Klencke Atlas

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The Klencke Atlas, first published in 1660, is one of the world's largest atlases.[1] It is 1.75 metres (5 ft 9 in) tall by 1.9 metres (6 ft 3 in) wide when open,[2] and so heavy the British Library reportedly had six people to carry it.[1]


Klencke Atlas is a singular work, no other copies were created. It is a world atlas made up of 41 copperplate wall maps that remain in exceptionally good condition.[3] The maps were intended to be removed and displayed on the wall.[1] The maps are of the continents and assorted European states[4] and it was said to encompass all the geographical knowledge of the time.[5] Dutch Prince John Maurice of Nassau is credited with its creation,[5] and it contains engravings by artists Blaeu and Hondius and others.[4] It was presented by a consortium of Dutch sugar merchants, represented by Professor Johannes Klencke,[6][7] to King Charles II of England in 1660 to mark the occasion of his restoration to the throne.[1] The consortium hoped to gain favourable trade agreements with Britain for their sugar plantations in Brazil.[3] Johannes Klencke was the son of a Dutch merchant family. Charles, a map enthusiast, kept it in the 'Cabinet and Closset of rarities' in Whitehall.[6]


In 1828, King George IV gave it to the British Museum as part of a larger gift of maps and atlases collected by his father George III.[4][8] In the 1950s it was re-bound and restored.[4] Today it is held by the Antiquarian Mapping division of the British Library in London.[1] Since 1998 it was displayed at the entrance lobby of the maps reading room.[6] In April 2010 it was publicly displayed for the first time in 350 years with pages open,[2] at an exhibition at the British Library.[1][9]

Up until 2012 the Klencke Atlas was widely regarded as the world's largest atlas,[2] a record it probably held since the atlas was created 350 years earlier.[10] In February 2012, Australian publisher Gordon Cheers published a new atlas called Earth Platinum that is bigger by about a foot making it probably the largest atlas in the world; 31 copies were made priced at US$100,000 each.[11][12]

In 2017, the British Museum digitized the atlas and made it available online.[13] A video of the digitization process was also made available.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "The World Actually Fits In The World's Largest Book", Liane Hansen, NPR, January 31, 2010
  2. ^ a b c "Largest book in the world goes on show for the first time", The Guardian, 26 January 2010
  3. ^ a b Tom Harper. "The Klencke Atlas". British Museum. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d "And You Think Your Kids’ Books Are Heavy", Vic Brand, Art Info, January 28, 2010
  5. ^ a b ""Largest book in the world" to be displayed for the first time", The Daily Telegraph, 28 January 2010
  6. ^ a b c Peter Barber. The Map Book, Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2005. pg. 164
  7. ^ Dirk van Miert. Humanism in an Age of Science: The Amsterdam Athenaeum in the Golden Age, BRILL, 2009. pg. 68-70
  8. ^ "King George III Topographical and Maritime collections". British Museum. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  9. ^ Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art, exhibition at British Library, 30 Apr 2010 - Sun 19 Sep 2010
  10. ^ No other known atlas made such a claim.
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ Jason Daley (12 May 2017). "Massive Royal Atlas Gets Digitized". Smithsonian.com. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  14. ^ Allison Meier (28 April 2017). "Watch the British Library Digitize One of the World's Largest Books". hyperallergic.com. Retrieved 13 May 2017.

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