Historic Cartography

Historical Maps of Nova ScotiaMaps convey geographic information about places and help us to better understand topography,  environment, culture and more.

Cartography is the art and science of making maps is an old profession that has been practiced since ancient Babylonia times. Back them, most maps were created for navigation purposes and to help depict territorial regions.

Canada is a relative young country (when compared to others) and thus experienced many years of European exploration that resulted in the creation of many maps that tried to show part of the world that had not been mapped before.

The “Historic Cartography” section of our site was created to explore the many great sources of vintage cartography in Canada. From detailed hand drawn maps by early explorers whom created and documented some of the earliest spatial representations of Canada to maps that focus on nature, the north, and our people.


Vancouver Historic Maps and Plans

The City of Vancouver Archives contains over 4000 Vancouver historic maps and plans that have been repaired, restored, scanned, and made freely available to the public to use. The collection is …

Historic Maps of Prince Edward Island

Some of the scanned Historic Maps of Prince Edward Island that you can download include …

History of Canada in 10 Maps

A History of Canada in 10 Maps consists of several fascinating stories behind some of the people and maps that helped define Canada.

Historical Maps of Nova Scotia

The Province of Nova Scotia provides online access to a variety of maps and survey plans from historic map collections, find out how you can download some of these historic maps of Nova Scotia …

Online Toronto Historic Maps comparison tool

An online mapping tool of Toronto has been providing users the ability to compare locations in Toronto through various periods of time from 2013 back to 1818. Check out this neat online mapping application that helps promote historic maps of Toronto …

Dr. Walter W. Ristow Prize (History of Cartography)

The 2016 essay competition for the Dr. Walter W. Ristow Prize is now accepting applicants.

Dr. Walter W. Ristow Prize (History of Cartography)

The Dr. Walter W. Ristow Prize is awarded annually by the Washington Map Society, to help recognize academic achievement in the History of Cartography. It honors the legacy of the late Dr. Walter W. Ristow, former chief of the Geography & Map Division, Library of Congress, and co-founder and first president of the Washington Map Society.

Portolan - Dr. Walter W. Ristow Prize (History of Cartography)This competition is open to all full or part-time undergraduate, graduate, and first year post-doctoral students attending accredited colleges and universities anywhere in the world.

Several Past Ristow Prize winners and Honorable Mentions have come from outside the United States.

Research papers must be related to the history of cartography. Merely using maps to relate an episode in history is not sufficient, unless the maps date from the period of the event, and/or disclose new information about that event, and/or the study of those maps constitutes a major focus of the paper.

The winner of the Ristow prize will receive:

  • $1000 (USd)
  • a 1 year membership in the Washington Map Society
  • publication of the History of Cartography paper in The Portolan-Journal of the Washington Map Society
  • 6 copies of The Portolan in which the paper will be printed

Submissions are due June 1, 2016, and should be sent to Dr. Evelyn Edson, 268 Springtree Lane, Scottsville, VA 24590, U.S.A.

For details, contest criteria and other useful information visit the Ristow Prize contest page: http://www.washmapsociety.org/Ristow-Prize.htm or send inquiries to eedson@pvcc.edu

Fortress of Louisburg Maps

Recently we purchased some old maps at a yard sale, and one of the old map books contained a tattered map featuring the Fortress of Louisbourg that we scanned, cleaned up in photo-shop and then reproduced. While searching for the date and source of our map print we also noticed that there have been several old Fortress of Louisbourg maps created and have included a few the links here to share with others …

W. H. Pugsley Collection of Early Canadian Maps (1556 to 1857)

In 1971-72 Dr. William Howard Pugsley, donated his collection of early Canadian maps that he had collected during the late 1930s and World War II. Download digital scans of these 50 early Canadian historical maps published between 1556 to 1857 that help explain the discovery and exploration of early North America.

Historical Maps of Manitoba

If you are looking for Manitoba Historical Maps then you will want to check out the 1000+ maps of Winnipeg, Brandon and other regions of Manitoba that are now scanned and available online.

Historical Maps of Toronto

Historical Maps of Toronto - Bird’s Eye View Chromolithograph
Explore Toronto’s past through Historical Maps

Historical maps of Toronto - Map of York 1812Historical Maps can be a great resource to help people learn more about certain geography at a particular point in time, help locate where our ancestors lived, or help us understand how a neighborhood or surrounding area changed over time. Because older maps were created by hand, they tend to be more artistic and visually appealing and thus can be attention grabbers.

Historical Maps have existed in libraries & various personal collections for years but thanks to advancement in digital technology and the internet, we have started to see more old maps being shared in the geospatial community.

The Historical Maps of Toronto blog created by historical maps enthusiast Nathan Ng provides simple and free access to a large selection of notable historical maps of the Toronto area that have been scanned from collections at the Toronto Library and the Toronto archives.  He started the site as a way to generate more curiosity for geography, and as a way to provide an easy entry point for people to discovery and further investigate historical cartography.

Maps on the site generally have public domain status (except where otherwise noted) and can be downloaded, printed and shared.

Some of the maps in the collection include:

Plus many more, click here for a full list of Historical Maps of Toronto maps available

Online Toronto Historic Maps comparison tool

Are you a resident of the Greater Toronto area and want to know what your community looked like 50 years ago?

Well Nathan Ng has also taken his blog a step further by teaming up with Esri to create the Online Toronto Historic Maps comparison toolThis free web application provides people with the ability to compare different places in Toronto through time from 2013 back to 1818.

Historical  paper maps from the Toronto Library and the Toronto archives were scanned, georeferenced, mosaiked and then combined so that people could compare them with one another using a simple easy to use interface that anyone could use.

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