A method, molecular cartography, is introduced as a way to quantitate the topographic structure of a protein surface. The method is applied to the problem of antigenic determinants, and it is used to examine local and global topography of reported antigenic regions on the surface of myoglobin and lysozyme. In nine antigenic sites taken from the literature and studied in detail, no local property was found in sites that was not also found in remaining regions of the surface. However, a strong correlation was found between antigenic sites and regions of the surface that are globally exposed. This finding suggests that global exposure of the protein surface may play a primary role in determining the antigenic structure of the protein. Molecular cartography may be useful in other instances of protein–protein interactions such as those between proteolytic enzymes and their substrates. Copyright © 1986 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.