Chris Wayne’s article for Directions Magazine, “Stories and Lies: What an Atlas Reveals,” does something interesting that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before (which at this point is saying something): it talks about atlases as a class, exploring what they do and how they’re arranged. For example: “Page pairs are arguably the most effective format for blending narrative and cartography. With two facing pages, a self-contained story is told; then each page pair becomes a building block in the epic of the atlas itself.” In other words, it looks at atlases as objects in themselves. [WMS]
A short piece in the Edinburgh Evening News last April noted the 100th anniversary of the death of John G. Bartholomew (1860-1920), the fourth of six generations of mapmaking Bartholomews; their firm, John Bartholomew and Son, was responsible for the Times atlases before they were taken up by HarperCollins.
Speaking of his ancestor’s legacy, great-grandson, John Eric Bartholomew, told the Evening News that the fact John George Bartholomew is recognised as the man credited with being the first to put the name Antarctica on the map remains a great source of pride.
Little known is that, in 1886, Bartholomew had a brief flirtation with considering the name “Antipodea” for oceanographer John Murray’s map depicting the continent, before settling for Antarctica.
Previously: Robert G. Bartholomew, 1927-2017.
World atlases are still a thing, and the first of this month saw the publication of two new editions of venerable world atlases.
First, the National Geographic Atlas of the World, a new edition of which comes out every four years. This year’s is the 11th.
I have to confess that I’m fond of the National Geographic: compared to other atlases it does its own thing with political maps that eschew coloured relief and explain every little boundary dispute and controversy in little red letters. It’s also enormous, larger in dimension than the Times Comprehensive (though not as heavy) and with a list price of $215/£170 is slightly more expensive. National Geographic’s page doesn’t go into detail as to what changes were made for the 11th edition, which is a pity. (Does it have Eswatini and North Macedonia, for example?)
The Oxford Atlas of the World is a lot smaller and more affordable. At $90, it slots between the Times Universal and Concise atlases in terms of list price, though its page count is that of the more expensive Concise. It’s also updated every year; this year’s edition is the 26th. And the publisher’s page does list some of the updates. (Eswatini and North Macedonia? Yes!)
As for the Times line of atlases, the most recent to be updated was the third-tier Times Universal Atlas ($50/£80), the 4th edition of which came out in August. Prior to that, the 5th edition of the affordable Times Desktop Atlas ($35/£20) was released in February. The 15th edition of the top-of-range Times Comprehensive Atlas ($200/£150) came out in the fall of 2018: I reviewed it here.
The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World (HarperCollins) is the flagship of the Times World Atlas line. (The others, in descending order of size and price, are the Concise, the Universal, the Reference, the Desktop and the Mini.)1 It’s the latest in a long line of Times atlases, tracing its heritage to the original 1895 atlas published by the Times and the 1922 Times Survey Atlas of the World produced by the venerable Scottish mapmaking firm, John Bartholomew and Son. Like its predecessors, it’s absolutely gargantuan: with the slipcase, it’s 47 × 32.5 cm (16.5 × 12.8 inches) in size and weighs 5.7 kg (12.6 lb). Only the National Geographic Atlas of the World is a little bit larger, and even it weighs less than the Comprehensive (4.5 kg or 9.9 lb).2
The 15th edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas came out on 6 September 2018 (and on 15 November 2018 in North America). HarperCollins has sent me a review copy, and I’ve been trying to come up with something to say about it.
The Reference is right in the middle of the Times atlas range: it’s inexpensive (£30 list, compared to £150 for the Comprehensive, £90 for the Concise and £50 for the Universal) and presumably a bit less unwieldy. The Mini, on the other hand, is positively dainty: at 15.1 × 10.6 cm, it’s smaller than a mass-market paperback! (Obviously the covers above are not to scale; see the somewhat-out-of-date comparison chart for the various atlas sizes.)
The Oxford Atlas of the World touts itself as the only world atlas series that gets updated every year. Unlike the Times and National Geographic series it doesn’t come in multiple sizes: there’s just the one, which is roughly equivalent to the Times Concise in size and page count but cheaper ($90 vs. $125). The next edition is the 24th, and it comes out later this fall; the changes are spelled out on the publisher’s page (adopting “Czechia” is one of them, for example). G. T. Dempsey has a review at Geo Lounge.
The 13th edition of the The Times Concise Atlas of the World came out last week. The HarperCollins listing sets out the updates and changes from the previous edition (including changing “Czech Republic” to “Czechia,” argh). The Concise is the second-largest of the Times world atlases and slots between the Comprehensive and the Universal in terms of physical size, page count, number of maps and place names. Here’s a handy chart showing the differences between the various Times atlases. [Collins Maps]
Related: Map Books of 2016.
When I reviewed the Ninth Edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World in 2010, I compared it virtually plate-by-plate with the Eighth Edition. With the Atlas’s Tenth Edition, which came out in the fall of 2014, Christine Newton Bush does something similar in her review for Cartographic Perspectives: emphasize what’s new and changed. When you have a reference product that updates every few years, people may well wonder each time a new edition comes out whether now is the time to replace their older copy, so this approach makes a lot of sense. And not just because I’ve done it myself. Buy at Amazon.
When the publishers of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World announced that the newly released 13th edition showed that Greenland’s ice sheet had shrunk by 15 percent, climate scientists went ballistic. While Greenland’s ice is retreating, it’s not nearly by that much, and this is just the sort of error that encourages climate-change denialists.
How did Collins Geo allow this to happen? This is the question Mark Monmonier explores in a piece on the New Scientist website. Monmonier, the author of How to Lie with Maps and many other books, argues that hubris was behind the mistake: that the towering reputation of the Times Atlases led to overconfidence.
An explanation lies partly in Collins Geo’s apparent decision to produce the map in house. If that was the case, the firm might have avoided its embarrassment with the obvious quality-assurance step of sending page proofs to carefully chosen experts. Appropriate scientists seldom decline invitations to serve as reviewers. […]
It seems likely there was a belief that external review was unnecessary. Moreover, it seems that none of the publisher’s marketing mavens compared their provocative God’s-eye view with competing treatments on readily accessible scientific websites or Google Earth.
Hubris is not too strong a word to explain HarperCollins’s predicament. A press release promising “concrete evidence of how climate change is altering the face of the planet forever” invites critical scrutiny by mainstream climate scientists as well as the self-proclaimed sceptics who are ever eager to pounce on overreaching pronouncements by the former. In Atlasgate, the pro-warming community, which outnumbers naysayers by perhaps 50 to 1, wasted no time in trashing the HarperCollins map.
Previously: Map Books for Fall 2011.