Earth: Publisher Creates Atlas of an Entire Planet

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. Earth is a lavish atlas, as bold and ambitious as the name suggests. Weighing in at 62.2 pounds, nearly two feet tall, costing $3,500 for a leather-bound edition and featuring spectacular photography, this atlas may stand as a testament to a publisher’s faith in the endurance of books.

“Most atlases are about space. We created a book about place — in this case, the place is a planet,” said Tom Paradise, one of 45 major contributors to the volume, which contains 154 detailed maps and more than 800 photographs.

Paradise, director of the King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, wrote most of the section on North Africa.

Besides its weight and cost, what makes Earth unique is how the many facets of a place are integrated into one volume: physical features, foods and language, agriculture and natural resources, economics and politics, people and culture, climate and geology.

“No other atlas has been able to capture all of these aspects in such an informative, accurate and beautiful manner. Already it’s being called the ‘must-have Atlas,’ ” Paradise said.

The biggest atlas in the world, the volume is being billed as the ultimate book about Earth. A team of more than 100 photographers, cartographers, geographers and oceanographers took eight months to compile the 576-page atlas, which represents an evolution from a conventional collection of facts and maps to an attempt to capture the diversity and intricacies of an entire planet.

Featured are biological, physical and human landscapes, topographies of all Earth’s regions, and full-page profiles of every country in the world.

 “Geographic accuracy, spatial visualization, artistic composition and color, high-resolution and fine photography, and regional expertise in describing countries and places have all come together in one extraordinary atlas,” said Paradise, who has provided expert advice and help on cartography for numerous atlases, in addition to having authored three himself.

For more than 2,700 years, cartographers have been creating maps of the environment, a distinctive form of communication that helps people find their way from one place to another. Their work offers a distinct melding of science and art: cartographers receive interdisciplinary training in such diverse fields as geodesy and geomatics, perception, gestalt visualization and psychology. They also study composition and production techniques ranging from hand-drawing to computer-generated imagery, 3-D visualizations and the use of fonts and color.

The publisher who brought project Earth to fruition is Gordon Cheers, an Australian businessman and owner of Millennium House, which produces a variety of reference books. He first unsuccessfully tried to get other publishers — some former employers —to take on a book he had been dreaming of producing for 20 years.

Cheers said his goal was to produce a work that will be around 500 years from now, in museums and in private collections, like the Gutenberg Bible.

“The beauty of an atlas is that it helps you dream,” Cheers said.

Paradise, who collects atlases and was the cartographer for the award-winning Atlas of Hawaii and the bestselling Student Atlases of Hawaii, has a concise version of the hefty and expensive blue original. He believes his copy, modestly priced and sized at a mere 18 by 24 inches, will prove popular in workplaces, libraries and universities.

“It took one person with a vision to create a book such as Earth,” said Paradise. “This is a masterpiece of geography. It’s as good as it gets.”

To learn more and view images from the atlas, go to CNN.com/technology at http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/10/16/earth.atlas/index.html

Contacts

Tom Paradise, director, King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
479-575-4359, paradise@uark.edu

Lynn Fisher, communications director
Fulbright College
479-575-7272, lfisher@uark.edu

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