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The National Library's collection of printed maps and atlases is one of the largest in the country, comprising more than 180,000 items printed in Russia and abroad from the sixteenth century to the present. Cartographic publications have been a component part of the library since the day of its foundation. Stocks in this field grew through the receipt of statutory copies of works issued by Russian official bodies, and also through the purchase or donation of the collections of private individuals or institutions, such as the Hermitage, the Russian Geographical Society and the Military Topographic Depot. In this way the library has managed to create a uniquely full and varied collection of maps reflecting all the main stages in the development of cartography worldwide.

The stock of Russian cartographic publications from the eighteenth century, when map-printing in this country began and came of age, is virtually without lacunae. The collection of pre-revolutionary Russian maps numbers some 1,000 items. Among them are maps and atlases dating from the era of Peter the Great, publications of the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences topographical maps drawn by military departments, and many others. A special place is occupied by the collection of Russian and foreign plans of the city of St. Petersburg, with more than 1000 items including the very earliest.

There is an exceptionally rich stock of cartographic publications issued since 1917. Distinctive monuments of a kind to that complex era are the leaflet maps of the Civil War period, the map for Lenin's great electrification scheme and other material. Some topographic maps and maps devoted to particular subjects published on CD-ROM's have recently became part of the Department's collection. The library's collection of foreign cartographic publications also has no equal in this country for range of authors, variety or value. The collection of Western European engraved atlases of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries alone includes over 450 volumes and is truly unique in size and completeness.

The earliest dated publications in the Cartographic Department is the set of maps which accompanied the 1508 edition of Ptolemy's Geography, it contains one of the first maps to depict the recently discovered American continent. The National Library of Russia possesses 30 different editions of Abraham Ortelius's atlas, the world's first printed atlas in the strict sense of the term. The stocks also include 25 publications by one of the founders of scientific cartography, Gerardus Mercator.
Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century maps printed from engraved copper plates were often illuminated by hand.

The foreign stocks of the Cartographic Department contain a significant quantity of British, German, French, Italian and other publications of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There is a fairly comprehensive collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century general geographical atlases of the world, with practically all major cartographic firms represented.

Besides all this, the library also has a small, but remarkable collection of reproduction of the earliest cartographic works, which gave a picture of hand-made maps from ancient times to the fifteenth century and of later, printed works missing from the library's stock.

Since 1994, newly acquired maps and atlases have been listed in the electronic catalogue of recent cartographic acquisitions. There is available the online Catalogue of Russian Printed Maps and Atlases dating from 1700 to 2004.

The Cartography Department regularly organizes exhibitions on various subjects. Some of them can be viewed on the pages of our server:

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