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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. 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.
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.
A desk atlas is made similar to a reference book. It may be in hardback or paperback form.
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.
Selected general atlases
Some cartographically or commercially important atlases include the following:
- 17th century and earlier
- Atlas Novus (Blaeu, Netherlands, 1635–1658)
- Atlas Maior (Blaeu, Netherlands, 1662–1667)
- Cartes générales de toutes les parties du monde (France, 1658–1676)
- Dell'Arcano del Mare (England/Italy, 1645–1661)
- Piri Reis map (Ottoman Empire, 1570–1612)
- Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Ortelius, Netherlands, 1570–1612)
- Klencke Atlas (1660; one of the world's largest books)
- The Brittania (John Ogilby, 1670–1676)
- 18th century
- Atlas Nouveau (Amsterdam, 1742)
- Britannia Depicta (London, 1720)
- Cary's New and Correct English Atlas (London, 1787)
- 19th century
- Andrees Allgemeiner Handatlas (Germany, 1881–1939; in the UK as Times Atlas of the World, 1895)
- Rand McNally Atlas (United States, 1881–present)
- Stielers Handatlas (Germany, 1817–1944)
- 20th century
- Atlante Internazionale del Touring Club Italiano (Italy, 1927–1978)
- Atlas Mira (Soviet Union/Russia, 1937–present)
- Gran Atlas Aguilar (Spain, 1969/1970)
- The Historical Atlas of China (China)
- National Geographic Atlas of the World (United States, 1963–present)
- Pergamon World Atlas (1962/1968)
- Times Atlas of the World (United Kingdom, 1895–present)
- 21st century
- Atlas of Our Changing Environment
- Bird atlas
- European Atlas of the Seas
- Fictitious entry
- Google Maps
- NASA World Wind
- National Atlas of the United States
- Star atlas
- Theatrum Orbis Terrarum
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Atlas.|
- Online atlases
- World Atlas
- ÖROK-Atlas Online: Atlas on spatial development in Austria
- Geography Network
- MapChart EarthAtlas, free online atlas with interactive maps about topics like demography, economy, health and environment.
- National Geographic MapMachine
- History of atlases
- Atlases, at the US Library of Congress site - a discussion of many significant atlases, with some illustrations. Part of Geography and Maps, an Illustrated Guide.
- Historical atlases online
- Centennia Historical Atlas required reading at the US Naval Academy for over a decade.
- Historical map web sites list, Perry-Castañeda Library, University of Texas
- Ryhiner Collection Composite atlas with maps, plans and views from the 16th-18th centuries, covering the globe, with about 16,000 images in total.
- Manuscript Atlases held by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries - fully digitized with descriptions.
- Other links
- Google Earth: a visual 3D interactive atlas.
- NASA's World Wind software.
- Wikimapia a wikiproject designed to describe the entire world.