Times Atlases have contained world class cartography from the publication of the first Times Atlas in 1895, to the special, bespoke, luxury editions of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World this year.
Explore some of The Times key ground-breaking maps and atlases.
Times Atlas Awards
The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, 13th edition, 2011
The Times Universal Atlas of the World, 1st edition, 2008
The Times Universal Atlas of the World, 1st edition, 2008
The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, 12th edition, 2007
Times World History and World Atlas slipcase set, 2005
The Times Concise Atlas of the World, 9th edition, 2004
The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, 11th edition, 2003
Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, 10th edition, 1999
The first atlas to be commissioned by the Times was The Times Atlas which was published in 1895, during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was a new, revised edition of Cassell's Universal Atlas (published 1891-1893). Initially issued in 15 weekly parts at 1 shilling each, the price of the cloth bound 1899 edition was 22s 6d.
It was a period when the continental hinterlands were still being explored:
Bartholomew were invited to prepare a major new, home produced, world atlas for the Times, which became the Times Survey Atlas & Gazetteer of the World. The title page describes it as "a comprehensive series of new and authentic maps reduced from the national surveys of the world and the special surveys of travellers and explorers with general index of over two hundred thousand names...". It was edited by John George Bartholomew, cartographer to the King. Originally issued in 37 fortnightly parts at 2s 6d each, 60,000 copies were printed.
Several other companies published their own atlases, but nothing rivalled The Times Survey Atlas in its sheer volume and detail. It was 15 years in the making and no expense was spared to make it the one atlas which scholars, libraries and institutions could not afford to be without. The advertisement for this innovative new atlas reads “112 entirely new plates engraved at immense cost for this work.”
The production process was both time consuming and highly skilled. Staff went through a seven-year apprenticeship before they were considered to be competent cartographers. The source material, obtained through an international network of Bartholomew agents and correspondents was analysed to extract the most reliable and current set of the features required for the maps. The editorial staff compiled this information and plotted on paper in the correct projection and scale for each atlas plate. A mirror image of each plate was engraved onto copper sheet, then transferred to a lithostone which formed the actual printing plate. Eight different printing plates were then used to produce the full colour atlas.
The First World War brought radical social and political changes.
“Dr. Bartholomew’s atlas is the crowning triumph of a life devoted to the improvement of cartography and the spread of an intelligent interest in geography.” Scottish Geographical Magazine, 1920 – review of first parts of this new edition.
The political situation of the world four years before the outbreak of the Second World War can be seen from this map. The power of empires had waned significantly after the First World War, and a number of treaties and pacts were signed between countries to safeguard against military attacks. Growing political and social conflict was leading to nationalist uprisings, while both communism and fascism were on the rise in Europe.
Recent changes shown in the atlas include:
The Times Atlas of the World, Mid–Century Edition was a completely new atlas. It was published in 5 volumes, between 1955-59 because of the long production times involved in the painstaking work of compiling the detailed maps. The volumes were arranged in continental groupings with volume III, North Europe, coming out first, followed by another volume each year. "Sumptuously printed on one side of each page with no gutter and mounted on calico binding hinges" according to promotional material. It had 122 coloured, double page map plates and a comprehensive index of over 200,000 names. 25,000 copies were printed at the published price of £5-5s-0d per volume.
By the time of the Mid–Century Atlas, technology had progressed as copper plates had largely been superseded. Positive and negative images were transferred onto emulsion-covered glass plates which could be revised as required for new editions. Printing plates were then produced from the glass plates.
The circumstances were not the most favourable for acquiring or checking information. The Cold War was in force and the Iron Curtain was firmly drawn across half the continent, but John Bartholomew was still able to gather significant maps of the Soviet countries (despite the inclusion of intentional errors designed to confuse unfriendly powers) and obtain corroboration from local correspondents.
The atlas showed many changes following the Second World War:
“There can be no higher praise for an atlas than to say it combines comprehensiveness with clarity. These are indeed the most striking qualities of The Times Atlas of the World … It is a beautiful production, outstanding as a source of up-to-date geographical information.” The Observer, 1955.
The first edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World was published in 1967 as a single volume. The 123 pages of map plates and 271 index pages were similar to the Mid-Century edition but were printed on both sides of the page to reduce the bulk. Published price was £10-10s-0d. The style and content of contoured layer coloured maps, a distinctive style for Bartholomew, was continued and has subsequently been continuously revised up until the present 12th edition.
Reproduction technology had moved on again and this edition now used photographic film in place of glass plates. Photography and working with film improved and simplified the revision process, but it was still an exacting task. Revisions involved scratching or painting out deletions and drawing in additions (or using 'strippers' for text and symbols). The atlases generally used eight-colour printing for the maps which allowed for sets of features, such as all dark blue text, to be on a single film. Now in many cases only one film would need to be changed, unlike the more normal four colour printing.
The atlas highlighted some population issues of the day:
This edition included for the first time maps on thematic subjects such as world resources and the exploration of space, satellites and "extra-terrestrial affairs” – very hot topics at the time with the space race in full swing.
After only one year, the popularity of the atlas and the pace of change in the world had led to the production of a new edition, emphasising the importance of keeping completely up-to-date.
“The Times Atlas has become a basic reference work not only at the national but also at the international level.” Geographical Journal, 1981.
The Times Atlas of the Moon was published to tie in with the first moon landing, in July 1969.
The atlas included:
"This is an exciting venture as it is the first cartographic atlas ever produced of our nearest planet and will be the first definitive atlas of the Moon." Bartholomew Catalogue, 1970.
The new Concise edition was "designed for those who wish to understand something of the physical nature of the Earth and man’s life on it, as well as to find their way over its surface.” Atlas Introduction.
An abridged and reduced form of the Comprehensive edition, particularly suited for use by the family and by students of all kinds. It wasn’t just a scaled down version of the larger long-established atlas, but a completely new work based on it, with additional pages of new maps and a new thematic preliminary section. A medium format atlas (15’’ x 11’’) with 40 page introductory section on man, the world and the universe, 144 pages of reference maps and 90,000 name index. It was clothbound and included a laminated slipcase, priced £7.75.
Some of the changes shown on this map included:
This folded map, first published in 1989 showed the world in political format.
The whole world was displayed at a scale of 1:30,000,000 using the Bartholomew ‘The Times’ projection. Detail included: international frontiers, administrative divisions, capitals, main cities/towns, railways, roads, airports and main ports.
The world physical map is no longer in production but the world political map is as popular as ever and now produced as both folded and flat map and is now into its ninth edition.
This was a completely new version of the popular Concise Atlas. It contained geographical and astronomical data, 178 pages of entirely new world reference mapping, 46 city plans, country gazetteer and an index of over 95,000 place names.
The atlas marked a new era in cartographic production, representing the first Times atlas to be produced entirely from digital map databases. Bartholomew were one of the first cartographic companies to embrace computerised cartography, having started digitising maps in 1984. The advantages of using digital production technology included, shorter lead times for new products, greater flexibility in choice of styles, page layouts, scales and projections, reduced revision costs and the opportunity to sell digital data from the GIS database.
The content of this seventh edition reflects the world at the end of the 20th century. Some of the changes shown included:
This edition of the Comprehensive Atlas represented the first completely re-designed version since the popular first edition of 1967. To reflect the significant point in history it was called the Millennium Edition. Making full use of the power of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software for atlas production it used the technology of the new ‘digital age’. Updates and revisions could be made faster than ever before, to keep up with an ever-changing world and map production was faster and more flexible than previous traditional methods.
In the 100 years since the first edition was published, the art and science of cartography had been revolutionised – mapping created on hand-etched copper plates had now been replaced by mapping generated from world and regional digital databases. The atlas was designed to provide, with the utmost clarity, the most detailed and accurate depiction of the topographical, social and political features of the world currently available in a single volume atlas.
Some of the changes shown in this atlas included:
The Comprehensive Atlas, now in its 12th edition, has sold over one million copies worldwide, including many foreign language versions. Painstakingly researched by a dedicated team of more than 50 cartographers, the atlas is fully up to date, stylish, and contemporary, continuing to be the leading authority with its selection of detailed maps and index of more than 200,000 places and features.
This new edition included an estimated 20,000 mapping updates including 3,500 changes to names, a brand new map of Alaska and NW Canada, abandoned settlements featured for the first time, new satellite images of the continents, revision of all national and socio-economic statistics and new coverage on Biodiversity and the Environment.
The maps and data in the atlas reveal interesting information on climate change and its effects on the earth, the urbanization of world population, environmental changes and the dramatic growth of China:
“Here’s the book that Google Earth wants to be when it grows up. The Times Comprehensive Atlas is just that: the definitive global bible for intrepid travellers and armchair explorers alike, as used by governments, the UN and the European Commission.” The Independent newspaper
The Luxury Edition is based on The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, 12th edition which has been painstakingly created by a dedicated team of over 50 cartographers. This globally prestigious record of our extraordinary world, exquisitely packaged as a handcrafted leather edition, is now available for the first time in its hundred-year history.
The atlas is produced to the highest possible finish by the renowned art book bindery Book Works.
The following elements are customizable:
To make the atlas personal the following options are available
“The Times Atlas is a total adventure. You can wallow, or you can target. It remains one of those prized possessions which even the age of the internet can never upstage. For me, it is a book for all seasons, all ages and all reasons.” Jon Snow.