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We are passionate about all phases of cartography in its broadest sense. We are fascinated by the potential of remote sensing, GIS, and the tools for today’s digital mapmaking. Yet we love the art and history embodied in antique maps. Understanding man’s continuing change in perception of his environment and world is part of the fun of viewing old maps. And we never fail to delight in the curious forms that maps have taken over the centuries.

When you’re ready to be part of a great group of map-loving people of varied backgrounds, please come to one of our meetings as our guest or join our society now.


  • CALIFORNIA'S CONTRIBUTIONS. Californians and California businesses and institutions have played a central role in the development of modern mapping.  To read a few thumbnails about California’s contributions, click here

  • GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GIS).  A GIS is a System (of hardware and software) to manage Information (or data) that is Geographically (i.e.) referenced.  Read more about this powerful tool, by clicking here.

  • DETERMINING POSITION.  “Where am I?” seems an easy question with today’s technology so we may soon forget the struggle man has gone through to answer that question.  Click here to read more.

  • "DIY" MAPPING.  You can do-it-yourself for your own needs or just for fun.  Click here to read more.

  • MORE INTERESTING TOPICS.  To read about additional interesting topics, click here.

  • ANTIQUE MAPS & THEIR STORIES. View a few of our members' favorite antique maps and read the stories behind each.  The maps date from the 16th century onwards.  Click here for more.

  • CALIFORNIA 49.  Developed by members of the California Map Society, this book contains forty-nine maps of California from the 16th century to the present.  It includes a thorough description of each map and is no longer in print.  Click here to learn more.

  • HUNTINGTON MAP CATALOGUE.  Developed by Bill Warren, a Past President of the Society, and Mario Einaudi, Kembel Digital Projects Librarian, at the Huntington Library, this database is an internet catalog of over 8,000 maps of California and the World.  Click here to learn more and access the database. 

  • FAQS ABOUT COLLECTING.  Learn more about collecting old maps by clicking here.



Before Europeans Knew About The Americas


This map shows the world as it was known prior to the discoveries of the Americas. It was first published in Latin in July 1493, before Europe knew of Columbus' first voyage. (The image shown above is from the second, German, edition published in December 1493.) The map is based on Ptolemy's Geography, which was written in the second century A.D., and continued to be the best single reference on the geography of Europe and Asia available in 15th Century.

This is a traditional Ptolemaic map. Although Bartolomeus Diaz had recently sailed around down Africa's Atlantic coastline, around the Cape of Good Hope and into the Indian Ocean, the Indian Ocean is still shown as landlocked. India is an undersized distorted hook pointing downward and located near the eastern edge of the ocean. The large (green) island in the middle of the Indian Ocean is Taprobana, now known as Ceylon, oversized and misplaced: It actually lies off the south east coast of India. Scandinavia and the Far East are not shown, though both were certainly known: Marco Polo traveled to Kublai Khan's China in the 13th Century.

The three larger figures around the map's frame are Shem, Japhet and Ham, the sons of Noah who repopulated the world after the biblical flood. The twelve smaller figures are the heads of the twelve winds. Approximately 2,500 of the world maps were printed (1,500 Latin and 1,000 German).

The Liber Chronicarum, also known as the Nuremberg Chronicle after its place of publication, was a history of the whole world from creation. It included a variety of fanciful stories and illustrations, including the seven to the left of the world map. From top to bottom, these are a six armed man, a woman covered with long hair, a man with six fingers on each hand, a creature that is a man from the waist up and a horse from the waist down, an hermaphrodite, a four-eyed person, and a man with a bird-like elongated neck and beak.

David Kalifon

World Map [woodcut 30.5 cm high x 43 cm wide, from Liber Chronicarum, Hartman Schedel (author); Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (illustrators); Anton Koberger (publisher), Nuremberg, 1493]. Illustration courtesy of a Society member.


  • OUR JOURNAL.  CALAFIA, is published twice a year and includes articles about cartography, summaries of presentations at semi-annual meetings, descriptions and links to meetings and exhibits of interest to members, book reviews, an essay on a member’s “favorite map”, and more.  Click here to view recent issues

  • OCCASIONAL PAPERS.  The California Map Society sponsors the publication of research by our members in cartography and related fields.  To view our publications to date, click here

      The California Map established an education fund in 2014 which supports an annual student competition, and Society events at the Rumsey Center.  Click here to read more. Click here to read more.
    The California Map Society is a founding friend of The David Rumsey Map Center, which opened on April 19th, 2016, at Stanford University Libraries.   Click here to read more.

Upcoming events

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MEMBERS.  Members receive broadcast emails for members-only events sponsored by the Society and/or its map society partners.


 The Society's YouTube channel provides numerous videos of events sponsored by the Society and/or its map society partners.

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Some videos of past events may only be viewed by members.

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The Society has five membership grades: Student, Active, Retired, Patron, and Life Membership. All CMS Members receive the following benefits:

  • two Calafia Journals each year
  • a continually updated e-Directory of all Members
  • full access to the private Members’ Area of the CMS website
  • invitations to all Member Meetings and CMS Special Events
  • local group meetings
  • e-mails of upcoming events of interest to Members.


Members only pages:

  • directory of members
  • limited-view videos of past events
  • renew membership
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  • organizational documents
  • limited view videos
  • meeting minutes
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