In an age of extraordinary online mapping, it can still be useful to peruse a paper version – whether for the ability to view an image larger than your device screen, for the specialist focus some map collections can provide, or simply as a source when out and about that is not dependent on battery power or data signal!
Marylebone Information Service has a great atlases and maps collection. We receive regular requests for World and London Street atlases. Specific Ordnance Survey Landranger and Explorer series maps are also in demand either for consulting within the library or borrowed from the lending collection.
Your first port of call when consulting a world atlas should be the gorgeous Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World. This is the “grand daddy” of them all in size as well as coverage, and is a real pleasure to look at, though not to lift! In addition to country / regional maps the Atlas also includes a number of thematic maps, both political and physical, and accompanying articles on current key topics such as climate change.
If you require greater geographical detail why not consult reference copies of the Ordnance Survey Landranger and Explorer series maps which cover the whole of Great Britain?
With the rise of Google maps and rival mapping apps on mobile phones, as well as SatNavs on the car dashboard, one might think that the county atlases printed by Philips have had their day. However, they do still have a use as a source for town and city centre maps. These atlases also include greater detail for rural areas than that provided by Google maps. Where Google scores over the printed version is with its tie up to Streetview images so that a user can identify a specific building from the image of its façade.
World atlases, whilst good at depicting mountain ranges tend to gloss over the physical attributes of the surface beneath the ocean, depicting the oceans as blank. To discover ‘a new world of mountains, chasms and tectonic plates beneath the surface’, take a look at the National Geographic atlas of the ocean: the deep frontier, by Sylvia A Earle.
- The Atlas of Endangered Species
- The Atlas of Medieval Europe
- The World Atlas of Flags and many more.
Here are two examples from atlas series which include London coverage.
For boaters and towpath users, Nicholson publish regional canal guides incorporating detailed maps of the individual waterways together with practical and historical information about the waterway, adjacent settlements and features along the route.
For cyclists, Philips have published a series of regional cycling maps that explore beyond urban centers using quiet roads, byways and bridle paths. Thus the Bristol & Bath volume includes routes in the Cotswolds, lower Severn Valley, the Mendips and North Somerset. For London based cyclists there are two volumes covering the adjacent counties north and south of the Thames.
In a later post I will concentrate further on London atlases and maps, especially historical sources.