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For other uses, see Atlas (disambiguation).
Imperii Orientalis et Circumjacentium Regionum by Guillaume Delisle (1742)

An atlas is a collection of maps; it is typically a map of Earth or a region of Earth, but there are atlases of the other planets (and their satellites) in the Solar System. Furthermore atlases of anatomy exist, mapping out the human body or other organisms.[citation needed] 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 word atlas dates from 1636, first in reference to the English translation of Atlas, sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi (1585) by Flemish geographer Gerhardus Mercator, who might have been the first to use this word in this way. A picture of the Titan Atlas holding up the world appeared on the frontispiece of this and other early map collections.[1]


A travel atlas is made for easy use during travel, and often has spiral bindings so it may be folded flat. It has maps at a large zoom so the maps can be reviewed easily. A travel atlas may also be referred to as a road map.[2]

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

Modern atlas[edit]

With the coming of the global market, publishers in different countries can reprint maps from places made elsewhere. This means that the place names on the maps often use the designations or abbreviations of the language of the country in which the feature is located, to serve the widest market. For example, islands near Russia have the abbreviation "O." for "ostrov", not "I." for "island". This practice differs from what is standard for any given language, and it reaches its extremity concerning transliterations from other languages. In particular, German mapmakers use the transliterations from Cyrillic developed by the Czechs, which are hardly used in English-speaking countries.

World Atlas published by Miroslav Krleža Institute of Lexicography, Croatia

Selected general atlases[edit]

Main article: List of atlases

Some cartographically or commercially important atlases include the following:

17th century and earlier
18th century
19th century
20th century
21st century

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Atlas". The Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "Road map". Merriam Webster. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 

External links[edit]

Online atlases
History of atlases
Historical atlases online
Other links