Maps and Graphic Arts Collections

Size and Content

When the map collection was established in 1948, it contained only 1,500 library units. Gradually it was enlarged and became one of the best collections in the country with its 10,648 atlases, maps and globes. The collection became a rich source of information to support the study of history, geography and ethnography of Bulgaria and the countries of the Balkan Peninsula, Europe and other continents. Especially valuable is the collection of ancient maps. The National Library possesses reproductions and original maps of such world-renowned cartographers as Peter Apian, Abraham Ortelius, Sebastian Munster, Gerardus Mercator and others. The collection contains the Munster’s Cosmography, published in 1550, in which a brief description of Bulgaria was given. Among the maps published in the 19th century, it is worth paying attention to the map of the French officer Lapie from the Napoleon’s Grande Armée, issued in 1822, on the basis of which the first Bulgarian map was made by Alexander Hadjiruset. Of great interest is the map of Felix Kanitz, which was used to set forth the boundaries of Bulgaria at the Berlin Congress in 1878. This collection contains also the so-called “Three-verst map”, made by the Russian troops during the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878). Among the Bulgarian maps issued before the Liberation of Bulgaria, the maps of Dimitar Angelidov (1862), Hristo G. Danov (1863), Vasil D. Stoyanov (1863) are the most impressive in the collection.

The maps made by A. Krivosiev / 1892 /, Y.K. Kovachev (1890) and I. Dankov (1906), published immediately after the Liberation of Bulgaria, also attract the interest of the patrons. At present, the Library possesses all modern Bulgarian cartographic production and many foreign cartographic publications.

In 1948, the Graphic Arts Collection consisted of 1985 photo albums and reproductions. Gradually it expanded and exceeded 140,000 library units. Today it includes all contemporary Bulgarian printed graphic works and many foreign richly illustrated editions. The department holds a large number of imprints and lithographs from the time of the Bulgarian National Revival, some of which are unique in the country. It is worth noting the only impression of the oldest known Rila imprint “St. Ivan Rilski the Wonderworker” from 1791, as well as the imprints of the Samokov school, most of which are hand-painted. Particularly valuable are the lithographs of the Renaissance artists Nikolay Pavlovich, Henrich Dembitsky, Georgi Danchov and others. The collection of art photo albums with reproductions of Bulgarian and foreign artists and world famous galleries is very large. The collection of thematic and documentary photo albums and country studies books is also very comprehensive. The Library also possesses a collection of catalogues of temporary exhibitions containing rich illustrative material, as well as monographs of individual artists or different art movements and styles, accompanied by high-quality reproductions. The portrait collection encompasses almost all printed portraits issued in the country. Photomechanical reproductions of artistic works are also preserved in the department  (paintings, drawings, sculptures and objects of decorative applied arts /, panels, Bulgarian posters, illustrated postcards, slides, bookplates).


With the establishment of the National Library in 1878, it began to acquire maps and graphic arts holdings. For years they have been stored in the main library collections. It was only in 1948 that the cartographic and graphic publications were organised in separate collections and merged into a single “Maps and Graphic Arts Collection” Department.


The collection has two distinct independent sub-collections:

  • Maps Collection
  • Graphic Arts Collection

Catalogues, inventories and publications

The department was assigned the task to acquire and store all Bulgarian maps and graphic arts publications and the most valuable foreign graphic and cartographic publications, to process and sort their content through a reference system of catalogues and card indexes.

The following catalogues are available for the cartographic publications: Territorial and systematic catalogue, in which the bibliographic descriptions are sorted according to the name of the territory, depicted in the cartographic publication. An alphabetical catalogue that includes the bibliographic descriptions with the names of all persons involved in the compilation and issuance of the cartographic publications. Graphic Arts holdings are available in two series: Photo Albums and Sheet Graphics. The collection of photo albums is organised in the following catalogues:

An alphabetical catalogue, in which the bibliographic descriptions are sorted by the names of the authors or artists, as well as by the album title, (in the absence of an author’s name –  by the name of the collective author); A systematic catalogue in which the bibliographic descriptions are sorted in groups according to their content. The sheet graphic holdings are organised in the following catalogues: An alphabetical catalogue that includes reproductions, portraits, posters, slogans and panels. Most of the portraits and reproductions have contact copies, attached to the bibliographic descriptions, which provide an immediate visual idea of the publication. A systematic catalogue, divided into the following series: reproductions, portraits, public, political, information, advertising and instructive and technical posters and panels, film and theatre posters and slogans. The map collection is presented also in a printed review:

Belcheva-Popsavova, Dora, Overview of a cartographic collection kept at the St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library, With attached list of more important maps and atlases – Notifications of the National Library, 5/16/, 1965, p. 167-269.


Maps and graphic arts library holdings are available for use only in the Department’s reading room.

Part of the maps and graphic arts holdings are available through the Digital Library.