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Historical map and survey archives

You can buy some of our historical maps of Great Britain, whilst other worldwide maps and survey information are accessible in various archives.

Here you can find out how to buy our historical maps of Great Britain and where to find our archived maps, aerial photography and survey records of overseas British colonies.

We define historical mapping as mapping that no longer reflects the situation on the ground. Our detailed mapping reflects features on the ground at the time of last survey. Small-scale mapping is then produced as a reflection of our large-scale mapping database, sourced at the time of the last cartographic revision.

Historical maps of Great Britain

We sell a limited reproduction range of one inch to one mile maps (revised from the late 1800s and published in the early years of the 1900s) from our OS map shop. We also sell various historical products produced by our licensed Partners.

The original historical maps now reside with local libraries around the country. If you're looking for old maps of Great Britain you can contact or visit one of the following libraries.

Contact historical map deposit libraries

If these sources don't hold the information you're looking for you may find the Vision of Britain and British History Online websites of interest. The following stockists are also able to supply historical mapping:

Name Location
Blackwell's Aberdeen
Blackwell's Bristol
Blackwell's Cambridge
Blackwell's Leeds
Blackwell's Liverpool
Blackwell's Manchester
Blackwell's Newcastle
Blackwell's Oxford
Blackwell's Sheffield
Bluejet Southampton
Centremaps Hornchurch, Essex
Centremaps Worcester
eMapSite Hampshire
Hereford Map Centre Hereford
John E Wright Derby
John E Wright Leicester
John E Wright Nottingham
Latitude Hertfordshire
Lincoln Print & Copy Centre Lincoln
Maplines Isle of Wight
Mason Maps Dunfermline
National Map Centre Hertfordshire
National Map Centre Kent
Nicolson Maps Largs, Ayrshire
Stanfords Bristol
Stanfords London
Stanfords Manchester
The Francis Frith Collection Salisbury
The Map Shop Upton Upon Severn

Archives of map, photography and survey records of countries around the world

We used to hold our own archive of maps, air photography and survey records from our work in many countries around the globe over the last half century or more. This archive - also known as the Ordnance Survey International Collection - has sat with several custodians since 2003. Here you can discover the history of the International Collection and find details on where our records are archived.

The International Collection was the result of the work of the Directorate of Colonial Surveys, the Directorate of Overseas Surveys, Ordnance Survey (Overseas Surveys Directorate) and Ordnance Survey International.

The history of the International Collection

In 1946, the Colonial Office established the Directorate of Colonial Surveys (DCS), to be a central survey and mapping organisation for British colonies and protectorates.

In 1957, DCS was renamed the Directorate of Overseas Surveys (DOS) to reflect the independence of many former Colonies. Some non-Commonwealth countries such as Ethiopia, Liberia, Sudan, and Yemen Arab Republic were mapped by DOS between 1975 and 1991.

During the 1970s, government reviewed the DOS’ purpose. Then, in 1984, the organisation was merged with Ordnance Survey and given a new title: Overseas Surveys Directorate, OS (OSD).

Ordnance Survey already had its own international division. When the two organisations were merged in 1984, all international aerial photographs, maps, and survey data were amalgamated into one working collection. It was named Technical Information and Support Services and kept that title for seven years, before being renamed International Library in 1991.

By 1991 the last significant, aid-funded mapping projects had been completed by OSD and all survey parties had been disbanded. OSD’s title was changed to OS International and its priorities turned to consultancy, mainly in Eastern Europe, while traditional map production gradually declined.

In 2002, Ordnance Survey deemed its International Library no longer needed for operational purposes. Responsibility for these public records then passed to The National Archives (TNA). Working with OS staff and advised by specialists, the material was appraised, and determined what would be kept, and where. Public access to the International Library in Ordnance Survey head office ceased in March 2003.

During 2003 and 2004, Ordnance Survey and TNA sought suitable custodians of all parts of the collection and relocated them. The public could access the historical archives again from the end of 2004.

Where are the International Collection archives now?

The materials and data sit with various archivists and custodians. Below, you can find more information about specific archives, their respective histories, and where they can be found.