Atlas (cartography)

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The atlas ( plural atlases or - less common in cartography - atlases ) is a collection of thematically, content- wise or regionally related maps in book form or in loose succession.

Deviating from the definition that an atlas normally contains map material, some publishers also use the word to designate a reference work with a lot of picture material on a certain area of ​​knowledge ( e.g. dtv-Atlas zur Ökologie, deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, 1990).


The term atlas goes back to Gerhard Mercator and his work Atlas sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura, published posthumously in 1595 ("Atlas or cosmographic considerations on the creation of the world and its form"). In the foreword, Mercator explains the naming of his work based on the mythical King Atlas of Mauritania , who Diodorus Siculus appears as a wise connoisseur of the stars and their spherical shape. Atlas of Mauritania belongs to the legendary circle around the Titan Atlas .

Outline options

Spaceman Yuri Usachev , commander of ISS Expedition 2 , on the ISS with an atlas. The commander of the first ISS crew, Bill Shepherd , had criticized that it was impractical to use a computer program. So we went back to conventional technology.
  • according to media
    • Paper atlas
    • electronic atlas
    • Audio atlas
  • according to format
    • Giant atlas
    • Hand atlas
    • Pocket atlas
  • according to purpose
  • according to display area
    • World atlas (works published as world atlas are usually more correctly referred to as earth atlas if they do not also contain representations of the moon and the solar system)
    • National Atlas
    • City Atlas
  • according to content

Basic principles of atlas creation

A firm plan, the principles of which govern all cards, should underlie any such business. This plan extends

  1. the number of cards, their order and their format,
  2. for completeness, compared to the number of land areas that are not shown and others that appear insufficiently worked,
  3. on the reduction ratio, insofar as it is desirable for the sake of easy comparison if certain series of maps (for example the maps of the continents, the European states, etc.) are designed on the same scale or, if exceptions have to be made, the different scales among themselves are commensurable (for example 1: 1 million, 1: 2 million, 1: 4 million, etc.),
  4. on the map content, i.e. on a selection of details proportional to the space and the main purpose of the atlas, a main task of the cartographer , who can use and show his geographical knowledge as best as possible, then a description of the objects that is as consistent as possible with the individual map sequences ( Places, railways, streets, etc.),
  5. on the wise use of available spaces for illustrations (small side cards of capital cities, factory districts, passports, etc.), if the scale of the maps is not sufficient for such often very necessary representations,
  6. on the most similar technical execution.

History of atlas cartography

Before 1500

Marinus of Tire introduced the graticule map as early as 100 AD . About 50 years later, Claudius Ptolemy made a kind of atlas.

The first world atlas (with meaning) is the Mapa Mondi (1375) from Spain. The Mediterranean area in particular is shown precisely.

1500 to 1800


World map of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum from 1570

The beginning of the great voyages of discovery heralded a new development in cartography. Until the 15th century, maps were based on the classical work of Ptolemy (2nd century AD) and atlases were any collections of bound maps. The first atlas, in the sense of a book that is published in a specific edition with maps of the same format specially designed or made for this edition, was Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (i.e. world stage) by Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598), published in 1570 zu Antwerp , a tome with 70 current cards, the content of which was coordinated. 41 editions are known that were published in different languages ​​up to 1612. One such atlas was that of Gerhard and Cornelis de Jode: Speculum Orbis Terrarum (i.e. Weltspiegel, Antwerp, 1578) with 36 maps (2nd edition 1593, 52 maps).

Title copper for the three-volume atlas of Mercator, which was published by his son Rumold a year after his death and in which the term "Atlas" appears for the first time.

The first to use Atlas as the title for a similar work was Gerhard Mercator (1512–1594, still known today from the projection of the same name, 1569), born in Rupelmonde in Flanders , who published the Atlas, sive Cosmographicae Meditationes, published shortly after his death de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura (ie "Atlas, or cosmographic considerations of the world structure and its shape") created ( Duisburg , 1595, 2nd edition Düsseldorf , 1602).

The copper plates were sold in 1604 to the company of the Flemish native Jodocus (Josse) Hondius (1563-1612) in Amsterdam , who added 36 new maps to the Atlas Mercators in 1606. Up to 1636, new, expanded editions of this appeared in several languages. The selected edition of Mercator's atlas published by Hondius, the Atlas Minor (i.e. little atlas, Amsterdam, 1607 and later) was equally successful . Amsterdam had become the center of world cartography.

Title page of Theatrum orbis terrarum, sive, Atlas Novus, 1645

The partner in the business of Hondius, Johannes Janssonius from Arnhem (1588–1664), published the two-part atlas Novus (i.e. new atlas) in 1638 , which in 1658 was up to 6 volumes. That year the 11-volume Atlas Maior (i.e. large atlas) was also published, but with older maps, with the intention of competing with the Amsterdam-based cartographic institute founded by Willem Blaeu from Alkmaar (1571-1638). Blaeu only started publishing atlases in 1629; for the first time with supplementary sheets to the atlases of Ortelius and Mercator. In 1634 Blaeu published a two-part world atlas, based on Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum , sive, Atlas Novus with 208 maps, which in 1655 had assumed a volume of 6 volumes with 400 maps. The high point, however, was the Atlas Maior, edited by Blaeus' son, Joan Blaeu (1598–1673) , which appeared in various international editions in 9–12 volumes with around 600 plates from 1662 onwards. The Atlas Maior formed the basis for the 50-volume atlas Blaeu- Van der Hem with more than 2,000 plates, which is kept in the National Library of Austria in Vienna . The Rostock Great Atlas , which is considered the third largest book of all, was also produced by Blaeu in 1664 .

Depiction of the Bay of Biscay, Waghenaer, 1586

Also resident in Amsterdam was Frederik de Wit (1630–1706), who was considered one of the most important publishers of maps in the second half of the 17th century. His atlases are mostly not dated, only have the title Atlas or Atlas Maior and the older editions also contain maps by Janssonius or Blaeu. His Orbis Maritimus ofte Zee atlas with 27 maps is well known. The publishing house of Seeatlanten was by the way an earlier date: as early as 1584/85, Spiegel der Zeevaerdt (2 volumes with 23 cards each) by Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer (1533–1606) was published by Plantijn in Leiden . Others also published Seeatlanten, for example Blaeu: Het Licht der Zee-Vaert (1608, 42 maps) and Zeespiegel (1623, with 111 maps).


The golden age is called the heyday of the 17th century in Holland. But the end of this era was also the end of the leading position of the Dutch in the field of atlas cartography. Atlases have been reissued but not kept up to date. The dominance was taken over by France, which at that time pioneered science and art. Nicolas Sanson (1600–1667) and Pierre Mariette (1603–1657) had already published an atlas in 1652 , which was followed in 1658 by the Cartes générales de toutes les parties du monde ( Paris , 1658, with 113 maps, until 1676 six further editions) which surpassed the Dutch atlases in reliability and timeliness. Using triangulation has greatly improved the accuracy of the maps. A first example of this are the atlases of Nicolas de Fer (1646–1720), who wrote his atlas curieux ou le monde dressé (Paris, 1699, 2 vols. With 295 plates), based on the latest survey data from the French Académie des Sciences and this Also had data checked by astronomers.

The Atlas Nouveau by Guillaume Delisle (1675–1726), which appeared in Amsterdam in 1730, had 56 maps; in later editions expanded to 138. Delisle maintained relationships with scholars and authorities all over the world (including the Russian Tsar Peter the Great) with the intention of acquiring original templates for his cards.

The famous cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville (1697–1782) used not only current geodetic data, but also, after critical examination, reports from explorers. His Atlas Général (1780, 46 sheets) is well known.

Rigobert Bonne (1727–1794), who is still known for the map projection named after him, made a name for himself with the atlas modern ou collection de cartes sur toutes les parties du globe terrestre (Paris, 1771) and with Nicolas Desmarest (1725–1815) wrote 3-volume atlas for the new edition published by Panckouke (Paris, 1787/88) of the famous Encyclopédie by Diderot and d ' Alembert .

Incidentally, Max Eckert-Greifendorff stated that “the map was then viewed as a painting, which is already being said with the name pictura ; the content of the card appears more or less as a minor matter and the trimmings are the main thing, d. H. the richly ornate border, the title settings and decorations, the parerga and other decorations. It was not until the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century that the name pictura faded and there were increasing views that the map was an important scientific product ”. In France, for example, the Enlightenment gave rise to the publication of school and pocket atlases without exuberant adornment, yet well founded, for example the atlas modern ou collection des cartes by De La Croix (Paris, around 1762, with 37 maps and text). But French cartography was also falling into disrepair and had become insignificant in the 19th century.


The best-known English atlases of the 18th century were New and Compleat Atlas (1720, 27 maps) by Herman Moll , New General Atlas (1721, 48 plates) by Senex, General Atlas (1770) and New Universal Atlas (1790) by Kitchin, General Atlas of the four grand quarters of the World (1778, later General Atlas of the World ) by Faden, u. a. However, they cannot be compared with the French atlases in the same period.


World map from the Atlas portatilis (1717–1780) by Melissantes and Johann Christoph Weigel

The scientific value of the atlases that appeared in Germany in the 18th century was limited. The most famous cartographer and publisher was Johann Baptist Homann (1664–1724) from Nuremberg , who published several large atlases, such as the Great Atlas covering the whole world (1716, 126 maps). His heirs expanded the publishing house with a 3-volume atlas geographicus maior (1740), which also contained works by others. A student of Homann, Mattias Seutter (1678–1756) from Augsburg published various atlases, for example an Atlas Geographicus (1720) with 46 maps, which was published several times. In general, however, Seutter's work is not very original and mostly reprints. The small two-part ATLAS PORTATILIS by Johann Christoph Weigel (copperplate engraver) and Johann Gottfried Gregorii alias MELISSANTES (text author) saw several editions between 1717/1723 and 1780. The second part, called Continued ATLAS PORTATILIS GERMANICUS, was fairly accurate due to the partial use of the good templates by Adam Friedrich Zürner , which explains the decades of use of these handy school and travel atlases in pocket format.


Only at the end of the 18th century did Austria speak of its own atlas culture. The best-known works are Schrämbl's General Great Atlas (Vienna, 1786 and later, 133 maps) and what is probably the most famous atlas of all time, the scene of the five parts of the world, published by Franz Johann Joseph von Reilly (Vienna, 1789 and later) 830 tablets, which was not completely finished.

1800 to 2000

As a result of the conversion of cartography from traditional analogue methods to computer cartography, the representation of the topography in atlas maps has clearly changed since the last years of the 20th century, so today in particular atlases with mountain representation in hatching are no longer published. At the same time, even if not as a result of the technical change, in most modern world atlases, in contrast to earlier traditional cartography, the motorways are shown with particularly thick line signatures, often consisting of two parallel lines with a yellow fill color, which is usually with a reduction in other map contents such as, for example Place name lettering or railway lines connected. Some modern world atlases also have a rectangular colored underlay of the names of places with special tourist attractions, which restricts the legibility of the rest of the map content .


In the 19th and first half of the 20th century, German atlas cartography assumed a dominant position with unsurpassed masterpieces. Private cartography was mainly concentrated in Thuringia ( Weimar , Gotha , Hildburghausen ) until around 1870 . Afterwards, Leipzig became the new center when publishers such as Velhagen & Klasing , Wagner & Debes and Bibliographisches Institut settled there. It stayed that way until 1945.

Geographical Institute Weimar

In the beginning there was the General Hand Atlas of the Whole Earth, completed in 1807 ... (later title: Large Hand Atlas of Heaven and Earth ) published by the Landes-Industrie-Comptoir or Geographical Institute (1791–1905) in Weimar. In the period 1820–45, it was above all Carl Ferdinand Weiland (1782–1847) who gave shape to this work of around 60 × 40 cm, 1845–55 Heinrich Kiepert (1818–1899) and finally Carl and Adolf Gräf . The last (49th) edition appeared from 1880.


Hinrichs , Leipzig, has had the New Atlas of the Whole World since 1815 ... with special consideration for the geographic textbooks by Dr. CGD stone. The then well-known geographer Dr. Christian Gottfried Daniel Stein (1771–1830) was only the namesake and actually had nothing to do with the atlas. The cartography was at least equal to the first editions of Stieler's Handatlas; the maps were mostly designed and drawn by Friedrich Wilhelm Streit († 1839) and later by the Swiss cartographer Jakob Melchior Ziegler (1801–1883). A 35th edition appeared in 1878 (no longer determined).

Justus Perthes

The publishing house Justus Perthes , Gotha, founded in 1785 and still established in Gotha (Klett / Perthes) , was very active . He only switched to lithography later than the competition . The publication of Stieler's hand atlas , named after Adolf Stieler (1775–1836) , began in 1817 . This atlas consisted of 50 maps and was completed in 1823. The later editions are considered to be a work of art of great scientific value and the quality of the engravings is highly valued.

Excerpt from sheet 33 "Northeast France - Belgium - Luxembourg" of Stieler's Hand Atlas, 10th edition, centenary edition, Gotha, Justus Perthes, 1925 ff.

Actually, all maps from the first half of the 19th century have the same view: the same typography, the same caterpillar-like representation of mountains, similar to the branches of a fir tree. South-West Germany and Switzerland in Stieler (1868), based on the design by Carl Vogel (1828–1897), can be regarded as the first modern atlas map. The factual writing by H. Eberhardt and the three-dimensional representation of the terrain by W. Weiler were imitated everywhere. But it would take until the 9th edition of 1905 before all cards in the Stieler would be made in this way. This 9th edition, which was produced in lithography for the first time, contained 100 maps. This doubled the size of the first edition from 1823 and is considered to be Stieler's best in terms of printing technology . The terrain representation is too heavy in the early editions of the 10th edition (1925), which makes it less legible. This centenary edition, which had 108 maps and a register of 320,000 names, was published by 1945. An even more comprehensive, international edition of the Stieler Atlas remained unfinished with 84 of the planned 114 maps.

The publishing house J.Perthes is also internationally known for the publication of the following atlases:

  • Berghaus' Physical Atlas (1848, 3rd edition 1892),
  • Spruner's Historisch-Geographischer Handatlas (1851 and later),
  • Justus Perthes' pocket atlas (pocket atlas, pocket atlas of the German Empire, sea atlas, atlas antiquus, history atlas, citizen atlas),
  • various school atlases, including Sydow-Wagner's Methodischer Schulatlas (1888; 23rd (last) edition 1944).
Bibliographical Institute - Brockhaus

The Bibliographical Institute was founded in 1826 by Carl Joseph Meyer (1796 to 1856). In 1984 this publisher merged with FA Brockhaus . Most of the shares in Bibliographisches Institut & FA Brockhaus AG have been owned by Langenscheidt Verlag since 1988 . The Bibliographical Institute published numerous large hand atlases in the 19th century, of which the Great Hand Atlas covering all parts of the world in 170 maps (1843 to 1860) was the largest.

The atlases published by the Bibliographical Institute between 1892 and 1945 were all based on maps from Meyer's encyclopedias and / or Meyer's travel books. The first large atlases published by the Bibliographical Institute after the Second World War were Meyer's Neuer Geographischer Handatlas (1966) and Großer Duden-Lexikon Weltatlas (1969). The cartographic activity of the Brockhaus Verlag was less important and was mainly limited to the map supplements of its lexicons.

Carl Flemming publishing house

The complete hand atlas of the more recent description of the earth by Sohr, published by Verlag Carl Flemming , must not be forgotten. According to some sources, Sohr is a fictional character, but Prof. Wilhelm Bonacker dedicated a commendatory article to him. Sohr developed this atlas in collaboration with Heinrich Berghaus (1797–1884). The atlas appeared for the first time in the years 1842 to 1844, the 9th and last (unfinished) edition appeared from 1902 to 1906. The publishing house was dissolved in 1932.

Dietrich Reimer

The famous cartographer Heinrich Kiepert (1818–1899) edited the large atlas from Weimar. However, he developed his most important activities for publisher Dietrich Reimer from Berlin . His Atlas Antiquus (1859), published there, is best known, hundreds of thousands of copies were distributed all over the world and translated into many languages. Kiepert's most important geographical work is his New Handatlas from 1860, the 3rd edition of which was published in 1896.

Velhagen & Klasing

The large hand atlas of this publisher is Andrees Allgemeine Handatlas (after Richard Andree , 1835–1912). The publishing house, founded in 1835, was taken over by Franz Cornelsen in 1954 and dissolved around 1990. The first edition of this atlas appeared in 1881. The most extensive edition was the 8th edition, 5th edition in 1930 with over 300,000 names. A selected edition was published in 1937. This atlas was larger in format than the Stieler, a calmer map view and used an even better typography. The most important employees were A. Scobel (1851–1912), G. Jungk († 1932), R. Köcher († 1958), E. Umbreit († 1904), A. Thomas († 1930), H. Mielisch († 1925) and K. Tänzler († 1944). A number of maps were drawn or lithographed elsewhere (Peip, Wagner & Debes, Sternkopf, Sulzer). Other well-known titles from Velhagen & Klasing are:


The last of the great German hand atlases from the 19th and first half of the 20th century could just as easily have been the first: Debes Neuer Handatlas (named after Ernst Debes (1840–1923)), 1895, 4th edition 1913-2 Reprinted in 1914, from the Geographical Institute of Wagner & Debes . This atlas was published as Columbus WeltAtlas from 1935 , supplemented with maps from Columbus Verlag P. Oestergaard (= 5th edition; 8th edition 1941) with some brief editions after the war. However, Wagner & Debes mainly worked on commission and supplied, for example, the maps for Baedeker's travel guides and Pierer and Herder's encyclopedias.

Diercke World Atlas : Cover of the 10th edition, Braunschweig 1887

The Georg Westermann company from Braunschweig, founded in 1838, is the publisher of Westermann's World Atlas (1922; 39th edition around 1932; today also in facsimile!) And the still existing Diercke School Atlas (1883); since 1950 (83rd edition) under the title Diercke Weltatlas.

Likewise, the name of the Droemer Knaur publishing group was linked to the publishing house of Atlanten from the beginning, but the cartography was produced by other companies: 1928 to 1935 and 1950 to 1964 by Columbus Verlag Paul Oestergaard, 1937 to 1939 by the Bibliographisches Institut. The later Knaurs Grosser Weltatlas is an edition of the English Times Atlas of the World translated into German .

Even after 1945 excellent German atlases were still published, but mostly not half as comprehensive as Andrees or Stieler's hand atlas, but almost all of them labeled “large”. Examples are The Big Bertelsmann World Atlas from 1961 and the Bertelsmann Atlas International from 1963, the Duden Lexicon World Atlas already mentioned , Herder's Big World Atlas from 1958 and the really big Die Erde - Meyer's big map edition from 1978. In the GDR appeared in 1968 Haack Great World Atlas. Since 1945, however, one can no longer speak of German hegemony in this area; this was adopted by Great Britain and the United States.


Among the French atlases, the 1911 atlas universel de geographie by Vivien de Saint-Martin & Schrader is at the top. Schrader's Atlas de geographie modern from 1889, Atlas général Vidal-Lablache from 1900 and Atlas Niox are justifiably known. The Atlas International Larousse Politique et Économique from 1950 is only large in size .

Great Britain

The British cartography based since 1850 on the publication of three publishers:

  • Bartholomew in Edinburgh
  • Johnston also in Edinburgh and
  • Philip in London .

Bartholomew must mention The Citizen's Atlas of the World (1898, 10th and last edition 1952) and above all The Times Survey Atlas of the World (1922, with 112 maps and over 200,000 names, the pride of British cartography for years) and the resulting The Times Atlas of the World . Mid-Century Edition (5 parts, 120 maps, 1955–59, edition in one part 1967; published in many international editions). In contrast to its predecessors, the Millennium Edition (1999) of the 1967 edition is entirely made with computer cartography.

Johnston’s The Royal Atlas of modern geography from 1861 and The Cosmographic Atlas… from 1884. Philip’s most famous atlas is Philips '(New) Handy General Atlas, last edition 1939. The largest atlas by this publisher is Philips' (New ) Imperial Atlas (1890), last edition 1942 with 95 maps and 100,000 names. In general, however, these works do not manage to surpass the quality of the German atlas cartography of this period. A striking peculiarity of the British atlases is undoubtedly the enormous variety of titles ( The Victoria Regina Atlas, The MP Atlas, The Multum In Parvo Atlas of the World, The Unrivaled Atlas, The Graphic Atlas ), often with the same content.


The Italian Atlante Internazionale del Touring Club Italiano was published for the first time in 1927 and has retained its traditional map view of superior typography and terrain representation even after 1945 until its last edition (1968, updated reprint 1977). Another well-known but less comprehensive Italian atlas in traditional cartography is the Grande Atlante Geografico by Giovanni De Agostini (1922, 5th edition 1959), which also appeared in a German edition ( Goldmanns Großer Weltatlas 1955, 2nd edition 1963) is.


When Brussels was still part of the Netherlands, Philippe Vandermaelen , son of a rich soap producer, created the first world atlas, Atlas universel de Géographie physique, politique, statistique et minéralogique with a uniform scale between 1825 and 1827 . The 386 maps of the land masses on a scale of 1: 1,641,836 from the atlas can be combined to form a globe with a diameter of 7.75 meters . The atlas was also the first atlas to be continuously litographed. It was rather imprecise in details such as the height of mountains, the course of mountain ranges and the course of rivers in the New World. Between 1827 and 1833 he created the Atlas de l'Europe with a uniform scale of 1: 600,000 for all maps.


Dutch atlas cartography did not produce very original works in the 19th and 20th centuries. The 19th century world atlases by Witkamp and Kuijper are usually imitations of Sydow's or Stieler's school atlas. In the 20th century, there is mostly talk of translations for the Dutch market made abroad, by Bartholomew, Rand McNally and Bertelsmann , among others . An important exception is the Bosatlas, a school atlas that has also been translated into other languages. Today there is also a Bos world atlas. The atlases by Elsevier (from 1950) and Kompas itself (published between 1935 and 1960) in the so-called Kompas cartography are originally Dutch. The typography and the terrain of these atlases are clumsy. The maps in De Bezige Bij's atlas from 1951 are of Belgian origin. The world atlas, published in several episodes by various newspapers around 1940, comes from the same corner. Compared to the Dutch products, it is very comprehensive, but of the same, moderate quality.

Austria and Austria-Hungary

At the beginning of the 19th century Austria had very extensive atlases, for example the general hand atlas of the whole world, published by J. Riedl in Vienna (1817/19 - 55 × 36.5 cm - 90 maps) or the even larger hand atlas by FA Schrämbl ( General Large Atlas, 1803, 64 × 44 cm with 138 maps). School atlases were published by the Kk School Books Administration or Artaria & Co. (founded in 1770). After the Congress of Vienna (1815) until the 1860s, however, German products dominated - for example, a copy of Stieler's School Atlas from 1852 had an integrated supplement on Austria for the first time. In the 45th edition published in 1865, the Austria section comprised seven maps (of 39).

The Austrian cartography made a big rise above all through publications of the Viennese - later merged - geographical institutions Artaria and Freytag & Berndt . At Artaria the hand atlas was published by Scheda and Steinhauser (1868–92) and the school atlases by Anton Steinhauser the Elder were published. Ä. (from 1865), Karl Peucker (from 1892) and Johann Georg Rothaug (from 1880), who also designed a school atlas for Tempsky in Vienna (from 1884). The atlases by Rothaug were also published by Freytag & Berndt (later Freytag-Berndt and Artaria) in the 1880s and used a new color hypsometry. JG Rothaug's son, Rudolph Rothaug, published the very widespread Geographical Atlas on Patriotic Studies at Austrian secondary schools there in 1911 .

The small world atlases published by Freytag & Berndt were widely recognized by Gustav Freytag ( G. Freytag's World Atlas, 1900–1935, according to an advertisement not following a large atlas ) and Anton Leo Hickmann ( Geographical-Statistical Universal Atlas, until 1930 / 31). The maps of the (large-format) Hartleben Volks Atlas were also produced by this company.

The Ed. Hölzel published the most famous Austrian school atlas: The Kozenn - Atlas: a school atlas since 1861 in many editions with different editors, but which has also been published as a world atlas in many countries (France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey ...). The physical-statistical hand atlas of Austria-Hungary published by Hölzel , edited by Jos. Chavanne et al. a. (40 maps, 1887).

Austrian-Hungarian editions were published by M. Perles in Vienna in the 4th and 5th editions of the German Andrees General Handatlas (1904 and 1909-13).

The J. Otto company in Prague published Ottuv Zemepisný Atlas (= Otto's geographical atlas), 38 sheets, 1901 ff., Largely based on E. Debes' Neuer Handatlas. A second edition appeared in 1924 after the partition of Austria-Hungary.


Polish cartography is based on a long tradition, but the high quality of Polish atlases has remained almost unnoticed outside of Poland . Also known are two Polish world atlases by Eugeniusz Romer (1871-1954): the Powszechny Atlas Geograficzny (i.e. General Geographical Atlas), Lemberg and Warsaw, 1928, and the comprehensive Wielki Powszechny Atlas Geograficzny (i.e. Great General Geographical Atlas), of which the first deliveries appeared in 1936; a project that was canceled as a result of the Second World War. More recent is the smaller Powszechny Atlas Świata (i.e. General World Atlas), published by PPWK, Warsaw, 1974. But the Atlas Świata (i.e. World Atlas, 1962), produced by the Land Surveying Office of the Polish Army, comes first. This important work was published in 1968 by The Pergamon Press in an English edition under the title Pergamon World Atlas .


The great atlas Mira from 1954 shows that Russian cartography, which was initially based on unoriginal work - for example the Atlas Marxa from 1905 is largely a translation of Debes' Handatlas - can lead to extraordinary results . In 1967 both a second Russian and a first English edition of this atlas (3rd and 2nd edition 1999). A previous project (Bolshoi Sowjetskii Atlas Mira) had remained unfinished because of the Second World War.


The Swiss cartography is both outstanding topographical topographic maps mainly for the Swiss World Atlas (formerly Swiss Mittelschulatlas known). In 1910 the first German-language edition was published, in 1912 the French and 1915 the Italian. The Conference of Cantonal Education Directors is responsible for this Swiss school atlas.

Another important world atlas was the Ziegler Atlas of 1851.

The best-known commercial publisher of maps and plans was Kümmerly & Frey in Bern , today Hallwag Kümmerly + Frey (a subsidiary of MairDumont ; Kümmerly + Frey was an independent and well-known map publisher until bankruptcy 2001, which was then taken over by map publisher Hallwag). Another well-known publisher is Orell Füssli Kartografie and its indirect predecessor Kartographia Winterthur .

The Atlas of Switzerland is the thematic national atlas , which has been available as a printed work since 1965 and exclusively in digital form since 2000. It is published in German, French, Italian and English. In the 2D part, over 650 map topics deal with the topics of weather & climate, geology & raw materials, soil, water, ice & snow, landscapes, plants and animals. More than 350 statistical maps are available in the areas of society, economy, state & politics, Switzerland & Europe. In the 3D part, panoramas and block images can be combined with satellite images, lakes, forests, settlements and glaciers. Fog, shadows, elevation levels, slope inclination, exposure, visibility and terrain profiles can also be calculated and displayed.


The first comprehensive world atlas as a product of Spanish cartography was only published in the 1950s, the Atlas Universal Aguilar (1954, 116 map sheets including an atlas of Spain ; 6 editions up to 1968), published by Aguilar, SA de Ediciones in Madrid . This work was surmounted by the three-volume tome by the same publisher, the Gran Atlas Aguilar (1969/70), with 406 pages of geographical and thematic maps according to scope and content, one of the largest comprehensive atlases published after the Second World War. A selection is called Atlas Mundial Gráfico Aguilar (1976), also published in English.


The Czechoslovakian Československý Vojenský Atlas (= Czechoslovak Military Atlas) from 1965/66 is a world atlas with an appendix, in which the course of many battles is described in great detail.

United States

After the fall of German hegemony, the American atlases flourished with Rand McNally's International Atlas from 1969 and the successor The New International Atlas from 1981. Just like the British Times, this appeared in many international editions. The maps in these editions resemble route maps because of the typography. The use of block letters for place names, as on the maps of the famous atlases of Hammond, is also less accurate.

After 2000

Digital topographic atlas from NASA and Meti

In 2009, a digital topographic atlas was published by the American space agency NASA and the Japanese Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry (Meti), which is based on a uniform collection of data at a distance of 30 m for large areas of the world (99 percent). It has been created since December 1999 through recordings of the completed “ Shuttle Radar Topography Mission ”, an exploration of the earth in the radar range with the Japanese ASTER instrument (“Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer”) on board NASA's “ Terra ” satellite .

Audio atlases

Audio or “speaking atlases” are atlases which, with the help of collected audio files, can present and reproduce the language or a specific dialect of a language region online.

For this purpose, researchers have - and still are - asked specific questions to selected test subjects from different regions of the world, and these are recorded and sorted with the help of recording devices.

Large databases accessible online include, for example, the Atlante sintattico della Calabria, the Vivaio Acustico delle Lingue e dei Dialette d'Italia and others.

World Atlas published by the Miroslav Krleža Lexicographic Institute in Croatia



The engraving on steel or mostly copper for the cards was often done by a select group of engravers , called engravers in German. These engravers worked as small independent entrepreneurs and the profession was passed on from father to son. Engravers worked for various publishers or were publishers themselves. As a result, one encounters the same name again and again in the atlases of that time. When printing from stone (lithography) one speaks of stone engraving.


Copper printing was originally used as the technique because it gave the best results. In the course of the 19th century this technique was replaced by lithography , which among other things has the advantage that machine color printing is also possible.

The Bibliographisches Institut, Hildburghausen, was one of the few to use the harder steel engraving, which allowed larger editions. Incidentally, in Great Britain , steel engraving was used for a long time , even after the invention of electroplating copper plates around 1840.

Famous atlases

See also


  • Jürgen Espenhorst: Andree, Stieler, Meyer & Co, Handatlanten of the German-speaking area (1800–1945) together with forerunners and descendants at home and abroad, Bibliographisches Handbuch. Schwerte 1994, pp. 44-137, ISBN 978-3-930401-33-8
    • Petermann's Planet, A Guide to German Handatlases And Their Siblings Throughout the World 1800–1950, Vol. I: The Great Handatlases. Schwerte 2003, ISBN 978-3-930401-35-2
    • Petermann's Planet, A Guide to German Handatlases And Their Siblings Throughout the World 1800–1950, Vol. II: The Rare and Small Handatlases. Schwerte 2008, ISBN 978-3-930401-36-9
  • collectively orangotango + (Ed.): This Is Not an Atlas. A Global Collection of Counter-Cartographies. ("This is not an atlas. A global collection of counter-cartographies."), Transcript 2018, ISBN 978-3-8376-4519-4 , available online at
  • Anton H. Konrad: 400 years of Mercator. 400 years of Atlas. “The whole world between two book covers” A history of the atlases. Weißenhorn, 1995 (series: Exhibition catalogs of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek No. 65), ISBN 3-87437-366-5
  • Philippe Thureau-Dangin, Christine Chaumeau, Thierry Gauthé u. a .: L'Atlas des atlas: Le monde vu d'ailleurs en 200 cartes. De Courrier International, Arthaud, Paris, 2008. 191 pages, ISBN 2-7003-0168-4 (About the different ways of presenting the atlases depending on their origin, French)

Web links

Wiktionary: Atlas  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Atlas (cartography)  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Kluge : Etymological Dictionary of the German Language, 6th Edition, 2nd Imprint, 1905, p. 22 limited preview in the Google book search
  2. ^ Diodorus , Book III, 60 and IV, 27
  3. a b Cornelis Koeman: Vander Maelen 1 . In: Atlantes Neerlandici . Bibliography of terrestrial, maritime and celestial atlases and pilot books, published in the Netherlands up to 1880. 1st edition. Vol. III (Merula-Zeegers). Amsterdam 1969, p. 142 (English, XXVI + 220 pp, abbreviated source: Koeman VDM 1).
  4. Cornelis Koeman: Vander Maelen 2 . In: Atlantes Neerlandici . Bibliography of terrestrial, maritime and celestial atlases and pilot books, published in the Netherlands up to 1880. 1st edition. Vol. III (Merula-Zeegers). Amsterdam 1969 (English, XXVI + 220 pp, abbreviated source: Koeman VDM 2).
  5. World Document Heritage ( Memento of September 3, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  6. , accessed on July 4, 2017
  7. transcript: This Is Not an Atlas. Retrieved November 30, 2018 .