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Early Atlases and How They Shaped the World: Examples from the Bell Library

Tracing the myriad geographical discoveries that were made between the 15th and 17th centuries, the maps in early European atlases formed powerful perceptions of the newly mapped regions of the world by publicizing the most accurate geographical information shortly after it was known to explorers and scientists.

During this dynamic period the atlas played a dual role as disseminator and preserving agent of geographical knowledge. After the first commercial atlases became available, in the late 15th century, people began to use them to shape their ideas about world geography. But the atlas also became the primary means of preservation that has allowed maps of the period to survive to the present day.

This exhibit explores that history, and the achievements of six landmark atlases in shaping human perceptions of world geography, illustrated by images from the James Ford Bell Library.

 

Image reference: "Nova et Accuratissima Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula [World Map]" from Joan Blaeu, Le grand atlas, ou cosmographie Blauiane en laquelle est exactement descritte la terre, la mer, et le ciel. Amsterdam, 1667. 

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