The Library has 617 rare maps of the Arabian Peninsula dating back as far as 1482, some of them in old romance languages. These have been translated and catalogued for display through the online Library portal. The Library’s collection of old maps featuring the Arabian Peninsula and the world contains a large number of rare coloured and black-and-white maps drawn in Europe since maps were first printed at the beginning of the last quarter of the 15th century until the 1940s. It contains maps by some of the world’s most famous cartographers, such as Ptolemy, Gastaldi, Ortelius, Sebastian Munster, Pieter de Bert, Hondius, Gerardus Mercator, John Speed, Willem Blaeu, Nicolas Sanson, Frederik de Wit, Pieter van den Keere, Pieter van der Aa, Karl Regel, Emanuel Bowen, Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, Niebuhr, John Pinkerton, Arrowsmith). These maps are drawn to different scales. Some are large-scale maps and others are atlases and small book maps, printed in English, French, Latin, Italian, German, Dutch and Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, and Arabic.
The maps were drawn for many different purposes. Some of them cover the whole world or a whole continent, some of them map empires, ancient countries, religions and peoples, and some focus on a particular country or geographical area such as the Arabian Peninsula or just some parts of it such as the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf or the Arabian Sea, or some of its cities and ports, such as Mecca and the Islamic port of Jeddah.
The maps have been classified and documented in the Library and basic information has been provided for each map: its language, date, title, scale, dimensions, geographical area covered, its most important characteristics, who drew or redrew it, the body that issued it and the location where it was issued.