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Times Atlas of the World

Dateline: 01/31/00

As an undergraduate, I first learned of the Times Atlas of the World shortly after the ninth edition was published in 1992. I spent countless hours pouring over a copy at my university library. I promised myself that I would purchase a copy of the next edition when it was published. Well, Times Books has been promising their tenth edition for several years but it's finally arrived and I'm so happy to finally have my very own copy of the world's greatest atlas.

The Times Atlas of the World was published just a few months ago and it's truly amazing. It's the first complete revision of the atlas since a five-volume edition in 1955-1960. The history of the Times Atlas of the World is a long one which began in 1895 with the publication of The Times Atlas, which was simply a translation of an 1880 German atlas, the Allgemeiner Handatlas.

The third "Times" atlas was The Times Atlas of the World - Mid Century Edition, which was published in five volumes from 1955 to 1960 and contained 123 plates. Then, in 1967 the modern series of Times atlases began with single-volume The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, based on the maps of the 1955-1960 edition. Subsequent editions updated the maps of earlier editions and used the same plates; these editions were issued in 1970 (2nd), 1971 (3rd), 1972 (4th), 1977 (5th), 1980 (6th), 1985 (7th), 1990 (8th), and 1992 (9th).

The brand-new tenth edition is more colorful, uses smaller font sizes for place names (allowing more place names on the map), and includes a plethora of additional geographical information in the beginning of the atlas than the prior editions.

A 31-page section of the atlas called "The World in 2000" focuses on and includes thematic maps of tectonics, the oceans, climate, land cover, population, urbanization (along with a list of the urban areas that have a population above 2 million), minerals, energy, the world economy, and communications. The atlas also includes satellite images of seven continents, geographic information about countries and territories, and the history of cartography.

But let us focus on the best part of the atlas - the tenth edition includes 123 plates of large 15.5 inch (39 cm) by 22 inch (56 cm) maps. Plates range from a scale of 1:1,000,000 to about 1:10,000,000 for regional maps although most maps are of a scale equal to or larger than 1:5,000,000.

Here's how the regions of the world are represented in the 123 plates and their order:

  • 1 world plate at a scale of 1:60,000,000
  • 10 Australia, Oceania and Pacific Islands plates (the most detailed are 1:1,000,000 maps of New South Wales & Victoria as well as New Zealand)
  • 30 Asia plate (central Japan is represented in a 1:1,000,000 map but Russia receives less coverage than in earlier editions)
  • 39 Europe plates (including four 1:1,000,000 plates of France)
  • 10 Africa plates (a 1:2,750,000 map of South Africa is the collection's most detailed, Africa is divided into eight 1:5,000,000 plates)
  • 1 Atlantic and Indian Ocean island plate
  • 19 North American plates (including 1:1,000,000 plates of Boswash [Boston to Washington, D.C.] and Southern California and Northern California.
  • 1 Caribbean plate
  • 8 South America plates (including 1:2,750,000 plates of southeast Brazil and central Argentina and Chile)
  • 1 Antarctica plate
  • 1 Atlantic and Indian Ocean plate
  • 1 Pacific Ocean plate
  • 1 Arctic plate
With its detailed plates, this edition provides comprehensive coverage of hot spots around the world. The Balkans, Caucus, Indonesia, and the Middle East are all nicely represented along with the rest of the world in great detail.

The gazetteer includes 225,000 place names, which is reportedly 30% more than the next largest atlas. The gazetteer makes finding the latitude and longitude of places around the world a breeze, it's even quicker and easier than using an online database. The gazetteer also includes grid references for quick and easy map reference in the atlas. In addition, a section of the glossary translates geographical terms in other languages to English.

The Times Altas of the World is nicely bound and includes a slipcover (which I never use since I refer to the atlas so frequently). The inside covers of the atlas provide reference maps to the plates in the atlas.

Every home needs an atlas and this one is the cream of the crop; if a library lacks this atlas, its a travesty. Although the atlas carries a US $250 suggested price, you'll be able to save a lot by purchasing the atlas through online bookstores such as Borders.com.

As with previous editions of the Times Atlas of the World, the tenth edition will certainly prove to be the standard among atlases for years to come.

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