Which world atlas has the most beautiful cartography?
December 6, 2010 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Which world atlas has the most beautiful cartography?

This is a gift for someone who wants pretty representations of the natural world, does not care about extensive political or demographic information, and is distracted by tables of numbers and other varieties of data-overload.

I realize that most atlases are going to contain some of everything, but I'm more interested in topographic than political maps, and as long as basic standards of accuracy are met, I'm more interested in maps as art rather than maps as data.

In addition to the maps, an atlas with plenty of high-res photography and satellite imagery would be excellent. Think coffee-table book, rather than reference work.

Because I don't care about the political data so much, I don't need up-to-the-minute accuracy. I'd prefer it not be hopelessly out of date, but anything produced within the last 10 years should be perfectly fine.
posted by miagaille to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Not an atlas, per se, but Orbit, a National Geographic book has satellite imagery of the earth good enough to use as maps in high school geography and environmental science classes. It's also gorgeous. I would recommend perusing the Nat Geo cartographic publications in general. Truly drool worthy imagery of the earth.
posted by bardophile at 8:20 AM on December 6, 2010

Another not-really-an-atlas here: Earth from Above is a beautiful coffee table book.
posted by exogenous at 8:26 AM on December 6, 2010

The cartographers at Collins Bartholomew in Scotland do some lovely work in the colossal The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World [12th edition]. It's definitely a coffee-table book; it's very substantial.
posted by scruss at 8:54 AM on December 6, 2010

Not quite an atlas, but the Raisz landform maps are something of a classic. I can't find any high-quality samples online, but here's a blog post with scans of his legends.
posted by theodolite at 9:41 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I should add that the "sample" on raiszmaps.com isn't really representative of the quality -- besides the fact of the crappy scan, I believe that's the $2, 8.5x11" unlettered US map. The bigger ones have a truly impressive amount of fine detail, and the labels are almost poetry in themselves (for example, there's a large area in Eastern Canada labeled "Laurentian Upland of Low Hills and Many Lakes," a phrase I will remember unto death).
posted by theodolite at 10:13 AM on December 6, 2010

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