The Boswell Collection was established in 1971 and reached its present size of about 1,700 maps by 1985. Its creation was the idea of Ernest W. Toy, founding librarian of Cal State Fullerton, and Roy V. Boswell, a rare book and antiquarian map authority. They believed that a carefully selected collection of early maps would become a valuable resource for interdisciplinary education and research in history, geography, anthropology, art, and other fields of study.
Building the collection over fourteen years allowed time to refine the criteria governing the project. These were that the maps be originals in fine condition, not modern facsimiles; that they represent the entire range of map production in the Western world from the earliest available up to 1901 (defining �early� by this terminal date); that they illustrate the major techniques of map making; that they portray continents, countries, cities, and specific areas of importance as well as the world as a whole; and that the work of both major and minor cartographers be represented.
Because the Boswell Collection is intended to represent the achievements of Western cartography, it is a diverse assemblage with all kinds of physical characteristics, subjects, and purposes. There are maps of different sizes, scales, and projections; uncolored and hand-colored; woodcut, copperplate, steelplate, and lithograph; thematic maps, including street maps, battle plans, sea charts, and views in perspective; flat maps, folded maps, and atlas maps; maps by unknown cartographers as well as by the masters; imaginative maps of idiosyncratic charm, of unpretentious simplicity, of sophisticated draftsmanship; maps with essentially political, or scientific, or navigational, or military purposes; maps of cities, countries, and continents, and of oceans, islands, and coastlines.