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Collection of maps or charts, usually bound together. The name derives from a custominitiated by Gerardus Mercator in the 16th centuryof using the figure of the Titan Atlas, holding the globe on his shoulders, as a frontispiece for books of maps. Abraham Ortelius's Epitome of the Theater of the World (1570) is generally thought to be the first modern atlas. Atlases often contain pictures, tabular data, facts about areas, and indexes of place-names keyed to coordinates of latitude and longitude or to a locational grid with numbers and letters along the sides of maps.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on atlas, visit Britannica.com.