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The catalogue and its arrangement

George III (1738-1820)©

George III died on 29 January 1820, leaving a collection of more than 55,000 maps, topographical and maritime prints, drawings and charts. These had been kept in his library in three divisions: the General Atlas, the Maritime Atlas and the Military Plans – known today as the King’s Topographical Collection (K.Top.), the King’s Maritime Collection (K.Mar.) and the King’s Military Collection (K.Mil.). In 1823, George IV gave the first two to the British Museum (now the British Library) but retained the Military Plans for his own use. They have continued to form part of the Royal Collection to this day.


The collection was first listed in the early nineteenth century by George III’s principal librarian, Frederick Augusta Barnard (1743–1830), and his assistants. The manuscript listing, bound in red leather and formerly known as the ‘old catalogue’, is now referred to as the ‘George III catalogue’. It was organised in a simple, mainly geographical arrangement in alphabetical order and, within that, in chronological order. The map (or view or other item) and its catalogue entry were linked by a ‘heading’ (known as the ‘George III heading’, usually comprising the geographical name under which the map appeared in the catalogue, and date of the event being portrayed), which was written on the item in red ink, together with its number in the sequence. This sequence comprises a roman numeral denoting the Solander box number separated by a horizontal line from an arabic numeral giving the position of the item within the sequence in the box.

Apart from geographical headings there were other categories, including the ‘Order of Battle’, ‘Naval Engagements’, and ‘Marches’ and ‘Army’ but there were no author headings, nor were the locations of the naval conflicts identified. Many place-names in central and eastern Europe were rendered in their eighteenth-century form and are not always readily recognisable today. The scale of maps was not given nor were the dimensions of the items recorded; watermarks were not included and nor was any note of annotations made.

The intention of this new catalogue is to address these deficiencies and provide fuller descriptions of each item, including bibliographical details, information about the object as an artefact and the historical context of the event being portrayed.

A few items remain to be added to the catalogue. These include two volumes of Sébastian Pontault de Beaulieu’s Les Glorieuses Conquestes de Loüis le Grand (1698) and a list of the creators (surveyors, draughtsmen, engravers, and so on), which will contain brief biographical details, together with ranks and dates of commission (where known) for British military personnel.

Contents of the Collection

The make-up of the collection and a history of its care

The arrangement of the catalogue

An overview of the layout of the present catalogue records