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World Atlas

Button World AtlasWorld Atlas: The origin of the word World Atlas in itself is no less interesting than the traditional meaning which has come to denote a collection of maps providing an encyclopedic wealth of information on land, people and cultures in different parts of the world. According to legends, Mauritania was once ruled by King Atlas, a great philosopher, mathematician and an astronomer who created the first celestial globe. In 1595, the great cartographer Gerardus Mercator first called his collection of maps as an “Atlas” in the honor of this legendary king Atlas.

According to an even more popular legend, Atlas – the son of Titan Iapetus and Oceanid Asia – was condemned to bear the burden of celestial sphere on his shoulders by the Greek God of Zeus. It is believed that Heracles had approached Atlas, who was holding the world, and tempted him into collecting the apples of Hesperides by offering a temporary reprieve from the burden of heavens. Atlas readily agreed to the same but on returning with the apples he wished to escape his condemned fate. However, understanding his intent well, Heracles used a little tact to leave Atlas holding up the world once again.

Atlas of the World

The world atlas, even though seen as nothing but a well-designed and bulky tome sitting on library shelves, has had a very vivid history. Here are some of the interesting bits:

  • The term ‘atlas’ comes from the King Atlas of Mauretania, who is credited with the development of the first globe.
  • The first printed atlas was produced in AD 150 by Claudius Ptolemy. It had 27 hand-drawn maps.
  • Cartography, the art of making maps, is far more ancient than the atlas. Some crudely-made maps were available as early as 7000 BCE!

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