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#1 2023-07-15 01:49:02

Jai Ganesh
Registered: 2005-06-28
Posts: 43,558




On this day in 1570, the first modern atlas—Theatrum orbis terrarum, or Theatre of the World—was published. The author was Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius.


An atlas is a collection of maps; it is typically a bundle of maps of Earth or of a region of Earth.

Atlases have traditionally been bound into book form, but today many atlases are in multimedia formats. In addition to presenting geographic features and political boundaries, many atlases often feature geopolitical, social, religious and economic statistics. They also have information about the map and places in it.


The use of the word "atlas" in a geographical context dates from 1595 when the German-Flemish geographer Gerardus Mercator published Atlas Sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura ("Atlas or cosmographical meditations upon the creation of the universe and the universe as created"). This title provides Mercator's definition of the word as a description of the creation and form of the whole universe, not simply as a collection of maps. The volume that was published posthumously one year after his death is a wide-ranging text but, as the editions evolved, it became simply a collection of maps and it is in that sense that the word was used from the middle of the 17th century. The neologism coined by Mercator was a mark of his respect for the Titan Atlas, the "King of Mauretania", whom he considered to be the first great geographer.

History of atlases

The first work that contained systematically arranged maps of uniform size representing the first modern atlas was prepared by Italian cartographer Pietro Coppo in the early 16th century; however, it was not published at that time, so it is conventionally not considered the first atlas. Rather, that title is awarded to the collection of maps Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by the Brabantian cartographer Abraham Ortelius printed in 1570.

Atlases published nowadays are quite different from those published in the 16th–19th centuries. Unlike today, most atlases were not bound and ready for the customer to buy, but their possible components were shelved separately. The client could select the contents to their liking, and have the maps coloured/gilded or not. The atlas was then bound. Thus, early printed atlases with the same title page can be different in contents.

States began producing national atlases in the 19th century.

Types of atlases

A travel atlas is made for easy use during travel, and often has spiral bindings, so it may be folded flat (for example, Geographers' A–Z Map Company's A–Z atlases). It has maps at a large zoom so the maps can be reviewed easily.[clarification needed] A travel atlas may also be referred to as a road map.

A desk atlas is made similar to a reference book. It may be in hardback or paperback form.

There are atlases of the other planets (and their satellites) in the Solar System.

Atlases of anatomy exist, mapping out organs of the human body or other organisms.

Additional Information

An atlas is a book or collection of maps. Many atlases also contain facts and history about certain places. There are many kinds of specialized atlases, such as road atlases and historical atlases. There are also star atlases, which give the location and placement of stars, planets and other celestial objects.

Besides showing maps of all the countries and continents, a world atlas may also provide facts about the countries. Individual maps of major cities or other points of interest may also be included in a world atlas. Population statistics, the location of natural resources, cultural and religious information and political data are frequently found in an atlas.

Although people have been using maps for thousands of years, civilizations really didnt begin producing large atlases until the 1500s. During this time, European and Asian countries were exploring the world through trade and colonization. They depended on atlases to guide them through unfamiliar territory. As European explorers mapped the "New World" (the Americas), they also updated atlases with their discoveries.

In 1595, a collection of maps prepared by the Flemish mapmaker Gerardus Mercator was published with the word "atlas" in the title. Atlas referred to a portrait of King Atlas, a mythical African monarch. King Atlas invented the first celestial globe. A celestial globe is a ball-shaped map of the stars and constellations. Celestial globes were very important in navigation, when sailors used stars to determine their position at sea. Mercator showed King Atlas to demonstrate his importance to navigation. This was the first time the term was applied to a collection of maps. Eventually, "atlas" came to be used for any book of maps.

Additional Information

Atlas is a collection of maps or charts, usually bound together. The name derives from a custom—initiated by Gerardus Mercator in the 16th century—of using the figure of the Titan Atlas, holding the globe on his shoulders, as a frontispiece for books of maps. In addition to maps and charts, atlases often contain pictures, tabular data, facts about areas, and indexes of place-names keyed to coordinates of latitude and longitude or to a locational grid with numbers and letters along the sides of maps.

General-reference atlases emphasize place locations, the connections between them, and the relative size or significance of the places designated. Thematic, or special-subject, atlases deal primarily with a single subject, such as the agriculture, geology, climate, history, industry, languages, population, religions, resources, or other characteristics of a geographic area. National atlases are usually produced by government agencies to cartographically present the whole range of a particular nation’s salient features: physical, historical, economic, social, cultural, and administrative.

Abraham Ortelius’s Theatrum orbis terrarum (1570; Theatre of the World) is generally thought to be the first modern atlas. Another monument of 16th-century cartography is the Lafréri Atlas, containing maps compiled by gifted Italian cartographers between 1556 and 1575. In the following century the Dutch reigned supreme in the production of high-quality atlases, as evidenced by the works of Mercator. French atlases in the 18th century were less ornate but were equal in accuracy and richness of content to the maps of the Dutch and Italians. German atlases of the same period were burdened with enormous detail, numerous insets, pictures, and notes. Among the most widely used great atlases of modern times, indexing 250,000 to 500,000 place-names, are Andree’s Allgemeiner Handatlas (1881–1930), the Russian Atlas Mira (first published 1954), and the London Times’s Atlas of the World, 5 vol. (1955–59).


It appears to me that if one wants to make progress in mathematics, one should study the masters and not the pupils. - Niels Henrik Abel.

Nothing is better than reading and gaining more and more knowledge - Stephen William Hawking.


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