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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 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

Map of Senufo languages
Credit: Mark Dingemanse
The Senufo languages comprise ca. 15 languages spoken by the Senufo in the north of Côte d'Ivoire, the southeast of Mali and the southwest of Burkina Faso. An isolated language, Nafaanra, is also spoken in the northwest of Ghana.

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A world map by Johannes Kepler

Cartography or mapmaking is the study and practice of making representations of the Earth on a flat surface. The discipline of cartography combines science, aesthetics, and technical ability to create a balanced and readable representation that is capable of communicating information effectively and quickly. Cartographic representation involves the use of symbols and lines to illustrate geographic phenomena. This can aid in visualizing space in an abstract and portable format.

Functioning as tools, maps communicate spatial information by making it visible. Spatial information is acquired from measurement of space and can be stored in a database, from which it can be extracted for a variety of purposes. Current trends in this field are moving away from analog methods of mapmaking and toward the creation of increasingly dynamic, interactive maps that can be manipulated digitally.

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Selected biography

Star map by Su Song

Su Song (10201101 AD) was a renowned Chinese statesman, astronomer, cartographer, horologist, pharmacologist, mineralogist, zoologist, botanist, mechanical and architectural engineer, and ambassador of the Song Dynasty.

Su Song was the engineer of a water-driven astronomical clock tower in medieval Kaifeng depicted in his horological treatise, Xin Yi Xiang Fa Yao, which employed the use of an early escapement mechanism, armillary sphere and the oldest known endless power-transmitting chain drive, called the tian ti, or "celestial ladder". He also completed a large celestial atlas of several star maps, several terrestrial maps, as well as a treatise on pharmacology.

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WikiProject: Geography
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