NLS Historic Maps Subscription API
Detailed historical Maps of Great Britain for use in mashups

These seamless historic map layers can be:

These layers complement our free NLS Historic Maps API, which makes available layers of mapping covering Great Britain from 1:1 million to 1:63,360 scales, dating between the 1920s and 1940s. We intend to continue this as a freely available service.

The Subscription API layers are more detailed, and have involved more work to create. Subscriptions are necessary to fund these additional costs, as well as the costs of hosting, licensing, and 24/7 availability.

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Available map layers

The following five layers are available:

1. Subscription API - Great Britain, Ordnance Survey (1:1 million-1:10,560), 1900s

A set of five different scales of seamless Ordnance Survey map layers from around 1900, which display the different scales at different zoom levels:

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2. Great Britain, Ordnance Survey six-inch to the mile (1:10,560), 1888-1913

This is our most detailed seamless layer covering all of Great Britain, and which also appears as the largest-scale layer in the 1. Great Britain, Ordnance Survey 1900s layer above. The layer is made up of the OS County Series mapping at Six-Inch to the mile / 1:10,560 for the 2nd edition, dating between 1888-1913. This series is the most detailed topographic mapping that covers all of Great Britain. (The more detailed OS 25 inch to the mile (or 1:2,500) maps and OS town plans were not published for all areas). The six-inch maps are immensely valuable for local and family history, allowing most features in the landscape to be shown.

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3. Great Britain, Ordnance Survey 'Provisional' edition (1:25,000), 1937-1961

The 1:25,000 'Provisional edition' was Ordnance Survey's first civilian map series at this medium scale, and the forerunner of the modern Explorer and Outdoor Leisure maps. By 1956 it covered 80% of Great Britain, everywhere apart from the Scottish Highlands and Islands. The series is useful for showing rural and urban areas in much greater detail than the standard OS one-inch to the mile (1:63,360) maps. Within settlements, the general character of buildings - whether terraces, semi-detached, or large detached houses, etc. - is shown, and public buildings are distinguished by their darker shading. Within rural areas, the series is the smallest scale at which field boundaries are shown, and consequently footpaths, tracks and bridleways can be easily followed. Different types of woodland (coniferous, deciduous, or mixed woodland) are indicated, and features of archaeological interest, including cairns, earthworks, historic routeways, and standing stones are shown. Roads and railways are depicted with less generalisation than at smaller scales, and contour lines of equal height are shown at close intervals of every 25 feet. The series also shows British National Grid kilometre squares, as well as county and parish boundaries.

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4. Great Britain, Ordnance Survey One-Inch Seventh Series (1:63,360), 1955-1961

The Ordnance Survey Seventh Series was the first OS one-inch to the mile (1:63,360) series to cover the whole of Great Britain as a standard set of maps, and the forerunner of the modern Landranger series. It is also the most recent OS series at medium scales (1:63,360/1:50,000) that is out-of-copyright. The OS one-inch scale was intended as 'touring, cycling and small-scale manoeuvre map', and in the 20th century was used particularly for a wide-range of outdoor and recreational purposes. Printing in six to ten colours allows clear differentiation and display of topographic features: different classes of roads, railways, water, woodland, urban areas, land use, footpaths, and contours at 50 foot intervals. The maps were based on larger-scale surveys and a revision for major (selected) change during 1944-1948. It also shows British National Grid kilometre squares, as well as county and parish boundaries.

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5. London, Ordnance Survey Five-foot to the mile (1:1,056), 1893-1896

The most detailed mapping of London by Ordnance Survey, from just over a century ago, covering London in 729 sheets, based on a revision and survey of 1891-5. Due to the importance of the maps for improving urban sanitation, many features relating to water supply, sewerage, drainage and gas supply are shown, including fire plugs, hydrants, water taps, manholes, stop-cocks, spot-heights and benchmarks. The maps show the divisions between all buildings, including terraced houses, with glass roofed buildings depicted with cross-hatching. Many industrial and manufacturing premises with details of their type of industry are clearly depicted, along with wharfs, docks, market places, canals, railways and tramways. The maps also show the ground floor layout of public buildings, including cathedrals, churches, and railway stations. The maps are also an excellent record of urban public boundaries, showing the broader County and Municipal Borough boundaries, as well as the more detailed Municipal Ward and Local Board District boundaries.

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How to use the historic layers on your website or desktop

The layers can be quickly set up and used in any web browser through a customizable JavaScript API such as the Google Maps API, Leaflet, OpenLayers, the ArcGIS API or MapBox. By default, subscribers will be given a URL to a viewer page with links to view the layer, source code, and API in these standard popular web-mapping applications listed above. There are also links with help on how to use the layer inside the ArcGIS, QGIS, and uDig desktop GIS programs. Using these programs, the Subscription API map layers can be easily used as a background map for your own data. You can place markers on top of them, integrate gazetteers or other layers with them, or implement any other functionality as necessary.

How to purchase a subscription to use the layers

Our standard annual subscription is 199 (plus VAT if applicable) per annum for layers 1-2 above, and 99 (plus VAT if applicable) per annum for layers 3, 4 and 5.

You can purchase these layers from our partner, Klokan Technologies using a debit card or credit card. The specific links to purchase each layer are listed above by each layer description.

Following payment, you will receive an automatic e-mail containing your unique URL to use the layer. This will usually be sent automatically immediately upon purchase. This will include guidance on viewing the layer, along with demo viewers and source code for using layer in the standard popular web-mapping applications listed above. There are also links with help on how to use the layer inside the ArcGIS, QGIS, and uDig desktop GIS programs. View further details with screengrabs.

Please email geo@nls.uk for further assistance, or to discuss your requirements in more detail.

Standards

The online service follows these standards:

Hosting

Our Tileserver hosting distributes the layers on multiple servers and results in a very fast and reliable service, which is also very scalable and able to handle large numbers of simultaneous users. The service is normally available 24 hours a day and intended to operate as a 24/7 service, but the National Library of Scotland cannot be held liable if the site is unavailable at any time, for any period, for any reason.

The Service is intended for moderate web usage and should perform well in most typical website environments. If you expect more intensive usage or high traffic we may be able to provide you with a more suitable bespoke service with additional fees. Please contact us at geo@nls.uk for more information.

How the seamless map layers were prepared

We have scanned our holdings of paper map sheets for these out-of-copyright Ordnance Survey series. The maps were scanned at 400 dpi in full-colour using a sheet-feed scanner, and therefore they can be viewed in excellent detail as a flat image. After scanning, all the individual map sheets were cropped to remove their margins and then georeferenced in the British National Grid coordinate system ( EPSG:27700 ). They were then combined together to create one zoomable seamless layer. and prepared for online delivery as a tileset, using the MapTiler application. The tiles are hosted at TileServer.com.

Whilst we have made every effort to georeference the maps accurately using the known boundaries of Ordnance Survey historical maps (obtained with thanks from Ed Fielden's Coordinate Converter and the Charles Close Society), we make no guarantees to the absolute geodetic accuracy of the results. This is partly because maps from a century ago were not surveyed nor intended to be used with the greater accuracy of present-day technologies, but also potentially due to the warping of paper map sheets over time, and to the rapid, semi-automatic nature of our georeferencing processes. Specific features on the georeferenced map layers will not always align exactly with their real-world location. Our aim has been align each layer as a set of sheets correctly with the real world at an overall global level, recognising that individual features may move in and out of their absolute true location at the detailed level. You are encouraged to view the layers in advance through the links by each layer listed above, and in our Explore Georeferenced Maps viewer

Licence and terms of use

The National Library of Scotland owns Intellectual Property Rights in these map layer APIs and licenses them for use on third party websites, or for other business and internal use, only. You can embed the layers on your own website, display your own markers or mapping data on top of them, use them for research purposes, or create derivative works from them.

Wherever you display, embed, or use the map layers you must display an attribution to the National Library of Scotland, together with a link to our website. If you create derivative works, the documentation of your work must also contain an attribution to the Library.

You may not sell the map layers, make them available for onward use on other websites, or provide them to other institutions or third parties. You may only use the subscription for one website domain or one mobile application.

Read our Terms and Conditions.


The Historic Maps Subscription API layers are provided by the National Library of Scotland and Klokan Technologies GmbH.

Please email geo@nls.uk for further assistance, or to provide general comments / feedback.