The Poetics and Politics of Picturing the World, 1570-1970 ca. Partly funded by the Alumni Foundation University of Bristol

The Poetics and Politics of Picturing the World, 1570-1970 ca.

The atlas is more than a cartographic genre. It is a way of thinking, of ordering, and experiencing the world.

The word ‘atlas’ usually indicates a collection of standardised maps and spatial representations coordinated by scale and grouped in one or more volumes. They commonly represent experienced terrestrial spaces, but they can also represent other types of spaces like human bodies, as in early anatomical atlases, or even imaginary spaces.

The arrangement of geographical atlases typically follows a spatial narrative unfolding the world by travelling through ever increasing scales of continents, regions, countries, and sometimes even cities. As such, the atlas combines different and often contradictory modes of representing and perceiving the world. Atlases blend plural with singular world views. They blend the global with the local and the desire for an overview with the desire for detail. Often they reconcile action with poetic contemplation.

This online exhibition showcases a selection of atlases preserved in the University of Bristol Library’s Special Collections and in the Library of the School of Geographical Sciences. The exemplars span the first 400 years of history of the atlas and include mapmakers and organisations from a variety of countries: from the Dutch laboratories of the Blaeu family (17th century) to the United States’ Military Academy during the Cold War; from colonial Africa to revolutionary Cuba.

In their diversity, these atlases unfold a history, or rather, many parallel histories of visualising and ‘ordering’ the world -- histories underpinned by aesthetic pleasure and power, by a desire to explore, systematise, and comprehend. 

Origins

The history of the atlas is linked to the spread of general education, the development of print culture and the emergence of a consumer culture in the Renaissance West. Precursors of the atlas can be identified in the isolarii (books featuring on each page the map of a different island accompanied by notes on its topography, history, economy, local costumes and legends) and in printed editions of Claudius Ptolemy’s Geographikē Yphēghēsis (‘Geographical Treatise’, 2nd century AD) including reconstructions of its 26 regional tables.

The origins of the atlas are to be sought in collections of random maps bound together by late fifteenth-century and sixteenth century Italian printers upon their clients’ request. Initially these maps did not share a common style, nor did they follow a particular order. Their assemblage simply appealed the collector’s aesthetic taste and desire for material ownership. The birth of the first modern atlas is commonly ascribed to the Flemish cartographer and publisher Abraham Ortelius, himself a collector and antiquarian, who explained that he was inspired to republish a collection of existing maps at a reduced scale, in book form to fit on library shelves and to be more conveniently consulted, by a business acquaintance who found large sheets inconvenient to use. Unlike previous collections, the maps in his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570) were organized according to the scalar hierarchy outlined by Ptolemy, whereby cosmography (the description of the universe) was followed by geography (the description of the Earth), chorography (of its parts), and topography (of its places).

Since its original conception, the atlas has proven one of the most resilient cartographic genres, often transcending geographical learning. Over the centuries, its format has been adopted by anatomists, biologists, geologists, governments, and intelligence services alike as an effective instrument for organizing and showcasing different forms of knowledge.

Our atlases

Whether a deluxe collectible in the hands of Renaissance powerful dignitaries, a child's passport to discovery of the world beyond the classroom, or in its manifold contemporary digital incarnations, the atlases exhibited here magnify the imaginative power of the map. They invite users to a dynamic armchair journey directed by the eye as much as by the hand, which repeatedly travels back and forth through its pages and over its images.

The exhibition is organised into four thematic sections reflexive of these ‘ways of seeing’. Renaissance Theatres features famous and less famous exemplars dating from the late 16th to the mid 17th centuries and invites the viewer to reflect on their function as mnemonic devices, objects of poetic contemplation, visual ‘cabinets of curiosities’, and status symbols. Rhetoric of Truth sets 18th and early 19th centuries geological and archaeological atlases side by side to early computer-generated exemplars, stressing modern science’s constant attempt to penetrate beneath surface and unveil hidden orders. The Colonial Gaze focuses on atlases used to implement colonial projects, including land exploitation in Africa and in the West Indies, and the circulation of racial theories in late 19th century Europe and North America. The last section, National Identities and Conflict, explores the role of atlases as powerful instruments for visualising conflict and for shaping territorial and political imaginations in the 20th century.

In the age of Google Earth, this exhibition is ultimately meant to stir public interest in the history of the atlas and of cartography in general, offering an accessible and dynamic resource for teaching, research, and, not least, virtual exploration.

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Renaissance Theatres

Renaissance Theatres

The word ‘atlas’ was first used for Gerard Mercator's Atlas sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricati figura, 1595. The Flemish mapmaker, however, did not refer to the mythical titan who carried the heavens on his shoulders, as it is often believed, but to the ruler of Mauretania, a legendary philosopher, astronomer and mathematician who ascended the highest mountain in his kingdom to gaze on the world.

The view from above is intimately tied to the concept and history of the atlas. The first atlases were conceived of and designed as ‘theatres of the world’: Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (1610), Vincenzo Maria Coronelli’s Teatro delle Città (City Theatre, 1696-1697) or his Teatro della Guerra (War Theatre, 1706), a celebration of the War of Morea between the Venetians and the Ottomans (1684-1699).

In Renaissance culture, the theatre was a pervasive metaphor and a space imbued with moral meaning. The word ‘theatre’ comes from Greek théatron, literally meaning ‘place for seeing’. As with the mythical Mauretanian king, spectators (theatés) were set above the stage. From their distanced position, they could attain the rational detachment from human affairs necessary to achieve stoic wisdom and global tolerance. Whether a physical or printed space, the théatron transformed the viewer into a sort of Olympian theós, into a divinity set in and yet at the same time above the world.

Through the characteristic bird’s-eye view of its maps, Ortelius’ Theatrum conveyed an image of the world as a stage for the lives and works of its human inhabitants as observed from an elevated spot over its dynamic surface. At different scales, it echoed the moralizing paintings of his friend Peter Bruegel and their views from a high-oblique angle on a world ‘turned upside down’, shattered as it was by the bloody Wars of Religion.

The motive of the theatre is reflected in the design of many Renaissance atlases, especially in their sumptuous proscenium-like frontispieces, featuring allegories of the continents disposed hierarchically (as in the case of Ortelius’ Theatrum), or the theatrical act of unveiling the globe, as with Johannes Stradanus’ frontispiece of his Americae retectio (1592). Figurines in local costumes framing maps of countries and continents (e.g. in Blaeu’s atlas) likewise echo curtains opening on the theatres of known and newly discovered lands. They also present a second audience who occupy a paradoxical space--they are both within the atlas but outside the map's frame, viewing both inwardly (the map) and outwardly (you the reader)!

The term ‘Theatrum’ also connects the printed atlas to an ancient mnemonic tradition rooted in classical Greece and Rome and revived in the Renaissance: that of the memory theatre as a space for learning. For Plato and Aristotle knowledge rested on memory, and memory was, in turn, best stimulated by visual means. In the first century BC Roman students of rhetoric were encouraged to use a spatial model whereby the parts of the speeches they had to memorize were associated with specific objects ordered and stored in rooms within an imaginary building.

In the Renaissance, physical memory theatres were constructed (or adapted) for this specific purpose; recollection was activated through a spatial exercise in which the gaze of the viewer travelled through a sequence of loci memoriae as he stood at the centre of the stage. A famous example is Andrea Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza (1579-1580), copiously enriched with memory places enshrined in niches akin to those decorating the frontispieces of Ortelius and Mercator’s atlases.

As a tool for the memorization of geographical information, the Renaissance atlas rested on the same principles as ancient and contemporary memory theatres. Vividly coloured and embellished with elaborate cartouches, grotesques, exotic figurines and animals, its maps were meant to ‘the longer be kept in memory and make the deeper impression in us’, as Ortelius writes in the introduction to his Theatrum.

The Renaissance atlas was thus a portable cabinet of curiosities; at the same time, it was also an ideal instrument for systematizing the ever-growing mass of knowledge obtained from geographical as well as medical discoveries (the latter being emblematically undertaken in ‘anatomical theatres’). As with Ortelius’ Theatrum, Andreas Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543) initiated a new way of visualizing space—this time the interior space of the human body.

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The Rhetoric of Truth

The Rhetoric of Truth

Its linear narrative and capacity to effectively organize spatial information made the atlas a main protagonist of the Enlightenment project for the construction of a systematized universal knowledge, as well as a privileged tool for its dissemination.

Throughout the eighteenth century map production was no longer confined to private publishers, but it became part of ambitious state-sponsored survey projects. Knowledge itself no longer rested on wonder and memorability, but on reason, measurement, and taxonomic order. Received authority and hearsay were replaced by first-hand observation; myth by accurate survey. The latter was made possible by the development of geodetic survey, through which precise locations and their relationships in space could be established. Hence, the plain-style maps of Enlightenment atlases generally show only explored areas, leaving un-surveyed coasts and continental interiors blank, awaiting discovery.

Unlike ‘Renaissance theatres’, late eighteenth and nineteenth-century atlases are usually devoid of ostentatious religious emblems, flamboyant cartouches, grotesques, and other ornamental flourishes. Their maps are scientific statements. Iconography usually serves an informative rather than decorative purpose. The scientific authority of maps as tools of rational knowledge-making requires the conscious limitation of decorative elements, a potential distraction from the ‘objective’ presentation of empirical data. Territory is rationalized under the surveyor’s eye. Sea monsters and exotic animals are replaced by empty spaces and by what Italian geographer Franco Farinelli defined ‘the most terrifying of all monsters’: the straight line, a feature we do not find in nature and the hallmark of modernity.

The parallel development of anthropology, archaeology and geology as academic disciplines in the nineteenth-century enables a systematic classification of cultural ‘others’ and rediscovery of the past (as in Moll’s atlas, 1724), of a universal history of human progress sanctioned by the human mind, rather than by religious faith. New representational techniques such as geological cross-sections permit the scientist’s gaze to penetrate beyond the land’s surface, as exemplified in Smith’s Geological Atlas (1819-1824). Likewise, the isoline devised by Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) allows the unveiling and display of patterns otherwise invisible to the human eye.

The atlas becomes a container for global knowledge and global narratives, an encyclopaedic system in which empirical data are brought together to reveal regional and worldwide distributional patterns and universal laws: from rock formations and sea currents to charts of human history, from the distribution of diseases to that of ethnic and religious minorities in North America (see the Moravian Atlas, 1853).

At the same time, the geographical and scientific knowledge promoted by the atlas is no longer the preserve of wealthy elites, but a domain that is increasingly accessible to new social strata. The atlas thus ceases to be a deluxe cabinet of curiosities to become a persuasive scientific and didactic tool, a taxonomic space democratically open to a general public and akin to museums and botanical gardens.

The ‘rhetoric of truth’, however, is not confined to the centuries of the Enlightenment. It likewise permeates modern computer-generated maps and specialized atlases, such as the Atlas of Breeding Birds in England and Ireland (1976) and Clywd in Computer Graphics: A Social and Environmental Atlas (1977). As with their nineteenth-century counterparts, in different ways, these atlases continue to unveil hidden patterns and persuade readers through the plain language of scientific objectivity.

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The Colonial Gaze

The Colonial Gaze

The modern colonial gaze was--and continues to be--about legitimating and rationalizing control. While modern colonial rule relied upon violence, economic coercion, and strategic military dominance, perhaps more importantly, it also crucially depended on representations and representational strategies. Colonial atlases were cultural compendia for the collection, concentration, and dissemination of the representational strategies central to legitimising forms of colonial rule that continue to shape our modern world.

From the sixteenth century onwards, representational forms and rationalities increasingly drew their authority from the emerging technological and institutional conventions established through visual devices such as maps, atlases, navigation charts, telescopes, surveys and taxonomies. All worked together to frame the world in particular ways, and thus promote certain understandings of the world over others. The power of these visual conventions derived from the ways Western concepts of scientific reason, legal order, national interest, and governmental responsibility were used to discipline and normalize space and people, and, indeed, the very codes of representation itself.

Central to the colonial work of representation was a particular ocular concern, hence our use of the term ‘gaze’. Vision and the presumption of conceptual illumination brought by the ‘light of reason’ enabled colonial desire to rationalize what became its domination in terms of exploration, discovery, truthful representation, and eventually, narratives of improvement and development. As with other visual representations, atlases sought to describe, define, and disseminate knowledge about previously unknown territories in conceptual terms authorised by Eurocentric hierarchies and accepted ways of looking.

On maps like those in the Danckerts’ atlas, empty spaces are rendered ‘vacant’ not because they were without people, but because they had yet to be made meaningful in the terms legitimated by European metropolitan authority. In a process known as terra nullius, territory had to be emptied first before being made newly meaningful. Authority then was concerned to represent space and experience transparently and objectively so as to legitimate its control for scientific and economically productive ends. Such ends defined productivity through utility, control, capital accumulation, and imperial influence. To paraphrase the colonial photographer Samuel Bourne in the 1860s, ‘the barrel of a camera lens is much more effective and powerful than the barrel of a gun’.

Further examples of the colonial gaze as visual grammar for making the world meaningful in particular cultural ways can be seen in the atlases selected here. For instance, rhumb lines on Mercator projections facilitated nautical navigation and provided the cartographic basis for colonial expansion. Terrestrial survey lines carved up land into abstract and regimented plots that facilitated enclosure and the implementation of private property arrangements. New place names erased pre-contact cultural histories and re-naturalized the story of cultural authority and ownership.

All of these devices evidence the exercise of a colonial gaze, an exercise which sought to justify colonial rule by attempting to make distant spaces legible to European metropolitans via fixed and naturalized social boundaries, which were then (re)produced as spaces for intervention.

The same principles of description, containment, and enclosure, which work to legitimize control and rationalize territorial dominance, are at play in the fascinating, and today disturbing, example of the racial atlas. Here races are invented and reproduced through a descriptive visual language of difference. Just as with land, the morphological description of racial difference that operated at narrowly visual levels--brow ridges, eye openings, cranial fissures, etc.--became a key social grammar through which a cultural and economic orders and hierarchies were justified.

The colonial gaze was as much (if not more) about securing centrality and its social powers of privilege, as it was about describing peripheries. It attempted to render a world malleable, not simply for human interaction, but for particular kinds of human interaction. The colonial gaze naturalized these interactions as human; it claimed its descriptions and ways of looking as discoverable and natural for all human beings. These interactions are still key to shaping many of our present forms of social life: private property, economic globalisation and trade, resource extraction, scientific and technological control over the natural world, industrialization, individualism, nation states, public versus private space, and more.

Yet, in making these very recognizable and intimate social forms we all too often take for granted the colonial gaze operated by ignoring, actively excluding, or often exterminating other ways of life and forms of looking. Our contemporary planetary condition of natural and human exploitation, bio-diversity loss, diffused and regional war, cultural disappearance, increasing economic inequality, division and intolerance, all are continuing legacies of the colonial gaze.

As the atlases in this section make clear, the colonial gaze is not a natural gaze however much we continue to convince ourselves otherwise.

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National Identities and Conflict

National Identities and Conflict

Atlases are key tools for shaping and sustaining national identities in the same way national anthems, parades, flags, and currency are. Perhaps even more persuasively, in demarcating borders, national atlases assert the right of a nation to exist. National atlases legitimize the geography of a country, and through this they also legitimize its status quo.

As a reader flips pages from beginning to end, or orients themselves to a sought after map, the dynamic nature of the atlas as a technological medium helps to construct and unfold linear narratives of foundation and nationalist progress. Atlases convey a sense of stability and often serve to conceal internal fragmentation and political unsteadiness. They provide well-defined, almost iconic, visual shapes onto which the members of a nation can project their shared identity and history.

Early exemplars of national atlases date back to the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and include works such as Saxton’s Atlas of England and Wales (1579), John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (1610), and William Camden’s Britannia (1611). These atlases brought together maps of the various English counties within a single volume and asserted their unity under the rule of Elizabeth I, thereby conveying the impression that the land itself spoke of the kingdom as a single natural entity.

As a genre, the national atlas saw a boom in the second part of the twentieth century with the emergence of new nation-states in the aftermath of World War II, colonial independence and the geopolitical alignments of the Cold War. By 1980, state-sponsored national atlases had increased from less than twenty (in 1940) to more than eighty, as former colonies turned to cartography as a tool for political identity and economic development.

Modern national atlases tend to follow a common pattern regardless of their provenance. They typically contain regional maps of the physical geography of the country followed by diagrams of its political, economic and social make-up. In this sense, they transform the imagined space of the nation-state into a sort of naturalized territorial container for different types of information and relationships.

As with Camden’s Britannia and other early exemplars, modern national atlases usually serve to convey the impression that a country is itself a ‘natural’ entity that has existed on territory since time immemorial--even if nation-states, and indeed the very concept of nation-state, are modern fabrications. Whether be they produced in pre-revolutionary Iran, in Ceausescu’s Romania, or in post-revolutionary Cuba, these cartographic representations usually share a ‘scientific’ look, a persuasive ‘rhetoric of truth’. They act as ultimate symbols of nationhood and of technical achievement, and means to chart a country’s progress.

Grounded in geography and supported by such rhetorics, national histories thus tend to be uncritically accepted as unquestionable truths. The atlas user is simply encouraged to forget their selective nature and silences within a seemingly transparent and exact presentation of the nation.

Traditional national atlases such as Atlasul judetelor di Republica Socialista Romania (1978) or Atlas nacional de Cuba (1970) are expressions of official ideologies. They are meant to promote both population homogenisation and the territorial unity of the country through the graphic standardization of their various regional maps and through their eye-catching frontispieces featuring national symbols. Well-defined boundaries within the whole convey the impression of order, that ‘everything is safely under control’, or rather under the control of the state. Conversely, atlases can serve to challenge centralized nation-state narratives and to produce counter-discourses, as in the case of the Atlas de Catalunya (1974).

Just as counter-maps sought to delineate geographies of difference, and much as colonial atlases did earlier, war atlases participated in the construction of binary oppositions between a nation-state and its others (an enemy or enemies). During the Cold War dynamic territorial struggle was replaced by a seemingly frozen, bipolar confrontation and logic of counter-containment. Atlases, like the USMA Landscape Atlas of the USSR (1971), became precious sources and performative gestures of strategic knowledge, as well as secret windows on a world largely beyond reach.

Atlases are also helpful tools for displaying past and current territorial expansion. Historical atlases and war atlases are obvious examples. Putzgers’ Historischer Schul-Atlas(1907), traces the emergence of modern European nation-states out of the normalizing vision of a universal history rooted in the bible and in ancient Greece. The dynamic multi-scalar character and accessibility to the wider public makes war and school atlases privileged instruments for following the progress of a conflict, or for educating its users on conflicts of the past. This was especially true in the case of World War II, the first global conflict enacted simultaneously in different extensive ‘theatres’.

Bound up in instruction, affirming social truths, and securing aesthetic norms and strategic utterances, atlases naturalize the often fragile processes of building social and territorial communities. In doing so, unwittingly, they also reveal the deeply tenuous and constructed nature of borders and belonging.

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Ortelius, A., 1574. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Antwerp: Ortelius.

Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) of Antwerp is often cited as the father of the atlas genre, being the first publisher to print a standardized collection of maps bound within the same volume. Single sheet maps were the most popular map format in the sixteenth century and could be bound to order, in cumbersome, expensive and non-uniform volumes by Roman and Venetian publishers. In his note to the reader, Ortelius explains that his motivation for the Theatrum, were these “great and large Geographical Maps or Chartes, which are folded or rowl’d up, are not so commodious nor...so easie to be look’d upon”.

The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was first discussed in 1555 and took 15 years to be published. A great success, the Theatrum ran for 41 editions from 1570 to 1612 and was printed in 6 languages, totalling 7300 copies. It sold so quickly that multiple editions were published in its first year. It was available in different styles and at different prices, ranging from small uncoloured copies at 5 gulden (£1191 today) to large, coloured copies at 16 gulden (£3177 today). The Theatrum introduces the ‘Golden Age’ of Dutch cartography (seventeenth to eighteenth centuries) which coincides with the rise of the Dutch Republic, claimed to be the first modern super power.

The Theatrum was a groundbreaking encyclopaedic description of the world. By bringing together stylistically uniform maps at different scales in the same volume, it was ultimately a project aimed at promoting mankind’s unity in diversity and tolerance at the height of the Wars of Religion in Western Europe.

The Special Collections copy is bound in modern tooled leather and cloth with the pages mounted so they open fully. The 1574 edition was available in French or Latin and contains 70 map sheets. In the 16th century plagiarism was common but Ortelius has gained much recognition for being one of the first to list his sources. The atlas was enlarged and updated through 5 Additamenta and the Parergon. The Parergon blended classical and biblical narratives. For example, it included maps of the wanderings of Ulysses and Saint Paul, as well those of past empires. The name Theatrum Orbis Terrarum draws on classical authority. Romans and Mediaeval scholars referred to the world as orbis terrae or terrarum. Theatrum, a popular play on the concept that the world is the stage of human life may also be a link to the phrase, “Ut me et quaesturam meam quasi in aliquo orbis terrae theatro versari existimarem” (“So that I thought that I and my quaestorship were being exhibited on some theatre open to the whole world) in Cicero’s In Verrem (XIV, 35).

Camden, W., 1610. Britannia. London: Bishop and Norton.

William Camden (1551-1623) was born in London and studied at Oxford but due to religious controversy he eventually left with no degree. He became the second master at Westminster School in 1575 and headmaster in 1593. Throughout this period he worked on the Britannia. Camden was appointed Clarenceux King of Arms and brought much needed leadership and organisation to the College of Arms. However, his unusual appointment from outside the institution was resented by York Herald Ralph Brooke whose publications often amounted to fault finding in Camden’s work. Never accepting Camden as an equal, the bitter Brooke would, in English, denounce Camden’s use of Latin, describing Camden “like a struck ‘cuttle-fish’ [that] ‘thinkes to hide and shift’ in the ‘Inke of his Rhetorike’”. In Camden’s defence, College of Arms junior officer Augustine Vincent published a riposte to Brooke, attacking Brooke’s work and character, going so far as to have Brooke’s own publisher discredit him. One of Camden’s final and most famous projects was the first biography of Queen Elizabeth, published in 1615. From 1618 Camden suffered repeated illness and became ever more reclusive and reliant on deputies resulting in attempts by fellow heralds to remove him from his post as King of Arms. His last act before his death in 1623 was to create the Camden professorship in Civil History at Oxford University. 

The Britannia was famous before its publication on Camden’s 35th birthday, 2 May 1586.  Britannia tries to “restore antiquity to Britaine, and Britaine to his antiquity”. Diverging from the standard practice of rhetorical copying, Camden combined primary research on texts and non-literary material culture (e.g. coins) to produce a new understanding of the peoples that settled in Britain, thereby disproving the myth that Britons descended from Brutus of Troy. Britannia described national and regional geographies, local histories, customs and languages and its marginalia brought national and regional identities to life. From 1607 the Britannia contained maps adapted from Saxton and Norden and in 1610 it was first issued in English. The Britannia is the first book to contain separate printed depictions of many counties including Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Middlesex, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Cumberland, Westmorland and Wales.

Bound in modern tooled leather, the Special Collections Britannia is the first English edition of 1610. The University acquired it in May 18th 1931 from Dr Haworth, Lecturer in English for £1 (£51.36 today).

Speed, J., 1611. Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. London: Sudbury and Humble.

John Speed (1522-1629), of Farndon, Cheshire was a historian and cartographer who trained as a tailor. He married ca. 1570 and had 18 children. Encouraged by William Camden and patronized by Sir Fulke Greville, Speed began work on his History of Great Britaine and the accompanying atlas entitled Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Work started ca.1602 and heralded a new age in English cartography. The Theatre and the History were published in 1611 and continued in print for nearly 150 years. Although blind by 1625, Speed published the first world atlas by an Englishman, entitled A Prospect of the most Famous Parts of the World in 1627. Eight generations later, the Speed’s cartographic interest would continue through his descendant, Joshua Fry-Speed whose collaborative mapping of Virginia with Jefferson was engraved by Thomas Jefferys.

The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine is modelled on Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum and was the first great English atlas to display details of English and Welsh county boundaries, town plans and Irish provinces. It is argued that around 50 of the 73 town plans had never been mapped before. Speed’s town plans and his use of historical text, based on Camden’s Britannia, on the verso of the maps were two innovations that would later be copied by other English map makers. The maps are based on those of Saxton with additional informative vignettes, cartouches and annotations regarding history, heraldry, legends and costumes. Contrary to accusations of plagiarism, Speed acknowledged his sources and was congratulated by his contemporaries for bringing together knowledge on Britain. Engraved in the Netherlands by Hondius, the Theatre was published in London and it is estimated that the first print run was of 500 copies. Its great success required a second edition soon after. The 1627 edition is known to have sold (bound) for 40 schillings, with colouring adding up to 15 shillings more (between 27-51 days wages, or £245.19 today).

The Special Collections Theatre is a 1611 uncoloured copy. It is likely bound in 17th century leather covers and has since been respined in leather and gold. It was bought by the Library in 1931 from a Mr Hitchman and the title page bears the annotation Draycot House. Preceding the development of stage coaches in 1630, the Theatre allows its reader to navigate the country before it was widely possible and from the safety of their own home.

 

Blaeu, W.J., 1645. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus. Amsterdam: Blaeu, Vol I.

Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) and his two sons, Joan (1599-1673) and Cornelius (1610-1648), were Dutch publishers famous for their beautiful atlases. From 1633 the Blaeu family were appointed to the Dutch East India Company, thus receiving access to the latest reconnaissance. The Blaeu maps were therefore detailed and state of the art, but tempered with political and commercial censorship by the Company.  In 1672 a fire destroyed the Blaeus’ workshop and many of their plates, forcing the Amsterdam firm to close.

The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus in quo Tabulæ et Descriptiones omnium Regionum  was first produced in 1635 as two volumes and from 1640 as four volumes, entitled: (1) Europae Septentrionalia & Orientalia, Germania & Germania Inferior; (2) Gallia, Hispania, Asia, Africa & America; (3) Italia, Graecia & Magna Britannia; (4) Britannia.  It subsequently developed into the Atlas Maior (1665), which was one of the most expensive and beautiful books of the seventeenth century.  A distinctive status symbol, it cost 460 guilders (about 20,000 Euros today), the equivalent of a year’s rent for a farm or bookshop.

The Special Collections edition of W. and J. Blaeu’s Atlas Novus was printed in Amsterdam in 1645. Its four volumes are bound in the Dutch style (gold-tooled vellum) with a super libris of a bird and a cresset ablaze. The pages are gilt and goffered and are protected by the inwardly turned board edges. The rag paper pages show a watermark of Atlas carrying a globe. It was especially made and imported for the Blaeus. This copy of the atlas is dedicated to Joseph Hill (1625-1707), a nonconformist minister of Bramley, Yorkshire. The 1662 Act of Uniformity forced Hill from his fellowship at the University of Cambridge to Holland, where he became a student at Leyden University in 1664; the same University attended by Joan Blaeu 48 years earlier. After the second Anglo-Dutch war, Hill was arrested on an espionage charge while visiting England. With William of Orange's rise to power in 1672, Hill produced propaganda to prolong the Dutch war against the French, for which the English King Charles II rewarded him. However, Hill may have been a double agent, as his efforts to improve Anglo-Dutch relations could have roused support for a William of Orange led invasion. On his death Hill donated his library to Pocklington School, Yorkshire.

The super libris identifies the next known owner as Henry Burton-Peters (1792-1875), of Hotham Hall, North Cave, Yorkshire. After his first wife died, he became notorious for seducing and eloping to Paris with a peninsular veteran’s wife. They inherited her scapegrace’s North Cave estate where he became MP to Beverly 1830-37 and patron of the community. Burton-Peters was elected on an abolitionist, anti-tax and anti-East India Company monopoly platform. After she died, Burton-Peters married a third time at the age of 78 and died 5 years later in Bath. The atlas was purchased by the University from a Bath bookseller.   

Blaeu, W.J., 1645. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus. Amsterdam: Blaeu, Vol II.

Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) and his two sons, Joan (1599-1673) and Cornelius (1610-1648), were Dutch publishers famous for their beautiful atlases. From 1633 the Blaeu family were appointed to the Dutch East India Company, thus receiving access to the latest reconnaissance. The Blaeu maps were therefore detailed and state of the art, but tempered with political and commercial censorship by the Company.  In 1672 a fire destroyed the Blaeus’ workshop and many of their plates, forcing the Amsterdam firm to close.

The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus in quo Tabulæ et Descriptiones omnium Regionum  was first produced in 1635 as two volumes and from 1640 as four volumes, entitled: (1) Europae Septentrionalia & Orientalia, Germania & Germania Inferior; (2) Gallia, Hispania, Asia, Africa & America; (3) Italia, Graecia & Magna Britannia; (4) Britannia.  It subsequently developed into the Atlas Maior (1665), which was one of the most expensive and beautiful books of the seventeenth century.  A distinctive status symbol, it cost 460 guilders (about 20,000 Euros today), the equivalent of a year’s rent for a farm or bookshop.

The Special Collections edition of W. and J. Blaeu’s Atlas Novus was printed in Amsterdam in 1645. Its four volumes are bound in the Dutch style (gold-tooled vellum) with a super libris of a bird and a cresset ablaze. The pages are gilt and goffered and are protected by the inwardly turned board edges. The rag paper pages show a watermark of Atlas carrying a globe. It was especially made and imported for the Blaeus. This copy of the atlas is dedicated to Joseph Hill (1625-1707), a nonconformist minister of Bramley, Yorkshire. The 1662 Act of Uniformity forced Hill from his fellowship at the University of Cambridge to Holland, where he became a student at Leyden University in 1664; the same University attended by Joan Blaeu 48 years earlier. After the second Anglo-Dutch war, Hill was arrested on an espionage charge while visiting England. With William of Orange's rise to power in 1672, Hill produced propaganda to prolong the Dutch war against the French, for which the English King Charles II rewarded him. However, Hill may have been a double agent, as his efforts to improve Anglo-Dutch relations could have roused support for a William of Orange led invasion. On his death Hill donated his library to Pocklington School, Yorkshire.

The super libris identifies the next known owner as Henry Burton-Peters (1792-1875), of Hotham Hall, North Cave, Yorkshire. After his first wife died, he became notorious for seducing and eloping to Paris with a peninsular veteran’s wife. They inherited her scapegrace’s North Cave estate where he became MP to Beverly 1830-37 and patron of the community. Burton-Peters was elected on an abolitionist, anti-tax and anti-East India Company monopoly platform. After she died, Burton-Peters married a third time at the age of 78 and died 5 years later in Bath. The atlas was purchased by the University from a Bath bookseller.   

Blaeu, W.J., 1645. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus. Amsterdam: Blaeu, Vol III.

Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) and his two sons, Joan (1599-1673) and Cornelius (1610-1648), were Dutch publishers famous for their beautiful atlases. From 1633 the Blaeu family were appointed to the Dutch East India Company, thus receiving access to the latest reconnaissance. The Blaeu maps were therefore detailed and state of the art, but tempered with political and commercial censorship by the Company.  In 1672 a fire destroyed the Blaeus’ workshop and many of their plates, forcing the Amsterdam firm to close.

The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus in quo Tabulæ et Descriptiones omnium Regionum  was first produced in 1635 as two volumes and from 1640 as four volumes, entitled: (1) Europae Septentrionalia & Orientalia, Germania & Germania Inferior; (2) Gallia, Hispania, Asia, Africa & America; (3) Italia, Graecia & Magna Britannia; (4) Britannia.  It subsequently developed into the Atlas Maior (1665), which was one of the most expensive and beautiful books of the seventeenth century.  A distinctive status symbol, it cost 460 guilders (about 20,000 Euros today), the equivalent of a year’s rent for a farm or bookshop.

The Special Collections edition of W. and J. Blaeu’s Atlas Novus was printed in Amsterdam in 1645. Its four volumes are bound in the Dutch style (gold-tooled vellum) with a super libris of a bird and a cresset ablaze. The pages are gilt and goffered and are protected by the inwardly turned board edges. The rag paper pages show a watermark of Atlas carrying a globe. It was especially made and imported for the Blaeus. This copy of the atlas is dedicated to Joseph Hill (1625-1707), a nonconformist minister of Bramley, Yorkshire. The 1662 Act of Uniformity forced Hill from his fellowship at the University of Cambridge to Holland, where he became a student at Leyden University in 1664; the same University attended by Joan Blaeu 48 years earlier. After the second Anglo-Dutch war, Hill was arrested on an espionage charge while visiting England. With William of Orange's rise to power in 1672, Hill produced propaganda to prolong the Dutch war against the French, for which the English King Charles II rewarded him. However, Hill may have been a double agent, as his efforts to improve Anglo-Dutch relations could have roused support for a William of Orange led invasion. On his death Hill donated his library to Pocklington School, Yorkshire.

The super libris identifies the next known owner as Henry Burton-Peters (1792-1875), of Hotham Hall, North Cave, Yorkshire. After his first wife died, he became notorious for seducing and eloping to Paris with a peninsular veteran’s wife. They inherited her scapegrace’s North Cave estate where he became MP to Beverly 1830-37 and patron of the community. Burton-Peters was elected on an abolitionist, anti-tax and anti-East India Company monopoly platform. After she died, Burton-Peters married a third time at the age of 78 and died 5 years later in Bath. The atlas was purchased by the University from a Bath bookseller.   

Blaeu, W.J., 1645. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus. Amsterdam: Blaeu, Vol IV.

Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) and his two sons, Joan (1599-1673) and Cornelius (1610-1648), were Dutch publishers famous for their beautiful atlases. From 1633 the Blaeu family were appointed to the Dutch East India Company, thus receiving access to the latest reconnaissance. The Blaeu maps were therefore detailed and state of the art, but tempered with political and commercial censorship by the Company.  In 1672 a fire destroyed the Blaeus’ workshop and many of their plates, forcing the Amsterdam firm to close.

The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus in quo Tabulæ et Descriptiones omnium Regionum  was first produced in 1635 as two volumes and from 1640 as four volumes, entitled: (1) Europae Septentrionalia & Orientalia, Germania & Germania Inferior; (2) Gallia, Hispania, Asia, Africa & America; (3) Italia, Graecia & Magna Britannia; (4) Britannia.  It subsequently developed into the Atlas Maior (1665), which was one of the most expensive and beautiful books of the seventeenth century.  A distinctive status symbol, it cost 460 guilders (about 20,000 Euros today), the equivalent of a year’s rent for a farm or bookshop.

The Special Collections edition of W. and J. Blaeu’s Atlas Novus was printed in Amsterdam in 1645. Its four volumes are bound in the Dutch style (gold-tooled vellum) with a super libris of a bird and a cresset ablaze. The pages are gilt and goffered and are protected by the inwardly turned board edges. The rag paper pages show a watermark of Atlas carrying a globe. It was especially made and imported for the Blaeus. This copy of the atlas is dedicated to Joseph Hill (1625-1707), a nonconformist minister of Bramley, Yorkshire. The 1662 Act of Uniformity forced Hill from his fellowship at the University of Cambridge to Holland, where he became a student at Leyden University in 1664; the same University attended by Joan Blaeu 48 years earlier. After the second Anglo-Dutch war, Hill was arrested on an espionage charge while visiting England. With William of Orange's rise to power in 1672, Hill produced propaganda to prolong the Dutch war against the French, for which the English King Charles II rewarded him. However, Hill may have been a double agent, as his efforts to improve Anglo-Dutch relations could have roused support for a William of Orange led invasion. On his death Hill donated his library to Pocklington School, Yorkshire.

The super libris identifies the next known owner as Henry Burton-Peters (1792-1875), of Hotham Hall, North Cave, Yorkshire. After his first wife died, he became notorious for seducing and eloping to Paris with a peninsular veteran’s wife. They inherited her scapegrace’s North Cave estate where he became MP to Beverly 1830-37 and patron of the community. Burton-Peters was elected on an abolitionist, anti-tax and anti-East India Company monopoly platform. After she died, Burton-Peters married a third time at the age of 78 and died 5 years later in Bath. The atlas was purchased by the University from a Bath bookseller.   

Vesalius, A., 1543. De Humani Corporis Fabrica. Basle: Oporinus.

Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) of Brussels studied medicine in Paris under Galenists Guinter and Sylvius (though the latter subsequently became Vesalius’ academic enemy). Once he became an anatomical lecturer at Padua, Vesalius broke with Galenic teaching methods in so far as he did the dissections himself. Paduan judge Marcantonio Contarini would delay criminal executions so as to keep cadavers fresh and facilitate Vesalius’ research. This supply of cadavers allowed for repeated dissections and comparative anatomical analysis, which resulted in the De Humani Corporis Fabrica. The publication of the Fabrica made Vesalius famous and ultimately gained him the post of physician to Charles V of Spain and later to Philip II. He died on the island of Zante in 1564 whilst returning from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

De Humani Corporis Fabrica, 1543, reformed an anatomical science based on received wisdom towards observation and experimentation. Sixteenth century anatomy was based on the teachings of the ancient Greek physician Galen, whose work was derived from animal dissection. Vesalius challenged both Galenist theory and the hands-off teaching methods of doctors who “perched up aloft in a pulpit like jackdaws, and with a notable air of disdain they drone out information about facts they have never approached at first hand, but which they merely commit to memory from the books of others”. Breaking with tradition, Vesalius and his students began to map the uncharted territory of the human body. The ‘opening’ and exploration of the microcosm of the human body paralleled the opening and exploration of geographical space in the Age of Discovery. The body was conceived of as a terra incognita requiring skills of exploration analoguous to those displayed by heroic voyagers on the high seas. No cost was spared in producing this educational work, novel for its use of precise annotations, illustrations and texts. Illustrated in the studio of Titian, and engraved on wood blocks, the images were carefully transported by donkey from Italy to the world class printer Johannes Oporinus in Basle.

The De Humani Corporis Fabrica in Special Collections is bound in a single modern leather volume. At some time in the past, presumably to preserve the title page, it was remounted and bound in at page 49. The volume is divided into 7 books: I bones and cartilages, II ligaments and muscles, III Vascular System, IV Nerves, V Organs of Nutrition and Generation, VI Heart, and VII Brain. The volume passed through the Society for the Advancement of Medicine and Surgery in Amsterdam (Genootschap Bevordering der Genees en Heelkunde te Amsterdam) and the book dealer Oswald Weigel of Leipzig, before reaching the Bristol Medio-Chirurgical Society Library, subsequently incorporated into the University of Bristol Medical Library.

Moll, H., 1724. A Set of Fifty New and Correct Maps of England and Wales, with The Great Roads and Cross-Roads Shewing the Computed Miles from Town to Town. London: Moll.

Herman Moll (1654?-1732) was a German engraver and book seller who arrived in the UK around 1675. Although it is known that he was born in the hanseatic city of Bremen, little is known of his family history. Moll likely sold his work from a stall in London, before opening a shop in 1688 in Blackfriars, which later relocated to Charring Cross and then to Strand. Moll’s first independent work was A System of Geography, 1701. In 1708 he reproduced Morden’s county maps entitled Fifty-Six New and Accurate Maps of Great Britain and in 1711 he founded the monthly magazine Atlas Geographus which ran for 6 years. Thereafter, Moll produced a pair of rare pocket globes as well as popular pocket atlases and a book on the South Sea Company which contributed to the South Sea stock bubble. Moll’s most famous work is The World Described, 1715, which contains the “Beaver Map”, also known as A New and Exact Map of the Dominions of the KING of GREAT BRITAIN on the Continent of NORTH AMERICA. It supported the case for British Empire and by aligning his work with the opinions of London’s intellectual and political elite, it was an opportunity for Moll to gain social acceptance. Moll also produced fantasy maps for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and inspired Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Moll’s reputation as a leading map maker of the period is derived from his near 60-year career and his output of excellent maps with detailed annotations, texts and illustrations. Upon his death in 1732, the Bowens bought his copperplates.

A Set of Fifty New and Correct Maps of England and Wales with The Great Roads and Principal Cross-Roads, Shewing the Computed Miles from Town to Town also known as the New Description of England and Wales was published in 1724. The title page claims that all except 2 of the maps are composed and produced by Moll “and, to render this Work more acceptable to the Curios, the Margins of each Map are adorn’d with great variety of very remarkable Antiquities.”

The Special Collections’ copy of A Set of Fifty New and Correct Maps of England and Wales of 1724 is bound in leather with tooled metal clasps and bears the water mark of a snake swallowing its tail. The copy was obtained from the bookseller Gregory of Bath for £1 s7 in 1932. An unrelated map of Somersetshire donated by Percy Chester Esq. in 1936 is to be found protected in an envelope in the back of the atlas. The maps are outlined in colour and the maps of Britain and of England and Wales fold out. The handwriting of the old press mark B.n = 13 matches that of other tomes bought in the same consignment from Gregory’s and suggests that the atlas may have belonged to library of the Dukes of Beaufort.

Bowen, E. and T. Kitchin, 1787. The Large English Atlas. London: Bowen.

Emanuel Bowen (1693-1767) of Carmarthenshire began his career as a globe and instrument maker’s apprentice. A Master Freemason and engraver, he was notable for producing new and improved maps of Wales and for his great output of engraved illustrations in British periodicals. In London, Bowen apprenticed both Thomas Kitchin and Thomas Jefferys and became Royal Geographer to George II and Royal Cartographer to Louis XV of France. Bowen was known for his exemplary Rococo style and annotated borders, full of panoramas and vignettes, and explanatory texts. Whilst famous for his skill, industry, and royal appointments, Bowen died penniless in London.

Thomas Kitchin (1719-84) of London, was apprenticed to Bowen from 1732-1739 and married his master’s daughter Sarah. Kitchin’s beautiful Rococo engravings were rewarded when Armstrong’s Survey of Northumberland (1769) won a Society of Arts 50 guinea prize. In 1773 Kitchin was appointed Hydrographer to the King, a role inherited by his apprenticed son. A deacon of his Baptist community, Kitchin died in 1784 with the request for a funeral of “as little expense as may be”.

The Large English Atlas first printed in 1755, ran for 32 years over 6 editions. It was produced by Bowen and his apprentice Thomas Kitchin who began the project in 1749 engraving new county maps from recent surveys. The atlas was the first to cover England and Wales on a large scale and contained many of the largest county maps ever produced. The Large English Atlas was the best collection of county maps of the period, popular due to the attractive panoramas, vignettes and explanatory texts of towns and the local economy accompanying the maps.

The Special Collections’ copy of Large English Atlas was bequeathed to the University of Bristol in 1986 by Mrs J.M. Eyles. It has manuscript annotations and colouring attributed to geologist William Smith, as indicated on the leather and cloth bindings. It was hypothesised that Smith used the Large English Atlas to record his geological findings which he later published in his 1815 map and the 1819 Geological Atlas. A recent examination by William Smith expert Professor Hugh Torrens of Keele University casts doubt on this original assertion, citing differences in handwriting, vocabulary and that its near completeness as a geological atlas dates it later than first thought.  

Smith, W., 1817-1819. Geological Cross Sections, with Cornish sections by R. Thomas. London: Cary.

William Smith was born into a rural Oxfordshire family in 1769 and became a land surveyor specialising in water supply and drainage. The "Father of English Geology", William "Strata" Smith discovered that not only do layers of rock (strata) display a certain succession, but also that certain fossils belong to a certain strata. Employment with the Somerset Canal Company presented him the opportunity to test his theory, as the cutting of the canal revealed different rock layers. After working for the Coal Canal Company, Smith became a highly sought after freelance surveyor and geologist, sponsored by the president of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks. At the time Smith's achievement was largely ignored by British academia due to his lesser education and background. Never profiting from his research, Smith sold his geological collection to pay his debts, and later sold all his assets so as to produce his Geological Atlas of England and Wales. However, all this did not spare him from the debtor's prison. Only in later life was he recognised for his work and received the first Wollaston medal from the Geological Society, a £100 royal pension and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters. Smith died on 28 August 1839.

The Special Collections Geological Cross Sections book is bound in marble patterned paper and leather with gold lines. The cross sections by William Smith, altogether six in number, date from 1817 and 1819 and were published by John Cary, who also published the accompanying Cornish sections by Richard Thomas (1779-1858), surveyor and civil engineer. Thomas's sections were also issued in his Report on a Survey of the Mining District of Cornwall, from Chasewater to Camborne, another Cary publication of 1819. The front leaf bears the watermark of J. Whatman, Turkey Mill 1825, attesting not only to the quality of the publication but also to its possible earliest binding date. Tucked in the front is a loose manuscript cross section by a T. Sopwith, likely to be Thomas Sopwith (1803-1879), a civil engineer from Newcastle. Sopwith was the Dean Forest Mining Act Commissioner for the Crown, who helped establish the Mining Record Office and was an early member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. The bookplate identifies the owner George Clementson Greenwell, born in Newcastle in 1821 and educated in Edinburgh. He was the Viewer at collieries in Durham before taking posts in Somerset and Cheshire. In later life Greenwell became a mining consultant and founded the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers in 1852, which issues a medal in his name. Greenwell died near Derby in 1900. The last identified owner before acquisition by Dr. and Mrs. Eyles is an A Templeman whose name is pencilled in the preliminary pages. This was possibly A.E. Templeman, under-manager at St. Helens Colliery No. 3 from 1934 to 38 at Siddick, Workington, Whitehaven.

Smith, W., 1819. Geological Atlas. London: Cary.

William Smith was born into a rural Oxfordshire family in 1769 and became a land surveyor specialising in water supply and drainage. The “Father of English Geology”, William “Strata” Smith discovered that not only do layers of rock (strata) display a certain succession, but also that certain fossils belong to a certain strata. Employment with the Somerset Canal Company presented him the opportunity to test his theory, as the cutting of the canal revealed different rock layers. After working for the Coal Canal Company, Smith became a highly sought after freelance surveyor and geologist, sponsored by the president of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks. At the time Smith’s achievement was largely ignored by British academia due to his lesser education and background. Never profiting from his research, Smith sold his geological collection to pay his debts, and later sold all his assets so as to produce his Geological Atlas of England and Wales. However, all this did not spare him from the debtor’s prison. Only in later life was he recognised for his work and received the first Wollaston medal from the Geological Society, a £100 royal pension and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters. Smith died on 28 August 1839.

Smith’s Geological Atlas was issued in parts from 1819 and it marks the culmination of geological maps of English counties started two years earlier. Smith is most famous for the first geological map of Britain, the large England and Wales with Part of Scotland (1815). The map is 5 miles to the inch and it won Smith 50 guineas (£2200 today). As a surveyor overseeing the cutting of canals and draining of marshes, Smith took the opportunity to record rock types up and down the country. These were first recorded in a manuscript geological map from 1801. It is argued that Smith’s work changed the world, enabling greater economic development through the better exploitation of the earth’s resources.

The maps of the giant Special Collections Geological Atlas are mounted and bound in modern green cloth-covered boards.  At the rear are bound the cover titles of the six parts in which the maps were originally issued. The maps of each county are engraved by John Cary and coloured by hand. The colour codes for the different strata are not presented in a key but surround the map, accompanied by textual explanations. The codes were meant to be looked up in the Geological Table of British Organised Fossils available from the publisher for a further 1 shilling and 6 pennies. The Geological Atlas and Geological Cross Sections by Smith belong to the Eyles collection, bequeathed to the University in 1986. The accession register kept by Dr. and Mrs. Eyles shows that they bought the county maps comprising the Geological Atlas in 1974 for £63. The collection also includes a self-portrait by Smith in a treatise on Geology by Professor William Buckland.

de Schlagintweit, Hermann, Adolphe and Robert, 1861. Scientific Mission to India and High Asia. Leipzig and London: Brockhaus and Trübner.

The five German Schlagintweit brothers were tutored from a young age by the Egyptologist Franz Joseph Lauth. Uninterested in their father’s profession of medicine, they immersed themselves in science. Their studies of the Alps gained them academic recognition and it was through the patronage of Alexander von Humboldt that three of the brothers were sponsored by the British East India Company, the Royal Society and the King of Prussia for an expedition to Central Asia. Much like von Humboldt, the brothers were obsessed about measuring. They believed that the more data they collected, the more accurate their understanding of the natural world would be, to the extent that “quantity became quality”. Using this data, the atlas imagery employs realism to become a perfect, knowable visual replica of a foreign region for a far removed domestic audience.

The Schlagintweits’ goal was to undertake a magnetic survey of Central Asia, thereby contributing to the early nineteenth century’s biggest scientific project, the understanding of the earth’s magnetic field. They left England for Bombay in September 1854, regularly taking measurements whilst at sea, going as far as to log the temperature of their champagne onboard! The brothers travelled different routes across the Madras so as to gather three sets of data. They spent the majority of 3 years in India before heading into the mountains, covering 18,000 miles on foot.  Herman and Robert would return to Europe with 340 crates of material and a fortune of 60,000 gulden (around £3.8 million today). Adolf stayed in Asia, determined to become the first European to visit the mythical city of Kashgar since Marco Polo almost five centuries earlier. On his arrival in 1857, Adolf was captured and beheaded by the rebellious chieftain Vali Khan.

The Results of a Scientific Mission was never completed as Herman and Robert delayed their write-up in anticipation of Adolph’s return and added expertise. Of the nine oversized, loose sheet volumes proposed, only four were produced. On the Continent, the Schlagintweits’ work was well received but in Britain accusations of incompetence and wastefulness were made. This was, in part, due to envy and bias within British society and academia, exacerbated by the vengeful scientist Joseph Hooker, who had been passed over for the mission. Moreover, the Indian Mutiny and the rise of Bismarck strained international politics, strengthening nationalistic sentiment and raising the question of why Germans had been appointed for a British mission.

The incomplete Results of a Scientific Mission was never destined for success. The mission covered much ground already known and was of little use to European Imperialism, preoccupied by Chinese relations in the region and uninterested in exploiting the mountainous lands of Central Asia for trade. Nor did the Magnetic Survey aid colonial rule, remaining unused and quickly forgotten. Instead, it is argued that the mission was for the betterment of Science. The Schlagintweits and Western Europe increasingly believed in being able to measure, know and control nature. Thus, beyond a mode of enquiry, Science had become a religion and the mission to Asia its pilgrimage.

Sharrock, J.T.R., 1976. The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. Tring: British Trust for Ornithology.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) was founded in 1933 and is a charitable institution that harnesses civilian research to record changing bird populations, so as to aid and inform professionals, policy makers and the public. The Trust is a world leader in high quality, long term, detailed data on birds, habitats and other organisms produced through a network of 40,000 volunteers coordinated by professionals. The Irish Wildbird Conservatory (IWC), also known as BirdWatch Ireland, was established in 1968 and is the largest independent Irish conservation organisation. They work to preserve wild birds and their habitats in Ireland through volunteer surveys, nature reserves and conservation projects. In 1967, Tim Sharrock, the BTO and the IWC produced the first national atlas to show the precise geographical distribution of breeding birds in Britain and Ireland.

The Atlas of Breeding Birds used data gathered by 10,000 to 15,000 birdwatchers between 1968 and 1972. It claimed to be “the most comprehensive co-operative ornithological project ever undertaken”, and the inspiration for sixteen other European projects.  The atlas was inspired by the pioneering works of Tim Norris and the West Midland Bird Club who were the first to use the 10 km2 grid system which replaced subjective and local data with systematic survey. The atlas is the first in a series that was expanded in 1986, in 1993 and in a forthcoming edition set for August 2013.

The atlas belonged to the Geography Library. If compared with later atlases, one can see a decline in farmland bird ranges and the impacts of climate change. Comparisons can be made on the BTO website. Whilst some populations and ranges are increasing, the majority of bird populations shown in this exhibition are decreasing. The Grey Partridge and the Turtle Dove are two species which have suffered the most.  

Jacobs, C.A., 1979. Clwyd in Computer Graphics: A Social and Environmental Atlas. Mold: Clwyd County Council.

Colin Alfred (James) Jacobs was a planning officer for Clwyd County Council. Clwyd County Council was created in 1974 when the Government in Wales was reorganised, replacing parishes with larger community councils. However, by 1996 Clwyd County had been replaced by Conwy, Denbighshire, Wrexham and Flintshire unitary authorities. Based on the 1971 census, the atlas applies developing computing technology, “fast becoming an established part of local government planning practice”, to produce graphics using graph plotter programs and an IBM line printer. This new technology had a profound impact on cartography. The book opens with the quote, “even if no new technological innovations occurred in the next 25 years, the field of cartography would still be taxed in its efforts to utilise the technology of 1975 to full advantage and to develop a sound conceptual view of itself.”

The Geography Library atlas is bound in laminated computer paper and a plastic spine. The first page is made of tracing paper showing the county districts composed of right angles and straight lines and is intended to be overlaid on the following maps. For reasons of confidentiality the small communities of Llanarmon Mynydd Mawr and Erddig are excluded from the maps. At the time of mapping, the communities had 38 and 19 inhabitants respectively and the census operated on a 10% sample basis. Thus, the anonymity of particiapants could not be guaranteed.

Danckerts, J., ca.1696. Atlas. Amsterdam: Danckerts.

The Danckerts Family of Amsterdam were a map, art, print and book publishing dynasty founded by Cornelis I (1604-1656) in the latter half of the 1620s. It lasted four generations until 1727 when Theodorus II died and the plates, including those of the Danckerts Atlas, were sold.

The maps of the Danckerts Atlas were first produced in the early 1680s. The first known original Danckerts Atlas (with 24 maps, a title page and an index) was compiled in the spring of the year 1688, after which its geographical coverage was expanded through the addition of further maps. From 1690, editions contained 30, 37 or 50 maps, whilst beyond 1700, editions held 60 or 75 maps, culminating in the 100 map editions of 1705 onwards. At present, there are some 35 known folio volumes of the atlas. The title page displays the name Justus I Danckerts (1635-1701) and the maps have been engraved mostly by the members of his family. Whilst a geographical world atlas, the Danckerts Atlas also offers war maps, battle plans, panoramas and prints of fortresses and Dutch war ships. Additional materials of interest to the reader have been included such as geographical-historical tables of flags and travel distances between European cities.

The Special Collections Danckerts Atlas is part of the Bristol Moravian Church Archive and Library and has been on long term loan since 1951. The Moravian chapel was to be found where the Bristol Eye and Dental hospital is now. It was presented by Dr. H. O. Stephens to the Moravian Church in 1871. This atlas, originally of 26 sheets, was produced by the Danckerts firm between 1696 and 1697. The original printed index page has been heavily amended and rewritten to reflect the addition of Moravian settlement panoramas and other maps which together create an enlarged, composite atlas of 88 maps. The Danckerts maps are grouped geographically with others, such as those by the German eighteenth-century map publisher J. B. Homann (1664-1724) and his heirs.  It was rebound in 1950 in Bristol, with a collection of 12 other eighteenth-century maps. The most recent map in the volume is a small “theatre of war” of Italy published by J. Fairburn of London in 1796.

Jefferys, T., 1775. West-India Atlas. London: Sayer and Bennett.

Little is known of Thomas Jefferys’ early life. He was born ca.1719 and was apprenticed to Emanuel Bowen in 1735. His first independent work as a Merchant Taylors’ Freeman was a collaboration with Bowen’s other apprentice Thomas Kitchin, entitled The Small English Atlas, 1748-9. Jefferys engraved maps of the Americas, including the definitive Fry-Jefferson map of Virginia. Growing tensions over claims to the Americas were encapsulated in Jefferys’ The Conduct of the French, with Regard to Nova Scotia, 1754 which ‘uncovered’ French cartographical trickery. The period, which culminated in the Seven Years War (1756-63), was profitable for Jefferys, as demand was high for updated maps that allowed the conflict to be tracked by audiences at home. In 1760 he became Geographer to King George III and with the end of the war and decline in demand for American maps, his focus shifted to large-scale mapping of British counties. Jefferys also made early geographical board games such as The Royal Geographical Pastime (The Tour of Europe), 1768. He was declared bankrupt in 1766, most likely due to overinvestment in the large-scale surveys. It is argued he went to Paris in 1768 to find new wealth only to be arrested for the possession of indecent images. He died in 1771 and was buried at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London.

The West-India Atlas was published posthumously by Robert Sayer and John Bennett in 1775 and reflects interest in the sugar trade. Eighty percent of European sugar, totalling one fifth of all imports came from plantations in the West Indies. The atlas opens with 27 pages of text, followed by charts and maps divided into three parts: the first consists of a series of six charts guiding a navigator from England to the West Indies; the second is an index chart followed by a series of seventeen charts of the West Indies that could be combined to create an overview of the entire region; and the third part includes a collection of sixteen maps of islands in the area. Here one can clearly see the difference in purpose between charts and maps, as the charts display oceans full of rhumb lines accompanied by busy coastlines and empty hinterlands, whilst the maps show topographic details, settlement plans and road networks, all floating in an empty sea. The atlas ran for five editions under Jefferys’ name, and continued to be produced by others in updated forms until the 19th century. A protestant production, the atlas describes Pope Alexander VI as “one of the worst of men who ever abused sovereign power”, and his lead in the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 which divided the New World between Spain and Portugal. The atlas claims that under Catholic rule, “all the islands were cultivated by Africans, badly fed, half naked, beat and used more unmercifully than the most stubborn beasts of our country.” It denounces slavery as “the disgrace of the age, [that] has so deeply taken root, it is become necessary to the present state of affairs, and our wants have justified it in a manner so absolute, that it is now almost a ridiculous common-place to cry out against the barbarity and cruelty of it.”

The Special Collections West-India Atlas or A Compendious Description of the West-Indies: Illustrated with Forty Correct Charts and Maps, Taken From Actual Surveys is dedicated to Sir William Young, Captain-General and Governor of Dominica. It has been rebound in leather and paper boards with an original fragment of the spine, displaying the title, tucked inside an envelope in the front cover. The atlas was presented to University College by J. Beames Esq. on the 27th of November 1908. The pictorial title page has had a barrel cut from it, separating the depiction of a European from a group of Africans. The final page of the introduction has had the centre of a cartouche removed and has since been pasted over by repairs.

Teachers of Fulneck Academy, 1853. The Moravian Atlas, Embracing the Statistics of the Church of the United Brethren, In her Home and Foreign Departments. Fulneck: Fulneck Academy.

The teachers of Fulneck Academy, authors of the Moravian Atlas, were members of the Moravian Church or Church of the United Brethren in Fulneck, Pudsey, West Yorkshire. The town was established in 1744 on land leased by Benjamin Ingham. Fulneck refers to a place in North Moravia, present day Czech Republic, where the church has its roots in the fifteenth century. As Hussites fleeing religious persecution in the Catholic Habsburg Empire, the Moravians moved to Germany and built a settlement named Herrnhut on the lands of Count Zindendorf in 1722. By 1727 the community had fractured but was reunited by a peace agreement. In the same year Herrnhut, and therefore the Moravian Church, underwent a communal spiritual awakening and began undertaking missionary work to spread the Gospel. The Moravians were the first missionaries to Jamaica and one of the first protestant Churches to undertake missionary work. Their travels to North America and the West Indies required them to depart from London, where they opened a chapel in Fetter Lane in 1740. During this period the Moravians were joined by the Wesley brothers who would later found the Methodist movement. The Act of Parliament Acta Fratrum in 1749 recognised the Moravians in England and prevented their missionaries from being conscripted to military service. The Moravians are also known for their prayer groups within other churches and their daily watchwords.

The Moravian Atlas Embracing Statistics of the Church of the United Brethren is an English adaptation of a book produced in Herrnhut. It was published in 1853 and was meant for use within the church. It shows a map of the world with Moravian missions, as well as maps of Germany, England, America, Greenland, West Indies, Suriname, South Africa and Australia. The atlas reports that in 1852 the Church cared for 70,047 souls, led by 290 missionaries over 72 stations in 13 mission fields. From 1732 to 1852 (120 years), the Moravian Church counted 1947 missionaries. Of these 643 died in service and 34 perished in untimely deaths of which 19 were violent.

A printed advertisement slip in the Special Collections copy announces: ‘Orders for this work received by Mr. A. Smith and Mr. B. Harvey, Fulneck, near Leeds, price four shillings’. This copy is a small green cloth volume with the title stamped in Gold. It was presented to the University in 1955.

von Steinwehr,  A., and D.G. Brinton, 1877. The Eclectic Series of Geographies and Intermediate Geography with Lessons in Map Drawing. Cincinnati: Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co.

German Baron Adolph Wilhelm August Friedrich von Steinwehr (1822-1877) was a Brigadier General for the Union in the American Civil War, after which he became a professor at Yale and a geography textbook author.  Daniel Garrison Brinton (1837-1899) was an American student at Yale who joined the Federal army as an assistant surgeon in 1862. He retired from service to Philadelphia and became the editor of the Medical and Surgical Reporter, and later, professor of American Linguistics and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1886. His support for scientific racism, common of the American School of Anthropology, is apparent in this textbook where he claims that “The White race is superior to all the others” (p. 13).

This is the second book in The Eclectic Series of Geographies. The first in the school book series is entitled Primary Geography (1870) and the third A Mathematical, Physical, and Political Description of the Earth (1877). This volume reduces the continents and states to abstract shapes in order to facilitate their memorization and graphic reproduction. The Eclectic Education Series were collections of Christian educational material reportedly available from 1865 to 1915. They saw decline in use after World War II as a result of education reforms. Early twentieth century surveys suggest that between 1836 and 1900 more than half of American school children were influenced by the Eclectic Series.  These educational atlases present a world view rooted in colonial narratives and racist theories typical of the time. The original nineteenth century Eclectic Education Series curriculum, reproduced on CD, is still sold in America today for homeschooling.

The Special Collections school atlas is heavily graffitied and in poor condition. The boards are faded and the front has detached. The cover would have displayed a picturesque river meander with youngsters surrounded by deer and birds. Among the scribbles on the title page are the names CY Bell, Hardin Ohio and Edwin E. Bill, March 22 1884. On the back pages are notes of the Bill family’s arrival in Dallas in 1891 and on Pastor Charles Taze Russell’s (1852 - 1916) 1911 sermon. Pastor Russell was the founder of the Bible Student Movement, of which the Jehovah’s Witnesses are the best known branch. Therefore, it may be assumed that the owner of the atlas, likely of the Bill family, was a member of the Bible Student movement and the Watch Tower Society.


Harper & Brothers, 1880. Harper’s School Geography: With Maps and Illustrations Prepared Expressly for this Work by Eminent American Artists. New York: Harper & Brothers.

James and John Harper founded their New York publishing house in 1817, renaming it Harper & Brothers in 1833 after being joined by their other brothers Wesley and Fletcher. The brothers were known for their industry and quality, becoming America’s largest printers in the 1930s. Harper’s School Geography was published after the last first-generation Harper brother died in 1877. Today, Harper is part of HarperCollins.

Harper’s School Geography is an American school book designed so that the “perfect clearness and legibility of the maps and the character of the type used in the text prevent injury to the sight of the pupil and teacher.”  The atlas addresses each area of the United States and the world through chapters on physical and economic geography.  It states the truth that Geography “is second in importance only to reading, writing and rudimentary arithmetic.” The title page shows portraits of the founding fathers of modern geography, Carl Ritter and Alexander von Humboldt. The panoramas of mountains, cities and industries were printed from wood engravings and each section ends with exercise questions. The atlas encourages cartography and the sketching of maps, emphasising the suitability of the visual to represent space.

The atlas belonged to a C.V. Bell of Polk County, Dallas, Ore, who may have been Calista Vinton Bell (1869-1885). Whilst Calista may, in a state of confusion, have been the one to scribble “I hate geography”, her initials also appear in the Eclectic Series of Geographies, making her the proud owner of more than one geography book! Like in the Eclectic Series of Geographies, a later owner used the back pages to record a list of 25 tracts ordered from the Watch Tower Society on the 24th of February, 1910.

Harmsworth, ca. 1908. Atlas and Gazetteer of the World. London: Harmsworth.

Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe (1865-1922) was born in Ireland but grew up in Hampstead, England, becoming a free lance journalist. He founded the magazine Answers to Correspondents and together with his brother, Harmsworth created the Amalgamated Press. The two brothers pioneered a ‘new journalism’ for ‘the busy man’ and popular tabloid publishing, launching the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror.

Harmsworth’s success owes to both his focus on costs and efficiency, using mechanised printing, telegraph communication, and his understanding of his readership. He employed catchy headlines, images and a ‘woman’s page’ to increase interest and gain readers, whilst simultaneously locating sale points conveniently and close by his target audience. Harmsworth was a shrewd businessman and patriot. With the outbreak of WWI his Daily Mail positioned itself as the people’s paper, paying postage for soldiers’ letters home. Harmsworth was notorious for refusing to be affiliated with any political party. In acquiring the Times, he achieved his desire for independent highbrow political influence. Harmsworth died at the age of 57 having been accused of megalomania by Prime Minister Lloyd George. 

The Special Collections atlas is bound in green buckram boards and has been well used. The opening pages display the flags of the British Empire and the tile page world map uses a cordiform projection.  The cosmographic heart accentuates the northern continents, whilst the atlas claims to democratise geographical information on a scale that “has never before been attempted in the history of geographical publishing.” In binding Britain and the world in a double spread, Harmsworth’s patriotic advocacy of the British Empire is revealed. In keeping with his mission to publish for the busy, working man, the atlas is “a single volume of modest price, so arranged as to be readily accessible, a complete encyclopaedia of geographical information, which hitherto has only been available to the few who could afford to purchase a library of expensive works of reference – works, moreover, which requires for their use trained intelligence and ample leisure.”

Vivien de Saint-Martin, L. and F. Schrader, 1923. Atlas Universel de Géographie. 2nd edition. Paris: Hachette.

Louis Vivien de Saint-Martin (1802-1897) was a French historical geographer. The 2nd edition of the atlas was edited by Jean Daniel François Schrader (1844-1924), known as Franz Schrader. He was a French cartographer, professor of geography and head of the Hachette cartography department. An avid mountaineer, he mapped the Pyrenees and was the first to climb the Grand Batchimale mountain which was later renamed Pic Schrader. Schrader invented the orograph, a device that enabled the drawing of 360o panoramas. However, his device never sold, being quickly superseded by developments in photography. An impressionist painter, Schrader was notable for presenting new, mobile perspectives on landscapes.

The Atlas Universel was one of the most comprehensive of its time. It makes Eurocentric claims for progress by juxtaposing new and old world geographies. Moreover as an educational tool, it imparts the concept of building a “new world” after the horrors of WWI.

The big atlas is bound in red cloth patterned covers with an embossed, gold title. The book is held together by metal braces running either side of the spine.

De Agostini, G., 1936. Le regioni dell’Impero Italiano d’Etiopia. Atlantino e testo. Genova: Ortelli.

In 1922, a coup d’état installed Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) as the Italian Prime Minister. Fascist reconceptualisations of mare nostrum and impero romano, combined with a poor domestic economy, previous limited colonial success during the Scramble for Africa, and feelings of unfair land apportionment under the Treaty of Versailles (1919) were used as both motivations and justifications for empire (re)building. Italy invaded Ethiopia in October 1935, resulting in the League of Nations Abyssinian Crisis. Two years later Italy left the League and in 1939 allied with Nazi Germany. Italy held Ethiopia for five years until 1941 when it was freed by allied forces.

Giovanni De Agostini (1941) was an Italian cartographer and geographer who founded the De Agostini publishing house in 1901. After graduating from Turin, De Agostini visited Germany to study cartography. His son Federico would go on to develop a new, simple style of geopolitical cartography.

This atlas is an example of geopolitical cartography which was both purposefully ideological and intuitive, meant for mass consumption and was a means to articulate and justify political goals. Maps lend themselves well to propaganda as inherent in a map’s creation are choices on topics and information to be displayed. However, unlike other geopolitical maps which aim to convey dynamism, here the lack of abstract shapes, arrows of invasion, arcs of alliance and circles of influence produces a stable cartography that denies the recent change in land ownership. Moreover, to justify the ‘reclaiming’ of Italian lands, each entry discusses Italian explorers who “discovered” the regions as early as 1878. The swift production of the atlas, at completion of the conquest both solidifies the new ownership and also erases past history. The paperback atlas starts with the Ethiopian region of Tigray (Tigrai) and the use of cut-outs allows the reader to familiarize themselves with the newly conquered territories and “build” the Italian Empire as they leaf through its pages. At the cost of 4 Lire (4 Euros today), this cheap atlas could maximise its readership and thus the transfer of its contents into common knowledge.

Richards, J.H. and K.I. Fung, 1969. Atlas of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan.

Born in Wales in 1916, J. Howard Richards graduated with a B.Sc. in Geography from the University of Wales in 1938. From 1943 to 1946 he served in the Canadian army and after the war he studied for an MA and later a PhD at the University of Toronto. In 1959 the University of Saskatchewan created a Geography Department of which Professor Richards became the head. His interests included land use, the environment and urban planning. Dr. Ka-Iu Fung was a professor of Geography at the University of Saskatchewan from 1983-2002.. Born in Hong Kong in 1935 (died 2013) and an expert on Chinese urbanization, Fung contributed significantly to the 1969 Atlas of Saskatchewan and was the editor of the award winning second edition in 1999. The second edition, available in part at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com, allows for comparison of Saskatchewan over 30 years.

Richards and Fung’s atlas is the first of Saskatchewan, one of the two landlocked Canadian states. The colonial history of Saskatchewan is apparent in its rough trapezoid shape, formed by borders that approximately follow lines of latitude and longitude, rather than any natural features. Published “at a time of dramatic social and economic transformation”, the atlas mirrors the transformation of 100 years earlier when in 1869 the Rupert’s Land Purchase led to the North-West Rebellion. Rupert’s Land (3 million hectares) was bought by the Canadian government from the Hudson Bay Company, without consulting the Métis people who lived there. Failure by the Canadian government to honour treaties and promises led to inequality and social unrest.

The atlas was bought with Geography Library Map funds in 1970.  The front endpaper shows the world on a zenithal equidistant projection placing Canada in the centre, whilst the rear endpaper implies that beyond 55oN there is just wilderness. To produce high-quality multi-coloured maps, the 1969 atlas replaced pen and ink drafting with cutting-edge film-based printing. Whilst basic computer mapping and line printing was being developed, their quality was inferior to the labour-intensive manual production of these films (see Jacobs 1979). The 1999 edition exploited developments in GIS and computing technology, presenting the work on paper, online, and on CD, so as to capitalise on new styles of learning and levels of interactivity.

Putzger, F.W., 1907. Historischer Schul-Atlas zur Alten, Mittleren und Neuen Geschichte. Bielefeld: Velhagen & Klasing.

Friedrich Wilhelm Putzger (1849-1913) was a German cartographer and teacher who in 1877 produced the world’s widest selling historical atlas ever published in German. The school atlas has been revised more than 100 times and is still popular today, having celebrated 135 years in 2012. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries German productions dominated the historical atlas genre and exerted great influence also at an international level. They were printed in many languages and Putzger’s was used as the basis for the American Shepherd’s Historical Atlas.

School atlases are pivotal in a student’s understanding of the world, history and of their national identity. Putzger’s atlas unfolds a narrative of imperial evolution, with maps taking the reader from the Roman Empire through the Holy Roman Empire to contemporary Germany. The Nazi party adapted later editions of the Putzger’s atlas to aid their National Socialist indoctrination and to support the narrative in which the Third Reich was rooted.

The atlas also shows the evolution of Prussia, the advance of Napoleon’s France and the unification of Germany in 1871. The Franco-Prussian war maps show the capture of Metz, the siege of Paris and the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. The age of discovery and colonialism are shown, including a map entitled the “Division of Africa” by colonial powers.

The atlas is a brown hardback with a red spine and has patterned front endpapers whilst the rear endpapers display publisher’s adverts for other text books.

World Publishing Company, 1943. The New Matthews-Northrup Global Atlas of the World at War: With Invasion Maps that Cover All Possible Points of Invasion. Cleveland: World Publishing Company.

The World Publishing Company, Cleveland, Ohio (est. 1929), was founded by Polish immigrant Alfred H. Cahen. Cahen developed automatic printing machines for his company which would later be adopted by other publishers and the US government. The company published educational materials and bibles, becoming the USA’s largest bible printers and second largest dictionary printers of the 1940s and ’50s. In the 1960s the World Publishing Company was bought by Times-Mirror Inc. who then sold it to the dictionary publishers Collins in 1974. 1980s inflation saw Collins break up the World Publishing Company and sell parts off.

In 1933 Adolf Hitler came to power and enacted emergency powers, dissolving the parliament and driving the process of Gleichschaltung which removed political opponents and trade unions, curbed the power of the Church and formed a National Socialist state. By 1937 Hitler had announced his plans for war which began in 1939 with the invasion of Poland and continued with the Soviet invasion of Finland. By 1940 Denmark and Norway were occupied by Nazi Germany and Belgium and the Netherlands had capitulated leading to the British and French retreat at Dunkirk and the capture of Paris. The invasion of Britain (Operation Sea-Lion) was delayed as Nazi Germany lost the Battle of Britain. In 1941, without declaring war, the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union but the campaign (Operation Barbarossa) failed due to weather, stretched supplies and underestimation of enemy resistance. 

This Atlas of the World at War was produced after the USA joined the war in 1941. It presents the course of the conflict to an audience far removed from Europe. Its front paper cover displays a map of the northern hemisphere centred on the USA. The back cover encourages readers to become their own war analysts and use the maps in the atlas to trace the course of the war.

Canet, G., 1949. Atlas de Cuba por Gerardo Canet con la colaboración de Erwin Raisz. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gerardo Canet, born in 1911, was a student of geography at Havana University. He was sent by his professor Salvador Massip Valdes to study cartography at Harvard University under the guidance of Erwin Raisz, an old and successful friend. With the support of the most progressive American cartographers at the Institute of Geographical Exploration, Canet authored the Atlas of Cuba. The atlas was cartographically drafted by Erwin Raisz and propagated a new form of American cartography around the island and the United States more generally. It belonged to a new wave of atlases which contained many narrative “descriptions, illustrations, graphs and charts to bring cosmopolitanism and nationalism into the American home”.


The Atlas of Cuba was published during the ‘pseudo-republic’ period (1942-1959).  The supporters of the Cuban revolution believed that the country was “a colony all but in name” to the United States who controlled the country’s economy, politics and industry. The fact that the most influential university in the United States was interested in Cuban geography reflects the contemporary strategic importance of the island.

The textbook-like atlas educated Americans and Cubans about the island and its important relationship with the United States.  It gives a romantic depiction of the independent territory, free from Spanish colonial powers. The atlas means to stimulate national pride, but also emphasizes its strategic importance to the United States as “key of the gulf”. In reality, Cuba had moved from colonial to imperial hands, as the United States rapidly bought Cuban land; at one point the American Sugar Corporation owned sixty percent of all agricultural land.


The atlas declares itself as “an attempt to give a living picture of Cuba... [and] a high[er] degree of understanding to its citizens”. However, this “understanding” is from a Western imperialist perspective. The atlas projects American interests and ideals onto the Cuban landscape. It refers to the country as a “united and democratic republic, for the enjoyment of political liberty”, when in fact Carlos Prío Socarrás’ government (1948-1952) has been described as the most polarized, corrupt, violent and undemocratic in Cuba’s republican history. The atlas also emphasizes the need for Cuba to keep “developing” in order to support its expanding population. Through its historical, cultural, social and physical mappings, illustrations and texts, the atlas paints an optimistic reality of the progress achieved by the young independent state.

Academia de Ciencias de Cuba, 1970. Atlas Nacional de Cuba: En el Décimo Aniversario de la Revolución. La Habana: Academia de Ciencias de Cuba.

Antonio Nuñez Jiménez was born in 1923 in Alquizar, a village in La Havana province. He became a renowned revolutionary figure and academic who won many political and academic titles in his lifetime. He studied numerous subjects at Havana University, graduating with an Agricultural Engineering degree in 1944 and a doctorate of Philosophy in 1951. He became particularly close to Professor Salvador Massip Valdes, a geographer at Havana University who inspired many Cuban cartographers (Canet 1949).

Nuñez became the appointed chairman of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, which was created in 1962 under the guidance of the USSR. He was very influential in negotiating with the USSR since becoming ambassador in 1960. Nuñez won the ‘Lenin State Prize’, the most prestigious USSR award, for his valued work as president of the team who produced the Atlas Nacional de Cuba. He continued to work in his old age, creating the Foundation for Nature and Man in 1994, four years before his death.

The Atlas Nacional de Cuba was published in 1970 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the revolution (1953-1959). It was produced by the Institute of Geographical Sciences in Cuba in collaboration with the Institute of Geographical Sciences in the USSR. The atlas celebrates Cuba’s strengthening relations with the Soviet Union and its progression towards becoming an orthodox Soviet satellite state.

The Special Collections atlas is a large hardback, containing detailed maps of Cuba’s industries, resources, climate, topography, soil, geology, economy, transport and population. The atlas demonstrates new Soviet techniques of cartographic production, including maps of varying scale and two-page spreads at 1:1,500,000m. This ‘God’s eye view’ of Cuba would have been useful to Castro’s communist government and the USSR’s vested interests by emphasising the unity of the socialist state and its equal development. The size of the atlas and its deductive claims to objectivity make it an incredibly powerful artefact and grand statement of ideological permanence.

Organisation of African Unity, 1968. West African International Atlas. Mâcon: Imprimerie Protat Frères.

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded in 1963 and aimed to eradicate colonialism, promote political and economic cooperation and safeguard sovereignty within the African nations. With initiatives such as the creation of the African Development Bank, the OAU represented a united Africa with one voice on the global stage. The OAU was nevertheless divided by the external politics of the Cold War and past colonial ties and in 2002 it was replaced by the African Union, having been accused of being a dictator’s club that was ineffective at preventing or intervening in civil wars and human rights abuses.  The African Union comprises of 54 African states, excluding only Morocco, who does not recognise Western Sahara.

The West African International Atlas was published in 1968, which is five years after the establishment of the OAU and at the zenith of the African decolonization process that had started in the 1950s.

Plummer, T.F. Jr., W.G. Hanne, E.F. Bruner and C.C. Thudium Jr., 1971. Landscape Atlas of the USSR. West Point: United States Military Academy.

Captain Thomas F. Plummer Jr. was born in Tennessee in 1936 and enrolled at the United States Military Academy (USMA), graduating in 1959. He became an Instructor in the Environment at the USMA from June 1965 to 1970, retiring from the military nine years later as a Lieutenant Colonel.

The Landscape Atlas of the USSR was designed for and used in the instruction of cadets. It is dedicated to Colonel Charles Russell Broshous, professor and Head of the USMA Department of Earth, Space and Graphic Sciences from 1961 to 1972. In WWII Broshous was the first US officer to visit southern England charged with constructing the military base from which the Normandy invasion would depart. Under Broshous, the Military Topography and Graphics department underwent reorganisation and renaming, becoming the department of Earth, Space, and Graphic Sciences, which emphasised new digital computing technologies.

Possibly based on data derived from the USA Department of Defence CORONA Soviet missile monitoring program of 1959 to 1972,  the atlas illustrates the physical and cultural landscape of the USSR at the medium-scale (1:250,000). The atlas claims to be the first medium-scale, regionally-orientated geographic atlas of USSR. Whilst accompanied by explanatory texts and charts, the atlas prioritises seeing over reading as it aims to present Soviet man-land relationships primarily through maps. Previously, with insufficient American reconnaissance, the best maps available to the USA of the USSR were obtained from translating censored Soviet atlases. Fortunately for the USA, Soviet oversight allowed Cold War translators to gain sensitive information from unedited large-scale atlas inserts of metropolitan areas. The atlases showed climate, vegetation and drainage patterns, which are important for planning potential combat and devising escape, evasion and survival strategies. The geological maps helped identify areas suitable for underground weapons testing and discrepancies in cartographic information between atlases, such as the absence of a road or town flagged censorship, posing the question of what was being hidden and why.

The Geography Library atlas was bought with Geography Map-Library Funds in 1973. It is bound with a ring binder in black paper. In the back is a removable, fold out map of the whole USSR tucked into a sleeve.

Cucu, V., 1978. Atlasul Judeţelor din Republica Socialistă România. Bucureşti: Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică.

Vasile Cucu was born in 1927 and worked as a deputy editor for a magazine before becoming a professor in Bucharest in 1970. He specialised in human and economic geography with focus on the functionality of Romanian towns and their surrounding regions.

The Socialist Republic of Romania (1947-89) was a communist state led by Nicolae Ceaușescu from 1967 to 1989. Increasing political and religious repression, such as the 1986 destruction of churches and 1988 destruction of villages, combined with austerity led to the 1989 Romanian Revolution of Timisoara in which Ceaușescu was executed after a show trial.

The hardback Atlas is bound in hessian with a slightly skewed blue title and red shield emblem. The dust jacket carries socialist Romania’s crest and the end papers display a map of Romania divided into regions. The atlas contains a foreword by and a portrait of Ceaușescu and divides each region into physical, economic and touristic maps.

Diafora, 1982. Atlas de Catalunya: Geographic, Economic, Historic. Tercera Edició. Barcelona: Diafora.

The Atlas de Catalunya was first printed in 1974 to commemorate the 500-year anniversary of the first book printed in Catalonia. It was a successful publication due to its timely release near the end of Franco’s fascist regime (1938-1975), a period characterised by the strengthening of regional identity. Catalonia and many of Spain’s regions were denied their own identity and language under Franco but regained their historic autonomy in 1978 with Spain’s adoption of a democratic constitution.

The Atlas de Catalunya was the first regional atlas in Spain. It was part of a broader effort to fill the cultural void Franco had tried to create in the region.  Jaume Matas Tort, director and coordinator of the Atlas, explains that he “dedicated special efforts to the toponomy, with the aim of setting the correct spelling [Catalonian not Castilian] of geographical and historical names.” Within its 80 pages, the atlas showcases Catalonian geography, demography, economy and history through a linear narrative that dates as far back as the paleolithic, 450,000 years ago.

The atlas saw the collaboration of 30 specialists and representatives of Catalonian culture. The 1982 reprint of the 3rd edition is bound in red leather and embossed with the ‘500 Years of Catalonian Publishing’ commemorative stamp. The publishers Diafora no longer exist and we could not locate the owner, Luis Mercadé Nubiola.


Geographic & Drafting Institute, 1971. Atlas of Iran: White Revolution Proceeds and Progresses. Tehran: Geographic & Drafting Institute.

We are unable to display this atlas as the copyright holders cannot be seen to promote a past regime.

In 1979 Iran underwent an Islamic revolution that deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and installed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the Supreme Leader of the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran. The Shah’s father, Reza Khan had himself come to power by overthrowing the Qajar Dynasty (1921). This atlas reports the progress made by the Shah’s 1963 White Revolution, a collection of social, political, economic and land reforms that promoted private industry, increased peasant support and reinforced the Shah’s hegemony.

The atlas celebrates the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire in Farsi and English, and thus reads right to left. It opens with portraits of the Shah, his family and the flags of the nation, which are followed by historical maps showing the growth of the Persian Empire since 500 B.C. and a speech by the Shah. As common with modern national atlases, these are followed by locational, topographic and administrative maps, in which Iran is located at the centre of the Middle East and the world. After stating the twelve goals of the White Revolution, the thematic maps that record the revolution’s progress are divided into chapters, each fronted with a topical vignette within the outline of Iran, backed by the sun. The maps use the Iranian calendar to compare their topics over the Solar Hijri years ranging from 1340 to 1350 (approximately 1961 – 1971). This atlas was printed before the Shah changed the calendar’s date of origin in 1976.