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Portal:Atlas

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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 most often found in multimedia formats. As well as geographic features and political boundaries, many often feature geopolitical, social, religious and economic statistics.

The first known 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.

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.[1] 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

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Yellowstone National Park, 1871
Credit: F.V. Hayden, Library of Congress
Map of Yellowstone National Park, 1871. Created one year before the park was formed.

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A compass rose

A compass rose is a figure displaying the orientation of the cardinal directions, north, south, east and west on a map or nautical chart. It is also the term for the graduated markings found on the traditional magnetic compass. Today the use and idea of a compass rose is found on or featured in almost all navigation systems, including nautical charts, NDB and VOR systems, some GPS sets and similar.

The "rose" term arises from the fairly ornate figures used with early compasses. A fleur-de-lis figure, evolved from the initial T in the north wind's name Tramontane, is sometimes used to indicate the north direction.

Early roses were depicted with 12 points at 30° each, as was favored by the Romans. In the Middle Ages map makers moved to the 16-point rose complaining that sailors did not have the education to understand the previous design. The earliest 32-point compass rose was developed by Arab navigators during the Middle Ages.

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Ruysch's 1507 map of the world

Johannes Ruysch was an explorer, cartographer, astronomer, manuscript illustrator and painter from the Low Countries who produced a famous map of the world: the second oldest known printed representation of the New World. This Ruysch map was published and widely distributed in 1507.

In old documents Ruysch was sometimes called a Fleming or German, but he was likely born in Utrecht in the current Netherlands. It is thought that he accompanied John Cabot on his expedition to North America in 1497 and 1498. Ruysch's 1507 map of the world was included in the 1507 and 1508 southern editions of Ptolemy's Geographia, an atlas published in Rome.

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