Nautical Charts

Nautical charts (also known as marine or hydrographic charts) are maps primarily intended for navigation and should provide the mariner with clear, correct and up to date information to help plan, plot and navigate a safe course.

Charts are designed to be working documents; they are often amended and written on, and are commonly discarded when out of date or damaged. As a result, they are much less likely to survive than ordinary maps.

Charts (and their associated publications) provide lots of information for researchers on the past and present natural characteristics of the marine and coastal environment and the impact of man on this environment. For example charts reveal the history of

  • marine transport
  • port development
  • coastal reclamation and erosion
  • sediment movements
  • former names

The Library’s chart collections

The Library has a large collection of charts, mostly modern Admiralty and commercial charts, but also antiquarian charts. The links below provide more details on the Library’s holdings:


  • Bodleian Library, All at Sea. The Story of Navigational Charts, (Oxford, 1995)
  • Olwen Caradoc Evans,‘Sea charts and the Principality of Wales, Map Collectors' Circle, No. 54 (London, 1965)
  • A H W Robinson, Marine cartography in Britain, (Leicester, 1962)
  • Coolie Verner, Captain Collins' Coasting Pilot, Map Collectors' Circle, No. 58 (London, 1969)