Editing Early and Historical Atlases


215 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 0-8020-0623-X
DDC 912.014




Edited by Joan Winearls
Reviewed by John D. Blackwell

John D. Blackwell is co-ordinator of information services, Arthur A.
Wishart Library, Algoma University College, Sault Ste. Marie.


In the autumn of 1993, a conference was held at the University of
Toronto to mark the completion of the third and final volume of the
Historical Atlas of Canada (1987–93). The result is this superb
collection of seven essays on the history of editing atlases.

Editing Early and Historical Atlases traces the genealogy of the atlas
from its origins in the 16th century to modern-day electronic Geographic
Information Systems. The first four essays survey the contributions of
leading early practioners of the art, including Ortelius, Mercator,
Vaugondy, Jomard, Kruse, Las Cases, and Quin. The writers discuss the
intricate interplay of cartographers, authors, editors, publishers,
engravers, and printers in atlas production. Indeed, even the evolving
relationship between map and text in atlases is a fascinating story.

The final three essays are of particular interest for the Canadian
reader. They candidly relate the editorial, conceptual, technological,
political, and financial challenges of creating the Historical Atlas of
Canada, one of the most remarkable thematic atlases ever produced. This
project required the assembling of a large national team and the
implementation of a rigorous editorial process. R. Cole Harris, its
senior editor, frankly concedes that “maps are radical and tendentious
abstractions (of geographical reality) that emphasize and eliminate.”
He also observes that “any atlas, like any other communication,
reflects its authors and their time and place.” Despite these
unavoidable limitations, the atlas remains an exceptional achievement,
and one cannot help but be impressed by the formidable obstacles of
compiling a national historical atlas.

There are only two disappointing aspects of this volume. First of all,
some of the cartographic illustrations lack clarity—an ironic weakness
for a study of this type. Second, there is no index. Nevertheless,
little has been written about the editing and production of early or
modern atlases. This outstanding collection of essays by leading
scholars will undoubtedly encourage further research. Highly recommended
for all academic libraries.


“Editing Early and Historical Atlases,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/117.