Old Historical Regional and World Atlases

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Old Historical Regional and World Atlas Map Books

An atlas is a collection of maps and is typically a bundle of maps including different regions of the world. Maps in atlases show geographic features, an area’s landscape topography, and political boundaries.

They can also show historical, climatic, social, religious, and economic statistics of an area.

Where did the name Atlas come From?

It is believed that the word “atlas,” came from the mythological Greek figure Atlas. Legend says that Atlas was forced to hold the earth and the heavens on his shoulders as a punishment from the gods.

Atlas is a titan that fought against the Olympians who won
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Atlas is a titan that fought against the Olympians who won

His image was often printed on books with maps and they eventually became known as atlases.

What is the earliest known Atlas?

The earliest known use of the word atlas dates to 1595 when the Greco-Roman geographer Claudius Ptolemy, published the “Atlas Sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura”.

Map of the British Isles from Atlas sive Cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricati figura 1595
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Map of the British Isles from Atlas sive Cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricati figura 1595

This atlas was the first published book of cartography, consisting of the way the world’s geography was known around the time of the 2nd century. Maps and manuscripts were written by hand at the time. Geographia’s earliest surviving publications date back to 1475.

What are the Different Types of Atlases?

The most common are desk or reference atlases, and travel atlases or road maps.

General-Reference Atlases

Reference atlases are generally large and contain maps showing tables, graphs, physical and political features of individual countries or groups of countries throughout the world.

General reference atlases contain mainly small scale physical maps to emphasize locations of places and their spatial relationships.

General reference atlases typically also contain additional non- cartographic information, such as, climate, population, economic activities, environment, explanatory texts, and most importantly, indexes of names of places and geographic objects.

General Reference Atlas
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General Reference Atlas

Reference atlases, which portray a specific area rather than the entire Earth, typically comprise large to medium scale topographic maps. Depending on the size of the region shown they are often referred to as topographic atlases.

Regional Atlases

Atlases portraying a region, province, or state rather than a specific country are referred to as regional atlases.

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Physiographic Regions of the United States

Some atlases concentrate on a specific region, for example, a specific country, a province or state, or any other geographically or culturally defined region and portray it in a more comprehensive manner.

National Atlases

A national atlas is a series of maps usually accompanied by textual explanations and targeted at citizens and interested foreign readers. The maps show, in detail, the natural economic and social conditions of a country. A national atlas follows a logical and balanced structure of maps with relatively uniform cartographic execution in defined scales.

Desk Atlases

A desk atlas is made like a reference book. Desk atlases may be in hardback or paperback form, but they are made like reference books and include a variety of information about the areas they cover.

Desk Atlas of the United States
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Desk Atlas of the United States

Travel Atlases

A travel atlas is made for easy use during travel and often has spiral bindings, so it may be folded flat. It has larger scale maps, so they can be easily reviewed. A travel atlas may also be referred to as a road map.

Japan Travel Atlas
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Japan Travel Atlas

List of Atlas Maps

List of old historical Reference, Regional and National Atlas Map Book by the most famous cartographers around the World.

Discover the past through Atlases in our online collection that spans over 500 years.

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