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Best world atlas

Maps and Atlases

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Mar 6, 2007, 2:05pm Top

To follow up on a message by islandbooks in the general thread, I thought I'd start a thread for the specific topic mentioned there. To me, The Times atlas of the world is hands down the best, but I'll be curious to see what others think. (I'm also a big fan of The International atlas, but I don't think there's been a new edition in a long time.)

Edited: Mar 6, 2007, 2:52pm Top

Well I also have the Times Atlas although it's got a more than a little dated even in the 10 or so years that it's been in my possession. My mantra is that when it comes to reference books there's no point in having the 'abridged' or 'concise' version. What's the point of having a 'pocket' dictionary? To my mind the words you need to look up will often be unusual or archaic (I'm an unsuccessful crossword addict) so a fairly complete version is required. And I'm conceited enough to think I know a lot of the common words and how to spell them. On the other hand there has to be a compromise with convenience so I don't have the the full OED (that's really because I can't afford it and nothing to do with convenience) but have the big Collins single volume by my side (I live in UK).

Unfortunately maps are different because of the huge differences of scale. I think the 'Times' comprehensive is possibly, or rather probably, the best single volume atlas and I refer to it fairly often. Whereas a single volume dictionary can fulfil most (not all) of my needs as a freelance indexer, the atlas is often lacking either because it doesn't show enough detail or because of the time factor - it doesn't show (fairly enough) historic detail or it's outdated because of recent events in world politics. So I can imagine people being fairly satisfied with a one volume big dictionary but less so with a big atlas

Mar 7, 2007, 5:31am Top

I have the Times comprehensive atlas from 2000 which has all the detail I want for places in the world. It is of course not much good for local stuff, and barely detailed enough for national information. But if I want to know about the UK I need a map not an Atlas.

It has so far answered every crossword clue that's been asked of it, including random mountains in america.

Edited: Sep 5, 2007, 10:07am Top

For the ancient Greek and Roman world, arguably the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, edited by Richard J. A. Talbert But I make due with the Historical Atlas of the Classical World - quite a bit cheaper although also quite lacking.

Sep 5, 2007, 10:11am Top

Barrington's is gorgeous!

Edited: Sep 5, 2007, 10:22am Top

Google Earth and Google Maps for me, absent a need for an historical atlas. And there are some wonderful historical maps on the internet - ones that can more quickly and effectively show change over time that any printed map.

Atlases are one case where the book really is properly supplanted by the computer (dictionaries, thesauri and encyclopedias would be others). I can think of no atlas use, save perhaps the artistic, that is not better accomplished with interactivity.

Sep 5, 2007, 10:26am Top

I'd agree, provided that I had the links to all of the various kinds of maps I might want to look at, already at hand. Otherwise, for general reference, pulling the atlas off the shelf is much faster than having to find one on-line.

Plus, I like just looking at maps, and take them all around the house while doing so.

Sep 5, 2007, 10:28am Top

At least with abok you know its out of date, it says so. Online you don't know. You might know when the page was last updated, but that gives no accuracy of the map, plus you expect it to be up-to-date, and it isn't necessarily. Google maps often get you annoyingly poor resolution. Yes its improving, but a book is at least reliable.

Books are prettier too.

Sep 5, 2007, 10:29am Top

>6 A_musing:

Some of the historical overlays you can access within Google Earth are wonderful. The Rumsey Map Collection is one of my favorites.

Edited: Sep 5, 2007, 11:11am Top

Fleela, you may have just taken up my evening tonight. That looks great.

I'm not against book form Atlases - I still buy them occassionally (when they're on sale). It's great to have them around to thumb through, or to lay out and talk about or show. But having them is much less a priority, and for real use, there's a lot less use for them than there used to be (I still own a couple globes, too).

But for the "best" - I don't see any real competition for Google Earth. The ability to integrate maps, photos, and links to descriptive material, and to quickly explore differing resolutions and perspectives and overlay different information, is truly revolutionary.

Sep 5, 2007, 11:34am Top

>6 A_musing: I still prefer a road atlas when I'm planning a long journey (whether real or in dreams); being able to see it laid out in paper without having to scroll or zoom around works best for me, and an atlas is more convenient than a pile of maps. But even then I don't need a greatly detailed one; Rand McNally serves my purposes most of the time.

And I like atlases just for browsing through for fun! I keep meaning to spend a good afternoon with the Atlas Major I recently aquired.

I do a lot of historical stuff, though, and I've never found an online source that's as well-documented or detailed as what I can get in atlases at my local academic library. I wish some of you who've found excellent online historical maps would share your links, because I'm always whining about how there aren't any! And I agree that in *principle*, the computer should do it better.

Edited: Sep 5, 2007, 3:55pm Top

I agree with #6, and don't really buy the 'out-of-date' argument. You should be able to identify the date of the map images used from 'good' digital sources (GE isnt the only, nor the most professional option around).

Second, one could argue that going digital means *more frequently* updated maps- and hence, less chance of being outdated since you do not have to wait for publication.

Finally, while I suppose GE does have some 'grainy' images, I suppose that is the price to pay to see my house.

I will never give up book atlases for their aesthetic value, but functionally I take online interactive maps over paper atlases.

Edited: Sep 5, 2007, 3:40pm Top

#11 - Not sure what exactly you are looking for.. but:

Modern Historical (USA)

World Historical

Some Maps from the Barrington atlas

Sep 5, 2007, 7:19pm Top

The 12th edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas has just been published.

The update addresses, among other changes, the withdrawal of glacier ice and shallow lakes caused by a warming trend in the Earth's climate.


Sep 6, 2007, 8:07am Top

The Rumsey historical map overlay in Google Earth that Fleela referenced in >6 A_musing: are very, very cool. I was able to fly over particular streets in London of 1843, picking out buildings and markers at a very high map resolution, and flip through world maps of different time periods, zooming in quickly. Wow. I had never looked at that capacity in Google Earth before. Thanks.

Sep 6, 2007, 6:54pm Top

A summer guest gifted us with a DK pocket atlas, which is proving very handy for checking locations mentioned in books or the news. We have several full-size atlases, but this little one is filling a niche!

Jul 24, 2008, 6:59pm Top

Some years ago I saw an atlas that contained maps of europe from the 16th or 17th century to after the 2nd world war. It showed a map of europe on a certain date and the individual maps of each country at that period of time. Has anyone else seen this atlas and if so, can you tell me the name or publisher?
I would love to have one of these.

Group: Maps and Atlases

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