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Library of Congress Map Collections from 1500's 251

e03179 writes "A friend of mine stumbled across this site from the US Library of Congress. The website allows users to view maps that go all the way back to the 1500's (like this one of America in 1562). The maps have been converted to digital form (SID format - viewer available here) but are viewable in .GIF form in your browser. I was able to look up my hometown during 1871 and see the church in which I'm getting married. Who thought the LOC could be so 31337?"
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Library of Congress Map Collections from 1500's

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  • by madsenj37 ( 612413 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:05PM (#4483070)
    you are a pirate lost in time
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:06PM (#4483074)
    These maps aren't very good for directions. For example, the entire state of California is missing, and the United States isn't even recognizable. They may be fine for getting around Europe, but for use in the Americas, well, they're worthless.
  • Ok Ok Ok!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by thammoud ( 193905 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:07PM (#4483079)
    So could you please tell me if they included a map for Palestine and Israel so we can settle this once and for all ?
    • Here's one. []
  • GIF Format? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <> on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:07PM (#4483080)
    I guess the hadn't discovered more then 256 colors in the 1500's

  • Contentental drift will have moved things around since these maps were drawn, it will be impossible to recognise features now.

    Shame, I like maps.
  • SVG? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ( 184378 )
    Why aren't there SVG versions available? Icons are great in SVG, but one area where SVG can really strut it's stuff is maps.
  • Librarians (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ( 262540 ) <[moc.rracc.todhsals] [ta] [rrac_sirhc]> on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:10PM (#4483095) Homepage
    Who thought the LOC could be so 31337?"

    Actually, librarians were one of the earlier professions outside of the hard sciences to "get" computers.
    • Should be:

      I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    • by tiltowait ( 306189 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:18PM (#4483337) Homepage Journal
      I found the attitude in this story very odd, considering online map library exhibits [] have been around many years. What's next, people start discovering LOC's *free* pre-Google answers service []?

      Get a grip, nerds, librarians are Not What You Think []. (draft of a page I made a few months ago especially directed at the slashdot crowd, url published here for the first time ever!). See also a category I build at the ODP, Librarians in Society [].
      • I found the attitude in this story very odd, considering online map library exhibits [] have been around many years.

        I can't say I've surveyed a good sample of the online map sites, but the LoC site does stand out for the incredible resolution of the scans.
      • by jenniferj ( 16471 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @07:26AM (#4484258)
        Yeah. Thwart not the librarian:

        "Ok, sure. We've all got our little preconceived notions about what librarians are and what they do. Many people think of them as diminutive civil servants, scuttling about "Sssh-ing" people and stamping things. Well, think again buster.

        Librarians have degrees. They go to graduate school for Information Science and become masters of data systems and human/computer interaction. Librarians can catalog anything from an onion to a dog's ear. They could catalog you. Librarians wield unfathomable power. With a flip of the wrist they can hide your dissertation behind piles of old Field and Stream magazines. They can find data for your term paper that you never knew existed. They may even point you toward new and appropriate subject headings.

        People become librarians because they know too much. Their knowledge extends beyond mere categories. They cannot be confined to disciplines. Librarians are all-knowing and all-seeing. They bring order to chaos. They bring wisdom and culture to the masses. They preserve every aspect of human knowledge. Librarians rule. And they will kick the crap out of anyone who says otherwise."
      • # THX is the name of a sound system

        I think it's actually a certification for sound-systems. It's mostly been dropped now, as people realise they don't need to pay Lucas to certify them.
    • Actually, librarians were one of the earlier professions outside of the hard sciences to "get" computers.
      Yeah, turns out librarians have to deal with all sorts of nerdy stuff []. Who woulda known....
    • Re:Librarians (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ratbert42 ( 452340 )
      Georgia Tech's computer science program grew out of library science. It was the School of Information in 1963, then became the School of Information and Computer Science in 1972. (Now it's the College of Computing.) When I started there they were just phasing out a required library course.
  • theifs! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:11PM (#4483102)
    I hope they respect the copyrights on those documents! Remember, sharing is stealing!
  • Burn all gifs? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:12PM (#4483103) Homepage
    I don't understand the constant hypocracy taking place at slashdot. When asking taco why he uses .GIFs for all of the graphics on slashdot, as the majority of the ./ crowd favors PNGs over GIFs for numerous reasons, he told me not to confuse HIS interests with the interests of the readers. Hmmph
    • Re:Burn all gifs? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      His interests must include using more bandwidth, since that's what he's doing. 99.9% of graphical browsers can do PNG8, so there really is no reason for anyone to use GIF.

      And those of using l33t advanced browsers like Mozilla (or Opera) can enjoy PNG24's in their full glory without any crazy hacks (cough*IE*cough).
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:58PM (#4483255)
      Size of Slashdot's logo (title.gif): 3473 bytes
      Size of Slashdot's logo as a PNG: 2558 bytes
      Savings of 915 bytes

      That's a savings of nearly a gig per million downloads. Imagine the savings when you do all the other graphics on the site, too.
    • From what I've heard, slightly earlier versions of IE on Windows had semi-cruddy PNG support. Even ignoring problems with support for things like alpha, they render more slowly than other image types.
      • Re:Burn all gifs? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cthugha ( 185672 )

        From what I've heard, slightly earlier versions of IE on Windows had semi-cruddy PNG support.

        All right, hands up everybody who uses old (and therefore, with security holes big enough to peg a rock through) versions of IE.

        What, no one? How surprising, considering how tolerant and understanding /.ers are on these issues. :)

    • "When asking taco why he uses .GIFs for all of the graphics on slashdot"

      We don't care: we've all blocked to stop the adverts.
  • More old maps (Score:5, Informative)

    by tedDancin ( 579948 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:12PM (#4483107)
    I came across some more old maps [] the other day, quite a few from the 1500's.
  • Related Link... (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheGreenGoogler ( 618700 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:13PM (#4483112) Journal
    Great site for maps from the present time found here... [] Includes printable maps, trails, atlas info, etc...
  • by Quixote ( 154172 )
    The viewer requires registration. If a site requires registration to give out its "free" product, then I don't consider it 'free' anymore. Anyone have any other viewers for MrSID?
    • Re:MrSID viewer? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Works on Mozilla 1.2b in Windows with no download of this plugin. Don't know if it ships with mozilla or I got it from somewhere else (WMP 7, & QT6 are installed too, maybe it came from there).
    • Oddly enough, I haven't had any problem using (shudder) IE 6 to view the maps in question, without any third party apps... Yah yah yah, Micro$oft bad and all, it still does the job, despite their detonating Pintos and supporting the nazi vermacht, I don't see any of you bombing Fords either... (okay, it's OT but it's still my view, if you don't like MS' products, then don't complain about having to pay for others)
    • Re:MrSID viewer? (Score:5, Informative)

      by wssddc ( 450574 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:26PM (#4483363) Homepage
      For Win32, Irfanview will view .sid files. Get the plugins as well as the program.
    • yeah, I wonder when they will realize that jackoff poopybutt isn't a real person?

      or that is a fake address?

      Heaven forbid I register.
  • MapQuest (Score:5, Funny)

    by stephenisu ( 580105 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:18PM (#4483135)
    This must be where MapQuest does all their data mining.... I always wondered why it told me to take so many non-existent roads..

  • And after batman and robin travelled back in time to the 16th century, carrying with them their printed off map. "According to the {VERY ACCURATE REPRESENTATION OF NORTH AMERICA} we should be on land right now, but we are in the middle of the ocean Batman!"
  • by jaybird144 ( 558619 ) <jaybird144@gmail ... m minus language> on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:20PM (#4483143)
    My University has vanished! I found a map of Champaign, IL (I go to the U of I there...) ca. 1869 (2 years after the University was supposedly founded) and there's nothing there! The map shows farmland where all of the University buildings are! So, the question is, did the U of I really exist then, or are they just pulling my leg? I want answers!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:59PM (#4483261)
      Ah yes, we were wondering when you'd ask about that. There there, don't try and escape, the chains are tight, and there are armed guards all around.

      You see, your entire "college" was actually just built 3 weeks ago. Your classmates and friends (and yes, even that cute chick you just met) are all paid agents of our organization.

      We tried to conceal everything from you, and we were succeeding.. but DAMN the the infernal Library of Congress!! The ONLY government department were we don't have high-level implants. Who would suspect them? But now you know our secret. In the future we will be sure ALL parts of government are fully managed by our agents.

      Ah, yes, why am I telling you this? Because we're putting the finishing touches on a NEW college for you. Rest assured, we have learned from our mistakes. There will be NO maps accessible from your network terminal, and the stone will fool even the most sophisticated carbon dating. This time, we've decided not to use a "cute chick" agent. In fact I personally decided to implant you with a homosexual persona. I think you'll enjoy it! Your new name will be "Brad" (doesn't it just scream "FAG"?) and you're majoring in Computer Science again (and of course, you must, in order for our plans to succeed).

      Anyway, tonight after you fall asleep, the Mind Eraser beam will make you forget everything I've just told you.

      Tomorrow you will begin your new life!! And our evil plans will remain intact!

      MWAH HA HA HA HA HA H- *cough* *cough* (Sorry, still working on the evil laugh).
    • Well it might not of actually been physically located in the same location when it was founded. My univerity [] (yes a relatively recent one) was actually based somewhere in the city in a temporary location while the campus was initially being contructed for a couple of years.
    • My university [] was founded in 1583, and there are others in this country which were around at the time when your country was producing maps like this :)
  • Olde Maps (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:22PM (#4483150) Homepage Journal
    I've been able to pick up some 1800's maps on ebay of the world, as it was known even then it's pretty cool to see how they thought the world fit together.

    Oh, and thanks for the red herring link to the burn all gifs website, keep your politics to yourself or at least warn that it's not to LOC gif images.

  • Anyone figure out how to get the full zoomed in version of a map? Zooming in on a screen size version is nice, but is there a way to get the whole image at full resolution?

    • Zooming in on a screen size version is nice, but is there a way to get the whole image at full resolution?

      Hack the image URL. The position and resolution are right in the query. For example, a 1024x768 detail [] from the New World map.

      (I tell ya, our maps suck these days. No dragons, sea serpants, gods, cherubs... all you get are little icons that show you were the nearest Red Roof Inn is)
      • I was there a few days ago and found that the "click here for larger image" thing produces the fullsized file. You have to go thru a couple layers of pages for each map to get to it, tho.

        And then I had a bit of fun with a fragment of the output and some old atlases from my library .. tm ('ware the dreaded slashdot split)

  • .SID format (Score:3, Interesting)

    by strredwolf ( 532 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:34PM (#4483183) Homepage Journal
    MrSID format is fairly intelligent. I had the pleasure of working with some Perl code which impliments the UI, and calls a compiled program to shove out the .GIF. Ported a good chunk to PHP, streamlined it a bit, and did some overlay magic on it.
  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:39PM (#4483205)
    Surely you jest. LIbraries are the oldest and ultimate repository of geek-ness. WHat could be more 31337.

    Interestingly, the world's first library [] just reopened a couple of days ago.

    Or you could visit this extraordinary place. []
  • I'll tell you... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Qwerpafw ( 315600 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:43PM (#4483215) Homepage
    Who thought the LOC could be so 31337?
    Neal Stephenson?

    Think back to SnowCrash [], that piece of geek required reading...

    (for the uninitiated, the Protagonist of SnowCrash is a uber-hacker of sorts who freelances doing data mining for the library of congress. He also delivers pizza for the Mafia, or did until he crashed his car.)
    • The uninitiated? I thought you were required to read snow crash, diamond age, and cryptonomicon before they let you have an account on this thing.
      • Bah. Diamond Age was a waste of time.

        And Stephenson was really negative about Zodiac, which I really enjoyed. The plot is very similar to Snow Crash, though with a different setting.

        If you're a Snow Crash fan, reading Zodiac is a blast.

        Cryptonomicon is very good in places, but a fair number of those 900 pages went into very slow material (building venture capital and doing oceanographic surveying is about as entertaining as it sounds).

        I just want a Snow Crash II. Gritty, full of hyperbole and ridiculously badass characters, cynical as hell, and glorifying tech. And the sentences...NS must have rolled them around in his mouth for quite some time before committing them to paper. They read like film noir dialog.
  • by GeoMapper ( 618758 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:06PM (#4483289)
    in modern formats (i.e., not paper) is at

    I love old maps on weekends; by day, I love modern spatial datasets at the large earth-science agency at which I work (OK, it's a part of the Dept. of Injustice as referenced in a recent /. article on the 100% M$ solution. My team is about 50% Mac, 40% Win, 10% *nix - but that's OT).

    Maps can be considered a superset of the relational/OO database; x, y, z and t have special properties (try indexing on x and y). If you'd like to learn more of this facinating topic, do the usual searches but be sure to include GIS (geographic information system, not guessing is simpler, as some have suggested).

    Cheers from a first-poster. /. is great!

  • by Chris Pimlott ( 16212 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:12PM (#4483312)
    I found this page the other week (while trying to settle an argument over some street names) and I found you can get the entire full-resolution maps in gif - with a little hackery. Go to a map and set it at the smallest zoom. Now look at the image location - yep, it's CGI generated and right in the query are the position, width and height. A little trial and error and you can get the entire map out as a single gif.

  • But... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Cyno01 ( 573917 )
    How many of these map collections could fit on the head of a pin?
  • by circusnews ( 618726 ) <steven@s t e> on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:29PM (#4483381) Homepage
    This is the my current listing of extext and related projects. Some have photographic studies of old text, photos and maps, others are standard text or marked up text.

    I appoligize in advance for the format, but I format this correctly it gets rejected as having too few charictors per line.

    The Humanities Text Initiative:, The Internet Sacred Text Archive:,

    The Bralyn E-text Archive:, The Early Canadiana Online Archive:, The Canada

    Digital Collection:, The Online Book Page at the U. of Penn.:,

    A Celibration of Women Writers project at the U. of Penn.:, The Litrix Reading Room archive:,

    National Library of Canada Online Etexts:, The Oxford Text Archive United Kingdom Archive:,

    Jennifer L. Armstrong's Free Online Novels archive:, The U. of Calgary Online Children's Stories:,

    The Best Children's Literature On The Net project:, The Christian Classics Ethereal Library:,

    The Free Online Inspirational Books Archive:, The Internet Christian Library Project:,

    The Online Library of Literature:, Arthur's Classic Novels Archive:,

    The Bibliomania Archive:, The etext archive:,

    The Electronic Literature Foundation:, The Internet Classics Archive at MIT:,

    Project Gutenberg:, The Online Book Initiative:,

    The Internet Wiretap Project (used to be, The U. of Virginia etext project and sub projects:,

    The Chinese Philosophical Etext Archives:, The NetLibrary Etext Archive:,

    The collection:, The Internet Public Library (indexes many other repositories as well):,

    Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (American & English lit as well as Western philosophy):, The University of Texas at Austin online collection:,

    The English Server (and its various subprojects):, The Making of America project at the U. of Mich.:,

    The University of Chicago Library (3 collections): and,

    The SunSite (UC berkley) collection:, The Library Of Congress's various projects:,

    The Bartleby collection:, The Bielefeld University Library (Germany):,

    The Camelot Project:, The Blake Digital Text Project:,

    The Schoenberg Project:, The Clevland Digital Library:,

    The Everglades Digital Library:, The Historical Text Archive:,

    The Humanities Text Intitiative (University of Michigan):, The University of Virginia etext project and subprojects:,

    The NY Public Library etext project (comming soon):, The Perseus project:,

    The CDC reading library:,

    The US Army's online libraries:,

    Marine Corps Publications:, The US Air Force e-publishing page:,

    The Thoreau project:, The Free Fiction Library:,

    The Ancent Greek Literature Project:, The Free Novels Online project at,
  • submissions? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WhiteChocolate42 ( 618371 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:34PM (#4483393)
    I have a few maps of my hometown that predate the oldest LOC maps of the area (mine are from early 1800s). Does anyone know of a method to submit maps for archival? (I don't really want to give them away, but I would like to see them digitally archived)
  • Maps Rule! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 )
    I love maps. Maps rock.

    If anyone out there knows if there is a job market out there for geographers or cartographers, email me or post something. I'm in the career change mood.

    This is an off topic post, I know it, you know it.
  • by Raiford ( 599622 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:42PM (#4483418) Journal
    I guess a cartographer is a cartographer regardless of what era you live in and the explorers also had the spirit of scientists as well. It amazes me that the coastlines of some regions such as Cuba have all the little nooks and crannies included. It amazes me how this was done without the aid of aerial observation. It may not be entirely accurate, but it was a grand attempt.

    • by ksuhr ( 68961 )
      There was a recent story on NPR about Captain Cook which mentioned that his maps of various expeditions were so accurate that they were being used into the 1990's. I wonder if they were used so recently, why did they stop? did GPS totally ecplipse everything around that time frame? Oh, the stuff about Captain Cook dealt with a book called Blue latitudes [] if anyone is interested.
  • I downloaded the sid viewer, linux version, but the menus don't work. I'm able to pull down the menus but not able to click or select the options.

    Anyone else having such issues?

  • I wonder if they have any of the anomalous 16th century maps that happen to accurately depict Antarctica as though it were free of ice. That's of course impossible, but there are maps, the most famous being the Admiral Piri Reis map, that accurately display the subglacial topography. There are also maps by Mercator and Buache that also display antarctic subglacial features.

    Of course, the subglacial topography of Antarctica was unknown until sonar surveys of the 1950's, and the whole continent itself was unknown until the early 19th century.

    • Did someone mention "subglacial Antarctica"? Care to give me modern maps of that?


      Most of these conclusions drawn from old maps are just misunderstandings. People see things that, due to coincidence, look vaguely like modern things and think it's a "historical anomaly". Always ask yourself: which is more likely - an undocumented, wholly unnoticed cataclysmic change in Earth within the period of written history, or a misunderstanding of facts?

      Philippe Buache's map from 1739, that you mention, didn't really show "Antarctica without ice". I don't know why people came to that conclusion - there is an "inner sea" in the map, but it's clearly labelled a "conjecture", and the notes on the edges of the map talk of icebergs and glaciers and stuff, which doesn't sound too convincing to me! And on top of that, I'd clearly doubt the skill of any mapmaker who mark New Zealand and Tasmania as part of Antarctica =)

      I wrote a summary [] of the map discussion to E2 the day I heard of this (An "anomalous" map would be spooky enough to keep me up 'til early in the morning, huh?) - and you can check out a good site [] that has a lot of scans and zooms and translations. Here's even more stuff. [] And more. []

  • by DunbarTheInept ( 764 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @12:54AM (#4488410) Homepage
    I'm currently game-mastering a Deadlands [] roleplaying game (real system, not the d20 port) where the action has centered around the Pacific Northwest in 1878. I've used the "American Memory" site for all sorts of stuff in that game, including a bird's eye view of Seattle, 1878 []that I rendered into a big three-page size printout, glued it to some cardboard, and am using it as the GM's screen, with the map facing outward to the players.

    That site is great. The other handy thing about it is the indications of what areas were yet unexplored at the time. By looking at a map of the era I know what fuzzy unknown wilderness areas are ripe to be populated with all sorts of Bad Guy hideouts and such.

    On another note, I noticed an awful lot of the birds-eye artist rendition maps are from the Wisconsin area, where I live, and I thought that was a bit odd. It turns out the reason for it is that the Library of Congres' project of comissioning maps of all the new cities happened to be in effect at about the time the artist's birds-eye rendition was in vouge, which was also about the time this part of the country was starting to be heavily settled.

    • To render that 3-page printout of the seattle map, I had to download the linux version of the MrSID viewer, download the SID file, and display it that way (the web interface scales gifs down to 640x400 at most).

      Here's some stuff about the MrSID view (at least the linux version. I didn't try any of the other ports).

      1 - All it lets you do is view on the screen. It has no "print" option.
      2 - It does have the ability to dump out to a number of common image file formats, but it only dumps out the image at the resolution being displayed currently on the screen, so it cannot make an image larger than your screen's resolution.
      3 - I know the SID files are actually capable of much higher resolution than that.
      4 - So what I ended up having to do to make the big hi-res version of the image was to have MrSID zoom in on various sections of the picture, and save those zoomed-in areas as seperate files.
      5 - Then I glued the seperate images together in GIMP into one big image. This I had to do visually since there was no way to tell MrSID to size itself to a specific section of the image by coordinates,
      and so my zoomed-in dumps had overlapping bits.

      Summary: The site is very very cool, but the MrSID viewer you have to use to get the full resolution images is annoying. I'd much rather just download the large version as a really big JPEG and use whatever image editor I feel like once I have it.
      • 5 - Then I glued the seperate images together in GIMP into one big image. This I had to do visually since there was no way to tell MrSID to size itself to a specific section of the image by coordinates,
        and so my zoomed-in dumps had overlapping bits.

        There's a program called grunch that will do that automatically.

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!