Competence centre for the history of maps 

The highly specialised staff of our Map Department are available to answer questions about the history of cartography. The Department works closely with the University of Zurich Centre for Historical Mediology (UZH).

We offer specialist advice in a separate reading room, where you can also access Switzerland’s largest public library focusing on the history of maps, with around 9,000 monographs.


Research topographical studies worldwide right back to the early days of cartography. Resources include:

  • Maps
  • Atlases
  • Local directories
  • Panoramas
  • Reliefs
  • Globes

You can find more collected cartographic materials in the following sections: 

  • Publishers’ archives
    Archive copies of cartographic productions, maps in various states.
    At the start of 2010 the Map Department acquired holdings from the archive of Orell Füssli Kartographie AG (OFK), thanks to which our collection now includes continuous documentation of the work of OFK. We also aim to preserve source material on OFK’s production methods for posterity: for a small number of selected maps, every stage in the production process is documented by means of sketches, corrections, instructions, approvals to print, etc.
  • We hold the estates and lifetime deposits of the following cartographers and panorama draughtsmen:

In total, the holdings currently include more than 330,000 map sheets.

Some items are available online, such as our approximately 1,200 manuscript maps. Hand-drawn or hand-painted, these unique items are also very valuable items of cultural heritage.


Kartenportal.CH offers worldwide searches in the ZB’s holdings and in Swiss libraries with a spatial map search.

If you cannot find what you are looking for in the catalogue, we will be happy to search through our holdings for you – not all map materials have yet been catalogued online.

Please send an e-mail describing your research enquiry to:

Maps and panoramas

History of the holdings

Some of the objects in our collection have been with us ever since the city library was founded in 1629. The collections of Leonhard Ziegler, the Mathematisch-Militärische Gesellschaft and the Kartenverein were added in the 19th century followed, in the 20th, by the holdings of the Naturforschende Gesellschaft (Natural History Society). Since then we have been systematically expanding the collection.