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Atlases

ATLASES & BOOKS WITH MAPS

[ American Atlases | European Atlases | Travel books | Geographies & Gazetteers ]


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Atlases

An atlas, in its most basic definition, is a collection of maps published in book form. Atlases have been published to document the entire world, particular regions or subjects, and as accompaniments to travel or historical accounts. Atlases have been in great demand ever since they first appeared during the Renaissance. Because the maps contained in atlases had the advantage of the protection provided by their covers, atlas maps have had a higher rate of survival than maps that were issued without the safety of a leather or cloth binding. Still, because of the vicissitudes of time and treatment, many atlases have been destroyed, making complete examples from the nineteenth century or earlier increasingly difficult to obtain. Therefore, we are pleased to be able to offer a good selection of atlases on our web site.

The name "Atlas" was first used by Gerard Mercator in 1585, "to honour the Titan, Atlas, King of Mauritania, a learned philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer." Such was Mercator's influence that, thereafter, "atlas" is the term we use for such publications. The first printed atlas, Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia, appeared in 1477 in Bologna. This work contained maps based on second-century geography, but it still reflected the most up-to-date mapping of the world available to Europeans in the fifteenth century. As the sixteenth century unfolded, maps based on modern geographic knowledge began to appear with increasing frequency, and some of these were gathered into collections which were bound together, forming the first atlases of modern maps. However, it was left to the pioneering Flemish map colorist, seller and publisher, Abraham Ortelius, to produce what we today call a modern world atlas. This was the seminal Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, first published in 1570. Soon other atlases appeared and by the early seventeenth century they became an important part of the society. Today we can hardly imagine a home without an atlas of some sort, for nothing pictures the world more comprehensively. Indeed, antique atlases can provide wonderful snapshots of the world in the past, and we are delighted to be able to offer a good selection of these 'Theaters of the World.'

Other books with maps


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