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Thrice Published Map of the British Isles


Photo courtesy of Philip Riviere


The April 1949 issue of the National Geographic Magazine has a loose supplement map of the British Isles.  There is nothing unusual about this, but what’s unique is the fact that the Society republished this map twice.  While it was not unusual for them to reissue a map for a second time for one reason or another; the Society felt it worthy of reprinting this map for both reasons discussed below. Note:  While the Society also reissued maps with other publications (books and such), none of them are related to this topic and are not covered here.



A large number of maps publish by the Society in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s were indexed.  By the ‘60s these indices, for the most part, were phased out.  They have a number/letter grid printed along their borders allowing a person to easily locate cities and other features using this cross-referencing system.  To accomplish this, the Society would print an index booklet along with a reissue of the map.

Nearly a hundred map supplements (along with revised, non-supplement maps) had these indices printed and were sold by the Society.  A definitive list of these indices has been posted by Dale Murphy, a member of the ‘Corner.



Another practice the Society had from almost day one was the production of article reprints.  Almost all of these articles had nothing to do with maps.  On a few occasions however, the Society would produce an article reprint associated with a map.  In those cases, they would include a copy of the map along with the reprint.

While nowhere near as numerous as the map indices, these article reprints that included maps were another way the Society reissued a supplement map.  A list of these article reprints with maps has been provide to me by Jeff Persons, another member of this site.



Cross-referencing these lists, I have identified only one map that is present on both: the April 1949 map of the British Isle.  While I have possessed the issue for years, and purchased the article reprint in July 2016, I only just acquired the map index.  To me, this constitutes a unique set that I decided to document here.


As a side note to this article I would like to mention the fact that this map has appeared on the television show “The Big Bang Theory”.  In the episode “The Speckerman Recurrence” (season 5 episode 11), the map appears on the wall of a bar in one of the scenes.  Not bad for an almost 70-year-old map: an original production, two reissues, and a TV cameo.


I would like to thank Dale Murphy, Jeff Persons, and Philip Riviere without whose help I would have never been able to identify this set of collectibles and produce this article.


Tom Wilson

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The earlier June 1937 edition of the map...

These are lovely maps, Phil.  Interesting that the 1937 map also has the number/letter grid but I can find no reference to it having an index produced like the 1949 map had.

Verrrry interrrresting Tom!

I would suggest, however, that this "style" of decorative map is in-fact an extraordinary production, and perhaps, the reason the NGS gave it so much attention.

A few other little tidbits:

The 1947-69 Cumulative Index (CI) lists the map titled, "The British Isles," as being published in the April 1949 issue, but also lists the map by the same title as being revised (with no indication of being a supplement) in April 1962. If this map is in-fact a revision of the April 1949 map it would be a considerable "catch" for your collection. Hint, hint....:)

Of note, are other maps titled, "British Isles," published in July 1958 and again in July of 1965. These maps are the standard lat/long maps we are accustomed to and not like this beautiful production.

The Centennial CI also lists the above references {with the exception of the April 1962 revision*} along with the October 1979 Medieval production of, "The British Isles."

The Medieval production is also a beautiful, albeit second to this reference, production.

* In days long gone, we on this forum have discussed the "disappearance" of map references in the CI's (and in some cases map indexes) that were NOT issued supplements. One theory posited was that the revisions were made available in the NGS store located at the HQ in D.C. and once sold out all references to these unpublished supplements disappeared.

Thanks for all the info, Mel.  Unfortunately, none of my copies of this map seem to be the 1962 revision.  I'll have to keep my eye out for it.

Photo by Phil

Just thought I'd throw out one more map: "Shakespeare's Britain" May 1964.

Photo by Phil


I misstated that the British Isles was the only supplement map published three times.

A second map, from the May 1942 issue, was reprinted with a map index and with an article reprint.

That map was of North America and preceded the British map by almost seven years.

I regret the mistake.

Tom Wilson

We'll forgive you...

This time!

Yuk, Yuk...



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