It’s no secret that I love maps. I love looking at them, studying them, using them and teaching from them. I love current maps, outdated maps, beautiful maps, historical maps and, well, any kind of map really. Each type teaches us something different. An outdated map or globe from the 1980s, for example, shows us what Europe and Asia looked like before the fall of (some) Communism. And, for you kids today, do you know where Rhodesia is? No? Check your outdated maps. Historical maps can give you an inside look into a period in history. How did Europe look before and after the world wars of the 20th century? Which states were in the original 13 colonies? Plus maps of any kind make great wall art.
I seem to be happily collecting maps and atlases (though I still need a functional globe), including a recent review copy of Oxford University Press’s New Concise World Atlas. How is this different from Oxford’s Atlas of the World that I reviewed last year? Well, it’s a lot smaller, for one. All three dimensions are smaller, but the smaller page size makes the book much easier to use. It is also considerably lighter. And about half the price. The New Concise World Atlas is a very good everyday type atlas. The other one, while really useful to have, is more unwieldy to use, so it’s good to use on special occasions, for deeper or intense study and to impress your friends and neighbors.
When you first open the New Concise World Atlas, inside the front cover you see an easy-to-use guide for map locations in the book. Just find the location you need on the world map, and then look up that page number. (Inside the back cover there is a closer view of Europe and its map page numbers.) Next in the atlas is the table of contents, which is one of the most useful ones I have ever seen. For the part of the atlas that contains maps, the table of contents shows you what section of the planet is being shown on each map. It zooms in on that part of the world and puts a box around what will be shown on that page. The table of contents also tells you what the region is called, and at what scale the map is shown. This gives you a longer-than-expected table of contents, but it is definitely worth it. Next in the book are several pages on world statistics, and plenty of information on astronomy, geology and cultural geography. That all takes up about 1/5 of the book.
The next 2/5 of the book is filled with the maps, all done in very clear colors and labels in a variety of different scales. The maps show both political and physical characteristics of the world. This is the part of the book where you’ll spend most of your time. Since it is the middle section, it has no trouble sitting open on a page. The last 2/5 of the book contains the index. Yes, the index takes up about as many pages as the maps do. This is a good thing. A very detailed index means that it is that much easier to find whatever you are looking for.
Wired: It’s a book of maps! The pages are thick, shiny and filled with useful and clear map information. It’s a handy dandy size. It contains everything you need for casual atlas study or reference.
Tired: It doesn’t contain everything, so if you want to dig deeper, you’ll need a larger atlas or one specializing in a smaller area.