The Library of Congress cartographic collection is the largest in the world and contains millions of maps, thousands of which are available online from the LOC.gov website. The Library interface allows you to zoom into these digitized maps in incredible detail simply through your web browser, save the maps in a variety of sizes for offline viewing, and even print the maps out.
Viewing maps online
Click on an item from a search result to view the map’s bibliographic record and a variety of viewing and saving options.
Click on the thumbnail image or the Enlarge link to view the map image online.
You can control the view using the Full, Zoom, and Fit buttons at the top, right of the map.
Click the Full button to view a full-screen interactive version of the map.
Use the Zoom – | + buttons to zoom in and out of the map. You can also zoom in and out in smaller increments by using your mouse, trackpad, or the screen (tablets or smartboards).
- Mouse: scroll up to zoom in and scroll down to zoom out
- Trackpad or Screen: pinch out to zoom in and pinch in to zoom out
Click the Fit button to view the complete map.
The duplicate thumbnail image in the top, right corner of the map indicates what portion of the map you are viewing in detail.
Saving map images
Underneath the thumbnail image of the map in the bibliographic record you will find links to a variety of file formats/sizes of the complete map image.
- GIF: thumbnail image that can be opened/displayed with most software/apps; very small file size, limited detail
- JPEG (lower resolution): common file format that can be opened/displayed with most software/apps; manageable file size, less detail
- JPEG (higher resolution): common file format that can be opened/displayed with most software/apps; larger file size, more detail
- JP2: newer file format that can be opened/displayed with very limited software/apps; large file size, fine detail
- TIFF: file format that can be opened/displayed with limited software/apps (usually can be viewed in the Microsoft Paint program and the Firefox® browser); very large file size, very fine detail
Click on a GIF or JPEG link to view the image file directly in your web browser. To download/save a GIF or JPEG image, right click the link and select Save link as/Save target as (exact wording will depend on the browser you are using). NOTE: best practice suggests renaming the file to incorporate some or all of the map title.
Click on a JP2 or TIFF link to download/save the image; many browsers and common creation software/apps may be unable to display these file formats (see TIFF file exceptions above). Typically, you will need more advanced image editing software to view these files though free software downloads are available.
For more information, review the Library tips for downloading images.
Printing map images
When viewing an enlarged map image online, click the Print icon above the map to the right.
The map image will print with the Library of Congress logo and some screenshot information. The default layout is in portrait (vertical) orientation; changing the layout orientation to landscape will usually force the image to be split into two pages.
To print a GIF or lower resolution JPEG, simply click on the desired link to open the image in your browser. GIF files will print on a portion of a single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Lower resolution JPEG files will usually print on a single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper when the layout orientation is set to portrait and may or may not print on a single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper when the layout orientation is set to landscape.
Higher resolution JPEG files will usually NOT print on a single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper but can usually be downloaded/saved to your computer, inserted into a Word processing program (e.g., Microsoft Word®, Google Docs, etc.) and then printed on a single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.
Windows® users can print high resolution JPEG or TIFF images on multiple sheets of paper using the Paint program.
Open the image in the Paint program and select Print > Page Setup. You will get a preview of how the image will print.
To get the image to print in higher resolution (i.e., greater detail) you can change the Fit to selection to 4 x 4 (other options are 2 x 2 and 3 x 3). You can also reduce the margins and adjust the centering. Finally, you can select to view 2 pages at a time in the upper print preview menu.
Mac users, as well as Windows users, can try using the free software PosteRazor to print in higher resolution on multiple pages.
Printing services tip
TPS-Barat has had great luck printing high-quality, high-resoultion JPEG image files on 8 x 11 semi-glossy cardstock paper by requesting black-and-white prints be printed with a color printer.
Please share any tips you have in the Comments section!