Cartography dates back to 7th millenium BC to the doors of the ancient Anatolian city of Çatalhöyük. Through the centuries cartographers made numerous maps. Two of these are of special importance: Ptolemy's 2nd century work Geographia and al-Idrisi's Tabual Rogeriana. With the help of various inventions such as the printing press, magnetic compass, telescope and sextant map making and printing of maps improved. Hartmann Schedel was the first cartographer to use the printing press and distribute the maps.

Many cartographers used the maps from earlier times, adding their own discoveries. Even as late as 18th century, cartographers borrowed heavily from other cartographers who lived before them, even sometimes publishing the exact map under their own name.