01 June 2006

Atlas Maior 1665 - The Ultimate Atlas?

The minute I saw this book late last year, I knew I would have to get a copy, and this morning my copy from Amazon arrived with even the DHL man struggling with the weight!

I love maps and could stare at them all day long. What is fascinating for me about this book is that it brings together maps produced for every part of the globe from a particular time in history into one place. There are 593 maps. For the U.K., there are many maps covering most of the counties, and it is nice to see my village on the Herefordshire map!

The detail and colour is amazing, but I suppose I am most in awe of the mapmakers of the time - the skill to put such detail together so (comparatively) accurately. The U.K. map certainly looks very close to the U.K. map today - not some distorted version. How did they do it?

And then, (author) Joan Blaeu’s achievement in assembling these maps into one atlas is even more astonishing. I’m sure there’s a great film to be made of the rivalry between the mapmakers of the time - Johannes Janssonius - for example as they pushed each other for ever greater coverage, accuracy and beauty.

I have barely touched this book yet, but already know I’ll spend a lot more time with it. Any map lovers would undoubtedly immediately want this on their coffee table! If you happen to be in a bookstore, search it out. And right now, I would say it’s a huge bargain - just £66 on Amazon.co.uk (ISBN: 3822831255) including getting the DHL delivery man to carry it up the stairs!

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