cities and coastal areas, sailing routes, scenes of sea battles, maps of sea currents, topographical maps of river mouths, sketches and views of coasts and islands, and marine maps from all around the world)
  • geographers’ papers (le Père de Dainville, Bernard Kayser, Jean Gottmann, etc.)

Books, off-prints, and reviews help readers use and understand cartographic documents.

To be noted

Since 1942, the department has been custodian of the collections of the Société de géographie, built up in the 19th and 20th centuries and covering the life of the society and the history of exploration from the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century.

History of the department

The department was founded in 1828 by Edme-François Jomard, a former geographical engineer on the Egyptian expedition. He opened up to the public a single location for the development of geographical science and the preservation of atlases, maps, plans, and terrestrial and celestial globes. He brought together part of the collections of the Prints Department: the “portefeuilles du roi” and the portfolios of the Abbey of Saint-Victor, obtained via revolutionary confiscations. Jomard was interested in both modern publications and old collections, such as the “portolano maps”.

Various deposits were added to the collections in the 20th century: those of Jean-Baptiste d’Anville (1697-1782), the collection of the Navy Hydrographic Office (from its origins to 1940), and that of the Société de géographie in 1942.

Since 1954, the department has been based in the main body of the hôtel Tubeuf, which was completely refitted to preserve and present these special documents under the direction of architect Michel Roux-Spitz.

For more info

History of the BnF

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Jean-Yves Sarazin
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