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In his book “Collectibles of the National Geographic Society” (1982) Roger Nathan carefully documents each map supplement published with a list that includes year, month, name, additional descriptive information, and dimensions (pages 33-52). The list also includes a check box for each map to allow a collector to document which items they have in their collection.

Embedded in the list are additional check boxes for any map that had an index published. These check boxes are indented and immediately below the map for which the index references. These indexes were sold separately by the Society and included a copy of the map either on paper or, as Nathan described, on linen (until 1952), fabric (1952 to 1968), or plastic (after 1968). These maps are distinguishes from non-indexed maps by a letter/number grid either embedded in the map or in the map’s border. Letters down the sides sometimes, but not always, correspond with latitude and numbers across the top and bottom sometimes correspond with longitude depending on the map’s projection.

Nathan did an outstanding job documenting these indexes, but he wasn’t perfect. While building the Map Index collection template for his collectors’ web site Mike Christie, with the help of Mel De Vilbiss, made a good catch of an error Nathan made. He listed an index for the June 1940 map Southwestern United States that does not existed. The advertisements for that time list this item as a map only and, more importantly, the map does not have a letter/number grid so it could not be indexed.

Relying heavily on their work and a few additional sources I am attempting to complete Nathan’s list. In this endeavor, I feel like a paleontologist who, with only a hand full of bones, tries to complete an entire dinosaur skeleton; although, in my case, I am just trying to complete the tail.

The Golden Age

In what I like to refer to as the Golden Age of Maps (and Map Indexes) the Society would publish five or more maps almost every year along with several map indexes each year. While the map indexes started off slow, with only one in the 1910s and 2 in the 1920s, they took off in the ‘30s and peaked in the ‘40s and ‘50s. By the 1960’s they were in decline even though the maps themselves were still in their heyday, mostly due to the “Atlas” series.

In my opinion, this Golden Age ended, at least for the Map Indexes, in March 1971 with the publishing of the map of Asia. Between May 1918 and March 1971, the Society published 91 of these map indexes including all of the continents, the world, individual countries, and close-ups on particular regions of the planet.

Three images in Nathan’s book show the appearance of these indexes during rise, apex, and fall of this Age. Page 35 shows the first index: May 1918, The Western Theatre of War. On page 39 a “classic” cover of the December 1943, The World is shown. Finally, on page 50 the cover of the February 1968, The United States map index is displayed.

The Beginning of the End

In November 1975 the Society published a two-sided map of the world: one side was a physical map and the other a political map. An index was also published for the political map. I consider this the beginning of the next phase of Map Indexes. The world map was followed in July 1976 by a map of the United States. On the flip side, this map has a cloudless photo-mosaic of the lower 48 entitled Portrait USA. The US map also had an index published. From this point on, the Society only produced pairs of indexes for the United States and the Political World published within a year or so of each other. The corresponding maps, and all of the map pairs that followed, have identical borders. For lack of a better description the borders are a yellow chain link on black bordered by yellow. They have, of course, the letter/number grid superimposed on the border.

In his book Nathan states that the world map was revised in 1978, 1980, and 1981. None of these were distributed as supplements so their numbers probable are quite limited. He also states that an index was published for the 1978. He further says that the US map was revised in 1978 and an index for this non-supplement map was published in 1980. At this point I must confess that I possess none of the indexes Nathan describes from 1975 through 1982. I do have all of the supplement maps and they all have the grid for indexing. I also have the 1978 US map published in January of that year and it is basically a revised version of the 1976 map.

This map is part of a set entitled “Close-up U.S.A.” and it has the letter/number grid needed for indexing. The set does not, however, contain an index for this map. Instead, it contains a 208 page hardbound index for the 15 regional maps included in the set. These maps are the same 15 supplement map of the “Close-up U.S.A.” series published between March 1973 and January 1978. There is a map on one side of each and a poster with cultural and historical information about the region on the other side. They are folded in such a way that the lower right hand corner of the poster side forms a “cover”. A photo of the cover for one of these supplements appears on page 32 of Nathan’s book and the set itself is described on pages 55 and 56. The 15 regional maps in the set are not revision, they bear the same months and years as the supplements, but they are modified in two ways. First, they have a letter/number grid added to their borders; and second, they all are numbered in the upper right hand corner of the covers. These additions allow for a number/letter/number reference in the index.

Getting back to the January 1978 US map, its existence lends credence to Nathan’s claim for the map and index revision he documents, although it is not proof.  As I stated earlier, this is all guess work on my part and I might be reading too much into this one “bone” I have in my possession.

The next pair of maps, and the last that Nathan documents, are the world map of February 1981 and the US map of September 1982. These were both supplements and basically revisions of the earlier map pair. They do, however, have different flip sides with the world map having a map of the ocean floors and the US map having a map of federal land. Since both the world and US maps contain the letter/number grid, I have a high degree of certainty that the indexes for them exist as well. There is a photo of the world index cover on page 52 of Nathan’s book. Nathan’s check box for the world index lists it as being published in 1982 while the cover display clearly is labeled 1981. Without a copy of the index to check for a copyright, I don’t know if the 1982 date is typo or not. Also, the picture shows that the format for the indexes had changed from a portrait to a landscape mode. Whether this was the first index published in this manner or this format dates back as far a 1975 I have no idea.

Post Nathan Indexes

This next paragraph is pure speculation on my part. If the 1978 and 1980 indexes were published and if the Society stuck to the pattern of regular revisions there might be a map pair in the 1984 (world) and 1985 (US) time frame. This is idle speculation on my part, or perhaps wishful thinking.

The next pair of supplement maps was issued in September 1987 (US) and December 1988 (world). They both have the grid and are again basically revisions of the same two maps but, like previous supplement pairs, they have different backs. The US map has a map of territorial growth on its flip side while the world has a poster entitled “Endangered Earth”. These maps coincided with the Society’s centennial. Because of this fact a double map index was published as part of the 100 Years cumulative index package the Society put out.

At that time the Society also published at least one individual index in 1988 for the world. I know this for a fact because I have it in my possession. It has a special, commemorative cover. I’m enclosing a photo of it at the bottom of this post. I do not know if a similar individual index was printed for the US in 1987 or 1988, but I would be surprised if there wasn’t.

If the pattern of index publication I’ve theorized here continued. There would be another pair of indexes in the 1990/1991 time frame and there is at least one. I also have an index for the US dated 1990. This index sports the same cover design as the 1981 world map index displayed in Nathan’s book. I have enclosed a photo of this index as well. As to whether a world index was produced as well, or this index was made as an afterthought to make up for one not being issue in 1987 or 1988, I haven’t a clue. The two indexes I’ve mentioned having were purchased from John Carey, another member of our little group.

The next pair of map supplements issued was the US map in November 1993 and the World Map in February 1994. Neither of these maps has the letter/number grid superimposed on their respective borders. Further, the world map actual spills over the border on the sides since the border is no longer needed for the grid. Otherwise they are revisions of the preceding pair. It is safe to say that not indexes were every produced for these maps. There was one more pair of map supplements printed by the Society, the world in November 2004 and the US in October 2006. Again no grid letters or numbers and, therefore, no index possible. The map indexes as the volume/annual indexes before them are forever out of print. Has the supplement map joined them? Only time will tell.


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Replies to This Discussion

Way to go Tom!

I will spend some time on this (even before I get back to my annual index guide) for cross-checking and referencing.

I sincerely appreciate the work you've done putting this together.

This is what it's all about in the world of collecting.


Hi Tom

Yours is the best discussion I have found about NGS Map Indexes anywhere, without doubt. I have collected these Indexes for some time and never found anyone with any knowledge of them until now. I raise the following points to further allow us to expand our knowledge in this area.

Up until the 1971 Asia map you mention, I believe that there were actually 99 map indexes produced (you state there were 91). I have 77 of these.

Those that I do not have (and which I would appreciate some confirmation of their existence) are:

1918 for 1918 map Western Theatre of War (exists but extremely rare)

1921 for 1921 map New Europe

1933 for 1933 map United States

1934 for 1933 map Asia

1934 for 1934 map Mexico, etc

1940 for 1940 map Southwestern US (which you now say does not exist)

1953 for 1953 map China & Korea

1954 for 1954 map Northern Africa

1955 for 1955 map South America

1955 for 1955 map Southwest Asia

1957 for 1957 map Antarctica

1958 for 1947 map Canada Alaska & Greenland

1961 for 1947 map Countries of the Caribbean

1961 for 1960 non-supplement map USSR

1962 for 1949 map British Isles

1962 for 1949 map Classical Land of the Mediterranean

1967 for 1953 map Historical Map of the US

1967 for 1965 map The World

1967 for 1967 map Lands of the Bible Today

1968 for 1968 map Southeast Asia

1969 for 1969 map West Indies & Central America

1969 for 1969 map Europe

In addition I note that there were several variants of the map indexes produced. Between 1933 and 1943, 8 indexes were published with variations in the front page scroll that either read "25c" or "Washington". I suspect the latter were produced for the NGS map cabinets that the society regularly presented to leading political figures, of which I have one cabinet in my collection. In any case, I can confirm 4 of these "Washington" indexes that I have in my possession.
( see: )

There were also three variations of the front page globe (colored or grey) in the 1950 South America, 1950 Western Europe and 1953 Mexico & Central America indexes. I have both variants of all issues and can confirm their existence.

Finally, it has been suggested to me that there were print variations relating to advertising on the back cover of the 1942 Asia [1] and 1944 USSR indexes [3]  (I cannot confirm this as I only have one version of each of these, without advertising).

Up until the 1971 Asia index you mentioned, I therefore estimate that there were 114 unique indexes produced [i.e. 99+8+3+4] (or 113 discounting the 1940 Southwestern US index you mention) and would appreciate confirmation of the existence of those I don't have as detailed above.

Post-1971, I only have 2 indexes, both of which were produced as part of some other publication (e.g. the 1888-1988 NG Index). There was also an index produced for one of the 1960s-1970s NG globes, but I can't lay my hands on it at the moment. 

It would be wonderful to produce a definitive list of all map indexes produced. To this end, I will list what I believe to exist in my next post (otherwise would exceed character numbers of current post).

Thanks again for a great post,

Dale Murphy

# Year  Map Month Details & Comments
1 1918 1918 May Western Theatre of War
2 1921 1921 Feb New Europe
3 1929 1929 Dec Europe
4 1933 1933 May United States
5 1934 1933 Dec Asian and Adjacent Regions "25c" in Scroll - slant left
6 1934 1933 Dec Asian and Adjacent Regions "25c" in Scroll - slant right
7 1934 1934 Dec Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies
8 1935 1935 Jun Africa
9 1936 1936 Jun Canada
10 1937 1936 Dec The Pacific
11 1938 1937 Dec South America
12 1938 1938 Apr Europe (2 map versions)
13 1938 1938 Dec Bible lands and the Cradle of Western Civilization
14 1939 1939 Oct Central Europe and the Mediterranean (2 map versions: dated Aug 28 and Sep 1)
15 1939 1939 Dec Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies
16 1940 1940 Mar Classical lands of the Mediterranean
17 1940 1940 May Europe and Near East as of April 1, 1940
18 1940 1940 Jun Southwestern United States Index may not exist
19 1940 1940 Dec United States
20 1942 1942 Feb Theater of War in the Pacific Ocean
21 1942 1942 May North America "25c" in Scroll
22 1942 1942 May North America "Washington" in scroll
23 1942 1942 Jul Theater of War in Europe, Africa and Western Asia
24 1942 1942 Oct South America "25c" in Scroll
25 1942 1942 Oct South America "Washington" in scroll
26 1942 1942 Dec Asia and adjacent areas Back page - list of pubs
27 1942 1942 Dec Asia and adjacent areas Back page blank
28 1942 1942 Dec Asia and adjacent areas "Washington" in scroll
29 1943 1943 Feb Africa "25c" in Scroll
30 1943 1943 Feb Africa "Washington" in scroll
31 1943 1943 Apr Northern and Southern Hemisphere "25c" in Scroll
32 1943 1943 Apr Northern and Southern Hemisphere "Washington" in scroll
33 1943 1943 Jun Europe and Near East
34 1943 1943 Sep Pacific Ocean and the Bay of Bengal "25c" in Scroll
35 1943 1943 Sep Pacific Ocean and the Bay of Bengal "Washington" in scroll
36 1943 1943 Dec World "25c" in Scroll
37 1943 1943 Dec World "Washington" in scroll
38 1944 1944 Apr Japan
39 1944 1944 Jul Germany and Its Approaches
40 1944 1944 Oct Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands from, Indies and the Philippines to the Solomon's
41 1945 1944 Dec Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (in English) Rear page- list of pubs
42 1945 1944 Dec Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (in English) Rear page - Pictures of books
43 1945 1944 Dec Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (in English) Rear page blank
44 1945 1945 Mar Philippines
45 1945 1945 Jun China
46 1945 1945 Sep Northeastern United States
47 1946 1945 Dec Japan and Korea
48 1946 1946 Apr India and Burma
49 1946 1946 Jul United States
50 1946 1946 Dec Bible lands and the Cradle of Western Civilization
51 1947 1947 Feb Southeastern United States
52 1947 1947 Jun Canada, Alaska, and Greenland
53 1947 1947 Oct Countries of the Caribbean
54 1947 1947 Dec South Central United States
55 1948 1948 Mar Australia
56 1948 1948 Jun North Central United States
57 1948 1948 Dec Southwestern United States
58 1949 1949 Apr British Isles
59 1949 1949 Jun Europe and the Near East
60 1949 1949 Oct Top of the World
61 1950 1949 Dec Classical Lands of the Mediterranean
62 1950 1950 Mar Africa and the Arabian Peninsula
63 1950 1950 Jun Northwest United States and Neighboring Canadian Provinces
64 1950 1950 Oct South America
65 1950 1950 Oct South America Uncoloured Globe
66 1950 1950 Dec Western Europe
67 1950 1950 Dec Western Europe Uncoloured Globe
68 1951 1951 Mar Asia and adjacent Areas
69 1951 1951 Jun United States
70 1951 1951 Sep Central Europe
71 1951 1951 Dec World
72 1952 1952 Mar North America
73 1952 1952 Jun Southwest Asia
74 1952 1952 Sep Far East
75 1952 1952 Dec Pacific Ocean
76 1953 1953 Mar Mexico and Central America
77 1953 1953 Mar Mexico and Central America Uncoloured Globe
78 1953 1953 Jun Historical Map of the United States
79 1953 1953 Oct China coast and Korea
80 1953 1953 Dec Great Lakes Region
81 1954 1954 Mar West Indies
82 1954 1954 Jun California
83 1954 1954 Aug Northern Europe
84 1954 1954 Dec Northern Africa
85 1955 1955 Mar Eastern, South America
86 1955 1955 Jun New England
87 1955 1955 Sep Southeast Asia
88 1955 1955 Dec Atlantic Ocean
89 1956 1956 Apr Round About the Nation's Capital
90 1956 1956 Jun Alaska
91 1956 1956 Sep United States
92 1956 1956 Dec Lands of the Bible Today
93 1957 1957 Mar The World
94 1957 1957 Jun Europe
95 1957 1957 Sep Antarctica
96 1958 1947 Jun Canada, Alaska, and Greenland
97 1958 1951 Sep Central Europe
98 1961 1947 Oct Countries of the Caribbean
99 1961 1960 Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (not a NGM supplement map)
100 1962 1949 Apr British Isles
101 1962 1949 Dec Classical Lands of the Mediterranean
102 1965 1955 Sep Southeast Asia
103 1965 1965 Feb The World
104 1967 1953 Jun Historical Map of the United States
105 1967 1965 Feb The World
106 1967 1967 Feb Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand
107 1967 1967 Dec Lands of the Bible Today
108 1968 1949 Dec Classical Lands of the Mediterranean
109 1968 1968 Feb The United States
110 1968 1968 Dec Southeast Asia
111 1969 1969 Jan West Indies and Central America
112 1969 1969 Jun Europe
113 1970 1970 Dec World
114 1971 1971 Mar Asia and People of Mainland Southeast Asia
115 1975 1975 Nov The Political World
116 1976 1976 Jul United States
117 1978 1975 Nov The World
118 1980 1976 Jul United States
119 1980 1978 The World
120 1982 1981 Dec The World
121 1982 1982 Sep The United States
122 1988 World Map

I must emphasize that Bill Cole takes the credit for producing the list of indexes I have posted here


The list is awesome and your collection is impressive.  It will take me some time for me to go over it all.  In the mean time, if you have any of the maps from your list of needed map indexes, you can check them and see if they have the number-letter grid I talked about.  If they have them then, probably, the indexes exist.  If they don't, then no index is possible.

Someone you should get in touch with is Mike Christie.  He is a member of our little map collectors group.  He has a collectors website that has a template of known map indexes based on Nathan's book.  If you have any indexes in your possession that are not on his list, he can add them.  If you can provide an image, that would be even better.

BTW, this is why I started the discussion.  Not to share the little I know, but to learn the wealth of info I don't know.



Of your list of 22 needed map indexes, I have 7:

1933 USA

1934 Asia

1953 China/Korea

1955 Eastern South America

1955 Southeast Asia (not Southwest)

1961 USSR (I just got it, my 59th map index.  I've had the map for some time.)

1969 Europe

Another 8 are on Nathan's (and my) list.

1918 WToW

1921 New Europe

1934 Mexico

1954 North Africa

1957 Antarctica

1967 Bible Lands

1968 Asia

1969 West Indies

That leaves 7:

1940 Southwestern USA - does not exist for the reasons discussed.

1967 World (map 1965) is on Nathan's list, but not mine.  With no new map, it is only a reprint.

The other 5, with no new maps, are also reprints in my view.  I have no maps as evidence that they exist:

1958 Canada (map 1947)

1961 Caribbean (map 1947)

1962 British Isles (map 1949

1962 Mediterranean (map 1949)

1967 Historic USA (map 1953)

I hope they do exist.  It gives me some more items to look for.

As to your master list, you can add the line:

123 1990 1987 United States

and add another 1988 to line 122 (I have both of these indexes)

Yours in collecting,



Upon reviewing Bill Cole's list of indexes (up to Asia 1971), it agrees very well with Roger Nathan's.

In your 8+3+4 list of variations to some issues you mention 3 additional 1944 USSR indexes.  I count only 2 making it 8+3+3 or 14.  Now 114 - 14 = 100. Minus 1 for the 1940 SW USA non-existent index gives 99.

I stated 91.  It should have been 90.  I counted a non-existent index.  It's not on either Bill's or Roger's list and was on mine by mistake.

That leaves 9 map indexes that can only be described as re-issues of previously printed indexes.  They are as follows:

1958 Canada, Alaska, and Greenland (1947 map)

1958 Central Europe (1951 map)

1961 Countries of the Caribbean (1947 map)

1962 British Isles (1949 map)

1962 Classic Lands of the Mediterranean (1949 map)

1965 Southeast Asia (1955 map)

1967 Historic Map of the United States (1953 map)

1967 World (1965 map) *** On Nathan's list, but not on mine currently. ***

1968 Classic Lands of the Mediterranean (1949 map)

I will be adding these to my list of items to look for.  And I will seriously consider looking for the variations as well.  Later, I'll be doing another comment on the post-1971 map indexes and how Bill's list has made me rethink my position on some of my propose final indexes.


As promised, this is my last post on the topic. I want to revise what I stated about post-Nathan map indexes and to comment on three specific items prior to that.

Post-Nathan Map Indexes

In my rather long winded discussion about these indexes I posited the existence of up to six: three pairs of US and world map indexes. After reviewing Bill Cole’s extensive list, it seems there are only two. I have both and attached photos to the original post. The rest were just wishful thinking on my part.

Post-1971 Asia Map Indexes

There is close agreement between Cole and Nathan except that Cole includes one additional index. This index, for the world, was printed in 1980 and documents a map from 1978. If it exists, it would be only the second non-supplement map indexed after the 1960 USSR map which was indexed in 1961.

The 1978 world and 1980 US indexes were both re-issues of the 1975 and 1976 map indexes (making them numbers 10 and 11). This means that my 1978 US map from the Close-up USA box set was never indexed despite the fact it has a number-letter grid.

The 1962 Bible Lands Map Index

There is strong evidence that this particular index does not exist. First, there is no check box for it in Nathan’s book. Second, it does not appear on Cole’s list. Third, the map it supposedly references would be The Holy Land Today, not Bible Lands Today, and belongs to the Atlas series and, it would be the only one with an individual index from that series. And fourth, this map was copyrighted December 1963, over a year after the index would have been produced. This is a cart before the horse situation which would have been very hard to pull off.

The 1921 Asia and adjoining Europe Map

In reviewing the oldest maps from Nathan’s and Cole’s lists to verify that they possessed number-letter grids to support their claim to having an index, I came across this map and discovered that it too had a number-letter grid. Having said grid does not prove that there is an index for this particular map, but considering the rarity of map indexes from that time, I could see that it would be at least possible that one exists for this map. I am adding it to my list as a possible.

I’d like to thank Dale, Mel, Mike, and John for all their help and to Phil for providing this forum.

Tom Wilson



I have not yet had a chance to review your last posting on this subject, but I still have it on my bucket list to do. I have just had too many issues to deal with lately. I can now add this addendum to my bucket list.

Anyway, off the top of my head I do have a comment with respect to the Bible Lands Map Index:

Please refer to the Cumulative Index of 1947-1969, page 539, upper right (the second listing of) Lands of the Bible Today. This map version of December 1956 was revised January 1963 as a supplement to the NGM (the italics identify it as such).

It is this map supplement that accompanies the Map Index - Lands of the Bible Today dated 1962.

There are at least seven known instances where the map index and map supplement pertaining to the same subject are of different copyrighted years.

Of note, beginning with the cumulative index (CI) copyright 1977, the NGS no longer indicated original publication dates of supplements with all of their revisions (as it had in previous CI's). This CI only listed the date of the last revision, not even indicating it was a revision.

This CI also marks the last time the NGS published any cumulative listing of map supplements - period.

I look forward to when I'll once again be able to do NGS research.




Unfortunately, the only CI I have for 1947-on is the 1947-1983 version.  January 1963 makes allot more sense than December 1963.  The 1963 revision of the map was not a supplement, unlike the 1956 and 1967 versions which were.  I'm just surprised that both Roger and Bill missed it.

Thanks for the correction,


I've not seen Bill's list, but Nathan does indicate with an asterisk whether or not a map was a supplement.

He also indicates with a note whether or not revisions to the map were provided.

What he doesn't do, probably because it was very deep in the weeds of all the minutia he was keeping track of, is provide some indication if the subsequent index (based on the revised map) referred to a map that was or was not a supplement.

I am uncertain how consistent, or inconsistent, Nathan was in this regard, i.e. revised map with map index versus identification of map as a supplement, but surmise the number of such cases is most likely very small.

You are absolutely correct in this case that the 1963 map revision was NOT a supplement.

This should make that map index with correctly dated supplement a rare find.

** totally useless addition to this thread, but Mel, I always love your turns of phrases:

 "...very deep in the weeds of all the minutia he was keeping track of..."

I always enjoy reading your writing. 

- Scott



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