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The Atlas Portal

Political and physical world map from the end of 2005

An atlas is a collection of maps, traditionally bound into book form, but now found in multimedia formats. As well as geographic features and political boundaries, many often feature geopolitical, social, religious and economic statistics.

The first book that could be called an atlas was constructed from the calculations of Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek geographer working in Alexandria circa A.D. 150. The first edition was published in Bologna in 1477 and was illustrated with a set of 27 maps, though scholars say that it is not known whether the printed maps were engraved versions of original maps made by Ptolemy, or whether they were constructed by medieval Greek scholars from Ptolemy's text.

Atlas of Greek mythology

The origin of the term atlas is a common source of misconception, perhaps because two different mythical figures named 'Atlas' are associated with mapmaking. King Atlas, a mythical King of Mauretania, was, according to legend, a wise philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who supposedly made the first celestial globe. However, the more widely known Atlas is a figure from Greek mythology.

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Featured map

Boston, Massachusetts
Credit: Sir Thomas Hyde Page
A period map of Boston, Massachusetts from the beginning of the American Revolution depicting the most rebellious city from the standpoint of British tactical interests.

Selected article

Screenshot of NASA World Wind

A virtual globe is a 3D software model or representation of the Earth or another world. A virtual globe provides the user with the ability to freely move around in the virtual environment by changing the viewing angle and position. Compared to a conventional globe, virtual globes have the additional capability of representing many different views on the surface of the Earth. These views may be of geographical features, man-made features such as roads and buildings or abstract representations of demographic quantities such as population. The first widely publicized virtual globe was Google Earth.

Virtual globes may be used for study or navigation (by connecting to a GPS device) and their design varies considerably according to their purpose. Those wishing to portray a visually accurate representation of the Earth often use satellite image servers and are capable not only of rotation but also zooming and sometimes horizon tilting.

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Selected biography

Nicolaas Witsen's Map of Tartary

Nicolaes Witsen (8 May 1641 - 10 August 1717) was a Dutch diplomat, cartographer, writer and thirteenth mayor of Amsterdam between 1682-1706. He was a representative to the States-General, administrator of the VOC and extraordinary-ambassador extraordinaris to the English court. Witsen was an authority on shipbuilding and his books on the subject are important sources on Dutch shipbuilding in the 17th century.

Nicolaes Witsen was the son of Cornelis Jan Witsen, mayor of Amsterdam, head bailiff and administrator of the Dutch West India Company. Witsen published the first map of Siberia, and in 1692 a treatise titled "Noord en Oost Tartaryen", describing Siberia and the surrounding areas.

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Selected quote

Your map of Africa is really quite nice. But my map of Africa lies in Europe. Here is Russia, and here... is France, and we're in the middle — that's my map of Africa.

Otto von Bismarck, 1888


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Things you can do

WikiProject: Geography
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