The Art of Cartography

About the Exhibit

Toronto Public Library is pleased to present The Art of Cartography, a new exhibit showcasing the unexpected beauty of maps and atlases from the 16th to the 19th century. The exhibit features world maps, atlases, manuscript maps, sea charts, celestial maps, city plans and other cartographic curiosities from the library's Special Collections.

Cartography – the practice of making maps – is both an art and a science. Throughout history, maps have been created for practical purposes, telling us where we are in the world and helping us find where we are going. We have used maps to chart the land, sea and skies and to understand the world around us.

Historical maps can also be appreciated as works of art. They paint a picture of a place or region using colour, line, symbols and often elaborate embellishments. The artistic elements of maps can tell us many things about how and why they were made and capture ideas about the world at the time.

Discover beautiful maps from the library's collection and the stories that they tell: of lands explored and unexplored, of wayfarers and voyagers, of peoples and societies, and of places both real and imagined.

America with those known parts in that unknowne worlde both people and manner of buildings discribed and inlarged by I. S.

John Speed, 1552-1629

Septentrionalium terrarum descriptio

Gerardus Mercator, 1512-1594

Guided Tours

Every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Meet inside the TD Gallery.

To organize group tours or class visits, please contact:

Related Programming

Explore Canada from Space on a Giant Floor Map!

This map is out of this world. Canada from Space is comprised of images taken by Canada's RADARSAT-2 and is the first of its kind. Explore how Earth observation satellites monitor Canada and can be used to protect and prepare Canadians.

Presented in partnership with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society

To organize a class visit, please contact:

Thursday, September 15, 2016, 10 a.m.
Atrium, Toronto Reference Library

Mapping the City

How is Toronto being mapped by artists, illustrators and geographers today? Join Daniel Rotsztain, Flavio Trevisan and Marlena Zuber in conversation with Shawn Micallef.

Thursday, September 22, 2016, 6:30 p.m.
Hinton Learning Theatre, Toronto Reference Library

Hasn't everything been mapped already (or why do we need cartographers anymore)?

Cartographer Chris Brackley explains how the cartographer's role has shifted from creating maps that help people get from A to B, to creating maps that help people understand the complexity and the beauty of the world that exists between A and B.

Presented in partnership with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society

Monday, October 3, 2016, 6:30 p.m.
Hinton Learning Theatre, Toronto Reference Library

Cartography in Miniature

Map collector Alec Parley leads an illustrated talk about the history and beauty of miniature maps.

Thursday, October 6, 2016, 6:30 p.m.
Discussion Room, Toronto Reference Library