Skip to Main Content

Primary Sources

This guide is to help users to identify, locate, and use primary sources in their research.

Finding Maps Beyond NYU Libraries

Finding Maps @ in BobCat

To find maps using BobCat Advanced Search:

  • search on the word "maps"
  • limit to "all items" in the first box,
  • "that contain my words" in the second box, and
  • "In Subject" in the third box and
  • click on Go

Narrow your results

By choosing from the Resource Types, Subjects, Libraries, Authors, Languages, Call Number Groups, Genres, publication and Dates of publication shown at the left of the screen. 

Subject Headings

When you have identified relevant maps, look at the subject headings assigned to them and click on those to identify additional maps described the same way. 


Maps are useful for understanding a place in a particular time, within a particular cultural context.  They are rich sources of rich information for many research projects.

Map of Lower Manhattan from approximately 1850.


Image Credit: [Map of the city of New York.] ([1850?]). New York Public Library. Stephen A. Schwarzman Building / The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division. Catalog Call Number: Map Div. 89-5055 [Filed flat]. Image ID: 434106

Recommended Reading for Using Maps

Jenny Presnell's The Information Literate Historian (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2007) provides an insightful overview of maps that covers their historical uses and includes tips for understanding the components of modern maps, reading and evaluating maps, finding maps to use in research, and more. 

Use Presnell's book to learn about maps used for navigation and commercial use, as political tools, propaganda, territory markers, and how they are used in war.

Evaluating Maps

Evaluate maps as you would any other source: 

  • Notice what kind of map you are reading.  Does it describe the topography of an area, the political divisions, climate zone, population demographics, etc.?
  • Consider the author/creator of the map.  Ask who made it and why. 
  • From what perspective is the map drawn?
  • What is at the center of the map?
  • Does the map contain extra text or illustrations?  An illustrated border? Does it add to your understanding of the map?
  • Was the map part of a larger collection or volume?
  • What is missing from the map?


  1. Mary Lynn Rampolla.  A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 6th ed. (New York:  Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009)
  2. Jenny L. Presnell.  The Information-Literate Historian.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 2007.