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Geography and maps

Holdings from the Real Sociedad Geográfica

Hand-drawn map of Spain, produced between 1739 and 1743

Hand-drawn map of Spain, produced between 1739 and 1743

In 1971, the Library of the Real Sociedad Geográfica (Royal Geographical Society), created in 1876 at the same time as the society itself, was transferred to the Biblioteca Nacional de España due to the deterioration of the original building following a fire and has since remained in the library on a permanent basis. It is an excellent specialist library comprising over 5,000 books, almost 8,000 pamphlets (Spanish and from abroad), with over 1,120 different titles. the Library specialises in general geography and history, cartography, topography and travel and discovery books.

It also contains a Map Library with over 8,000 maps, including some editions from the 17th and 18th centuries, although its core material is cartography from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among these maps is the only known copy of the large map of Spain drawn by hand by the Jesuit priests Carlos Martínez and Claudio de la Vega following a commission from the Marquis of la Ensenada in the early 18th century; it was drawn to an approximate scale of 1:440.000 between 1739 and 1743. It is an important part of the history of Spanish cartography because it is the first detailed, large-size map of Spain and the most accurate hitherto produced.

The Real Sociedad Geográfica is the oldest of Spain's geographical associations. It was founded in 1876 under the name Sociedad Geográfica de Madrid, along the lines of similar societies created in other European countries, product of the contemporary attitude that international relationships, colonial expansion, discoveries and geography should be among the primary activities of all countries. It later added Real (Royal) to its name in 1901, when it came to be called the Real Sociedad Geográfica. The main purpose of the Society was research and the study and dissemination of geographical knowledge, largely about Spain and the countries historically lined with it.

The Society's current members are mainly academics, teachers, professionals and experts, all with an interest in the geography of our world. Since it was founded, the Society has published a newsletter bearing its name: the first and oldest Spanish geographical magazine.

The Real Sociedad Geográfica is governed and represented by its Board of Directors, which is made up of a chairman, four deputy chairmen, a general secretary, two deputy secretaries, a treasurer, a librarian and twenty-four members. The board members are divided into thematic working committees, which organise the society's activities on a yearly basis. The Board of Directors also has six ex officio members who are the directors of the following bodies: the Instituto Geográfico Nacional, the Instituto Español de Oceanografía, the Instituto Tecnológico Geominero, the Centro Geográfico del Ejército and the Instituto de Economía y Geografía belonging to the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas and Professor Juan Vilá Valentí.

On 25 April 2012, the Board of Directors unanimously agreed to appoint the Biblioteca Nacional de España as an ex officio member of the Board of Directors in acknowledgement of its work in safeguarding, conserving and disseminating its library's holdings, which include documentary and cartographic assets.