January 19, 2022

Special Collections: “He Collected 12,000 Road Maps—Now We’re Discovering Their Secrets”

Note: infoDOCKET first shared news about the collection discussed in the article below in March, 2012.

See: Private Collector Gives Huge Trove of Road Maps to Stanford Libraries

From National Geographic:

Robert Berlo got hooked on maps at an early age. As a kid growing up in San Francisco he’d pore over roadmaps in the backseat of the car on family vacations. Sometime around age 11 he started collecting them.

By the time Berlo died in 2012 at 71 he’d amassed more than 12,000 roadmaps and atlases. But he did more than covet and collect them. Over the decades, Berlo spent countless hours mining his maps for data, creating tables, charts, graphs, and still more maps on everything from transportation systems to the population history of small towns. Now, Berlo’s collection is getting another life as a repository of previously hidden information.


Berlo donated his map collection to Stanford University in 2011. The university also has several books he wrote and published himself. One of them, contained in a thick blue three-ring binder, sits somewhat incongruously on a shelf of cloth-bound books and atlases in the main library. The spine lists the title in large print: Population History of California Places. Inside are hundreds of pages of tables detailing the known populations of California towns and cities dating back as far as 1769, when the first Spanish mission was established in San Diego. The book, Berlo writes in the preface, is attempt to recreate the population history of every settled place that ever existed in the state of California.

Read the Complete Article

See Also: Library Guide For Berlo Map Collection (via Stanford Libraries)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.