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 recognizable 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.


S T Lee Gallery, Weston Library, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BG

 Wheelchair access

The Weston Library is wheelchair accessible.


This exhibition is now closed.


 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 exhibitions and events

Young couple doing arts and crafts

Library Lates: Talking Maps

  28 February 2020 

Join us for an interactive exploration of the finest maps in the Bodleian’s collections. Through talks, tours, workshops and hands-on art activities, discover how maps can tell us who we are, as well as where we are. Guided by ancient maps and contemporary works, journey from the medieval Mediterranean to Stephen Walter's Brexitland.

Read more



Five people around a glass case listening to a man speaking

Talking Maps: lunchtime talks 

  Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Join a curator or researcher in our Talking Maps exhibition as they reveal the secrets of their favourite exhibits.

Read more


Five people listening to a woman speaking

Sheldon Tapestry Maps talks 

 Every weekday

As part of our Talking Maps exhibition, join a member of the Bodleian Library's Map Room as they talk about the background of the Sheldon Tapestry Map of Oxfordshire and answer questions. The map is on display in Blackwell Hall in the Weston Library.

Read more

Related lectures and talks



Gifts & books

flourish horizontal


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