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Maps: Sanborn Maps

A guide to library research tools for maps, mapping and Geographic Information Systems.


Founded in 1867 by D. A. Sanborn, the Sanborn Map Company was the primary American publisher of fire insurance maps for nearly 100 years.

Sanborn maps were created to assist fire insurance companies as they assessed the risk associated with insuring a particular property. They include information such as the outline of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers.

source: ProQuest Digital Sanborn Maps

Our Collections

We have Sanborn maps available online and in Rotch Library in print and on microfilm. See the drop down menu above for specific information about how to find Sanborn maps for Boston, Massachusetts, and the United States.

How to Read Sanborn Maps

Consult the legend for each map. It can usually be found on the first or second page and varies year to year.

Some example legends can be found here: