Talking Maps

About the exhibition

Every map tells a story. Talking Maps is a celebration of maps and what they tell us about the places they depict and the people that make and use them.

Drawing on the Bodleian's unparalleled collection of more than 1.5 million maps, this exhibition brings together an extraordinary selection of ancient, pre-modern and contemporary maps from a range of cultures and in a variety of formats as well as showcasing fascinating imaginary, fictional and war maps.

Talking Maps explores how maps are neither transparent objects of scientific communication, nor baleful tools of ideology, but proposals about the world that help people to understand who they are by describing where they are.

Highlights on show include the Gough Map, the earliest surviving map showing Great Britain in a recognisable form, the Selden Map, a late Ming map of the South China Sea, and fictional maps by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Map treasures from the Libraries' collection will be shown alongside specially commissioned 3D installations and artworks, and exciting works on loan from artists and other institutions.


 The curators

  • Nick Millea, Bodleian Map Librarian
  • Jerry Brotton, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary University of London

Every map tells a story. The exhibition shows how maps are creative objects that establish conversations between the people who made them and the individuals and communities that use them.

- Jerry Brotton, co-curator of Talking Maps -

Extraordinary collection of maps ancient and modern, plus the fictional creations of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

- The Times -

Related lectures and talks

Gifts & books

A gold horizontal flourish


Talking Maps


Fifty Maps and the Stories they Tell


Panorama of London Mug


Oxford Map Glasses Case and Lens Cloth


Discover the Bodleian shop online