General Information


The database especially lists old printed maps: world maps and city plans of all countries, topographic and thematic maps, atlases with single sheet references, panoramas, bird’s eye views, relief maps, and globes, thereby also including facsimiles and electronic resources of the collections of participating libraries.

In the beginning, the idea of the project was to catalogue only those printed maps that were published no later than 1850. In the meantime, this has been modified to a certain extent. Some participating libraries have included their collection items published after 1850.

The database contains ca. 289,500 publication records and ca. 325,700 holdings records, including online resources of more than 15,600 digitised old maps (statistics as of June 2022).

Cataloguing and classification

In order to have a precise identification of single maps in the datapool, the recording libraries agreed on listing all titles, additions to titles, variants of titles as well as dedications to personalities which may appear on the publication. As far as possible, missing bibliographical information regarding maps and the people involved in their production is added by research in reference works on the history of cartography. In addition, information is provided regarding the history of publication of some maps and further literature is indicated as well. When maps lack a date of publication the indication of the placement of graphical elements (title and scale cartouches) makes it easier to distinguish between different maps.

The formal cataloguing of maps is refined by the identification and description of special cartographical features. The orientation of maps, their basic underlying grid system (definition of the prime meridian) as well as the method of landscape representation are precisely described. The information on the scale of a map is given in the same graphical form in which it appears on the map itself.

Subject classification of the listed maps is done according to their geographical relations (standardized geographical subject headings) and according to what they represent (e.g. a map showing a siege).


Crom, Wolfgang: Die IKAR-Altkartendatenbank : Geschichte und Zukunft. – In: Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie. – 70, Heft 2, 2023. – S. 63-73

Crom, Wolfgang: Die Rolle der IKAR-Altkartendatenbank in Vergangenheit und Zukunft. (PDF document)

Crom, Wolfgang: IKAR: Migration und Fortführung der Altkartendatenbank. – In: Bibliotheksdienst. – 35, Heft 3, 2001. – S. 347 – 348

Klemp, Egon: Grundsätze und erste Ergebnise der Neukatalogisierung von Altkarten in deutschen Bibliotheken. – In: Inspel, 1994: S. 62-66

Klemp, Egon: Die Erfassung von Altkarten in der IKAR-Datenbank – gegenwärtiger Stand und künftige Entwicklungsmöglichkeiten. – In: Gerhard Mercator und seine Zeit. 7. Kartographiehistorisches Colloquium Duisburg, Oktober 1994, Vorträge und Berichte. – Duisburg, 1996: S. 225-232 (Duisburger Forschungen ; 42)

Wiegand, Günther: Das DFG-Programm zur Erschließung historisch wertvoller Kartenbestände. – In: Kartographische Nachrichten 43. Jg., Heft 5, 1993: S. 190-192

Wiegand, Günther: Die Erschließung historisch wertvoller Kartenbestände : Ziele, Verlauf und Bilanz eines Förderprogramms der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft. – In: ZfBB 40 (1993), 1: S. 22-31

Wiegand, Günther: Wegweisung in eine vergangene Welt. Erschließung historischer Kartenbestände. – In: Forschung. Mitteilungen der DFG 1995, Heft 2-3: S. 28-30

Wiegand, Günther: Showing the Way into a Past World. Cataloguing Historical Maps. – In: German Research 1996, Heft 1: S. 16-18

Wolff, Hans: Die Erschließung von Altkarten an der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. – In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern. – 14 (1986): S. 105-121

Zögner, Lothar: Die IKAR-Datenbank. Von der nationalen Kartenerschließung zum internationalen Auskunftsmittel. – In: Jahrbuch Preußischer Kulturbesitz 35, 1998: S. 247-252


You may access the IKAR-database in the Internet via the GBV Union Catalogue:
There is also a CD-ROM version of the map database (last update 1996).

History of the project

  • 1985

    „Cataloguing of historically valuable map holdings before 1850"

    In 1985 an initiative of the German Research Council (DFG) and the three most important map collections in German libraries, the Bavarian State Library in Munich, the State Library of Lower Saxony/University Library of Goettingen and the State Library Berlin was the starting point for the cataloguing project „Cataloguing of historically valuable map holdings before 1850″.

  • 1991

    Set up of a joint online cataloguing system called IKAR

    During the first five years of the project maps were catalogued offline in various datapools. In the autumn of 1991 the German Library Institute (DBI) based in Berlin set up a joint online cataloguing system called IKAR.


  • 2000

    Database of old maps was transferred to the GBV (Common Library Network)

    In the year 2000 the database of old maps was transferred to the GBV (Common Library Network) Union Catalogue where it is accessible to every one searching via the internet. The database also offers to other map collection departments the possibility to enter their data relating to old maps.

  • 2001

    Inclusion of further map collections

    IKAR joined the GBV (Common Library Network) and thereby laid the basis for the inclusion of further map collections, enabling them to contribute bibliographic records of their map holdings in the IKAR database. This was also the kickoff of the inclusion of digitised old maps (Project GAUSS of the State and University Library Bremen).


  • 2002

    Web presence

    The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin contributes to the GBV database accompanying content for the common web presence.

  • 2007

    Extending the reporting period

    For smaller collections and the inclusion of the notable Perthes Collection (Forschungsbibliothek Gotha der Universität Erfurt) the original report limit of 1850 was modified, with the effect that many more recent maps and atlases could be included in the database.


  • 2020

    Migration to K10plus

    All IKAR catalogue records were loaded to the union catalogue K10plus of the GBV (Common Library Network) and the Bibliotheksservice-Zentrum Baden-Württemberg (BSZ). This migration required a lot of work such as formatting issues, updating records, etc.