Holdings of the Map Collection

The holdings of the map collection date from the 16th to the 21st centuries and offer geographic and topographic information on East Central Europe and the adjoining regions. Further maps can be found in the approximately 500 atlases and other holdings of the library.

Topographic map series

Enlarged, edited section of a topographic map
Ordnance map of the Soviet army, scale 1:50000, sheet N-34-55-A Gvardejsk, 1986

The topographic map series and general maps (around 36,000 map sheets) are available at scales of 1:10,000 to 1:2,500,000 and mainly represent the settlements, traffic routes, borders, water bodies, land cover and relief forms of the depicted landscape. Of particular significance are the modern topographical surveys of the historic states of East Central Europe and the current, official topographic map series of the states of Central and East Europe, which were not accessible until the political changes in the 1990s. In addition, Northern, Southeast, Southern, and parts of Western Europe as well as Asia are also covered by at least a few maps.

The online catalogue offers an interactive map index for each topographic map series and a geographical map sheet search.

Thematic maps

Reduced view of a thematic map
The distribution of denominations in Galicia in 1840

The thematic maps (approximately 3,500 titles) provide information on abstract, spatial facts, primarily on the following thematic areas of East Central Europe: Political history; urban history; art, church, economic and social history; as well as population, geology and general regional studies.

The entire holding of thematic maps may be researched online through the OPAC. Furthermore, separate directories of city maps of regional metropolises in East Central Europe as well as a printed catalogue of the wall maps are available. 71 of the 104 large-sized map representations were created after 1945. The most interesting, from a cartographic-historical point of view, is a wall map of the Russian Vyborg Governorate from the end of the 18th century.

Early maps

Enlarged section of an early map
Map of Silesia of Abraham Ortelius, from: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Antwerp 1570

With holdings of around 1,300 early maps (up to 1850), the main lines of regional variance in cartographic development in East Central Europe can be shown. The oldest maps come from Sebastian Münster (around 1545) and from the atlases of Abraham Ortelius (around 1570) and Gerard Mercator (around 1585). At this time, the first regional maps appeared of all the countries in East Central Europe; at that time, geographical knowledge of their own territories was as important for sovereigns as spatial illustrations of foreign countries. These maps were widespread in the atlases of large publishers in the 17th century. After the mid-18th century, this early period of atlas and regional cartography was followed by map series of topographical surveys, which—as they were produced due to the need for an administrative aid—are of particular interest today mainly for historico-cultural work because of their informative legends.

One particularly valuable holding is that of around 100 early maps (16th–18th century) from the Reklaitis Lithuanian archive. They document the area of the grand principality of Lithuania linked with the Kingdom of Poland from the union of 1386 up until the division of the dual state at the end of the 18th century, under which the entire grand principality of Lithuania was annexed to the Russian Empire.

The titles of the early maps are being catalogued in the IKAR-database of old maps of the GBV (Common Library Network).

Vertical aerial photographs

Enlarged section of a vertical aerial photograph
Vertical aerial photograph of Glogau, 07.02.1945

A special collection are the 6,300 vertical aerial photographs of East Central Europe taken by the German Luftwaffe between 1942 and 1945 in photographic flights over broad regions of Brandenburg, Pomerania, East Prussia and Silesia, as well as the voivodeships of Poznan (poznańskie), Pomerelia (pomorskie) and Bialystok (białostockie). In today's unified Europe, these unique items are a valuable resource, primarily for historico-cultural research on Poland and the Kaliningrad area. Furthermore, they are also used in particular for questions on the history of towns and settlements, as well as for local urban, spatial and environmental planning matters.

A printed register of places and a comprehensive catalogue of the collection are available. Besides, you find previews of the vertical aerial photographs of larger settlements in the image catalogue.

Map of the quantitative distribution of the vertical aerial photographs (click for large size)
Map of the quantitative distribution of the vertical aerial photographs

The regional distribution of vertical aerial photographs:

1939/2005 Poland
550 - 195 745
East Prussia 693 595 - 1,288
Poland 345 - - 345
Pomerania 557 - - 557
Pr. Saxony - - 115 115
Silesia 3,250 - - 3,250
Total 5,395 595 310 6,300


With its collection Hansa-Luftbild the image archive holds another 4,500 oblique aerial photographs of the former eastern territories of the German Reich from civilian commercial production of the 1920s/30s.