"That atlases have not received the
consideration in bibliography due
to their importance in literature
and as contributions to knowledge
is shown by the paucity of works on
the subject." (Philip Lee Phillips)

During the 19th and the first half of the 20st century German atlas cartography took a dominant position. The "Allgemeiner Hand-Atlas der ganzen Erde..." (later entitled "Grosser Handatlas des Himmels und der Erde"), completed 1807 and published by the "Geographisches Institut" of the "Landes-Industrie-Comptoir" (1791-1905) at Weimar, is considered the early beginning. 1820-45, particularly C.F. Weiland (1782-1847) gave shape to this huge volume of 24 to 16 inches, 1845-55 it was edited by the famous Heinrich Kiepert who was succeeded by Carl and Adolf Graef. The atlas has gone through 49 editions until 1880.

Cartographic production in Germany up to 1870, was chiefly concentrated in Thuringia (Weimar, Gotha, Hildburghausen). Plates were prepared by a rather small group of engravers ("Stecher"), whose trade often stood in a rich family tradition; they were working for several houses or were publishers themselves, thus showing their names in atlases of different descent. During the 19th century engraving on copper for the best results was gradually replaced by lithography, which allows mechanical colour printing. Only a few publishers, like the "Bibliographisches Institut" at Hildburghausen, initially used steel engraving ("Stahlstich") for reproduction, which admits a higher number of copies without reduction of quality. In Britain, however, steel engraving was still applied for a long time, even after the invention of galvanizing copper plates around 1840.

Properly speaking, all maps of the first half of the 19th century look alike: characters have the same ancient appearance; mountains resemble caterpillars or fir-branches. "Süd-West Deutschland und Schweiz"(1868) in "Stieler's Atlas", by C. Vogel (1828-97), may be considered the first atlas map being really new: the modern lettering by H. Eberhardt and the nearly tangible relief by W. Weiler set the new standard in cartography for the next decades. The first edition of Stieler's Atlas (named so after Adolf Stieler, 1775-1836) was issued in parts 1816-23 (50 maps) by Justus Perthes (established 1785 and still existing in Gotha after more than 200 years). It was a work of art as well as a work of science and still reproduced by copper-plate printing, when the printing industry had already changed to lithography. Not until 1905, in the 9th edition of Stieler's Atlas, had all maps adopted the new style. This edition was the first Stieler realised in full lithography. It had 100 maps: just double the number of the first edition. From a graphic point of view, this is the finest Stieler. The 108 maps in the 10th ("Century-") edition (1925), are over-crowded and often not very revealing: there is too little contrast between relief and place names (of which it had some 320,000!). The even more comprehensive international edition of Stieler's Atlas (1934-40), was unfortunately not completed.

The Justus Perthes publishers had a world-wide reputation through Berghaus' "Physikalischer Atlas" (1848, 3rd edition 1892), Spruner's "Historisch-Geographischer Handatlas" (1846 and later), Justus Perthes' pocket atlases (Taschenatlas, Taschenatlas vom Deutschen Reich, See-Atlas, Atlas Antiquus, Geschichts-Atlas, Staatsbürger-Atlas) and schoolatlases, particularly Sydow-Wagner's "Methodischer Schulatlas" (1888; 23th [final] edition 1944).

The "Bibliographisches Institut", already mentioned before, founded in Gotha by [Carl] Joseph Meyer (1796-1856) in 1826, amalgamated with F.A. Brockhaus in 1984, biggest share-holder since 1988 the Langenscheidt company, issued a great number of world atlases in the 19th century, the largest of which was "Grosser Hand-Atlas über alle Theile der Erde in 170 Karten" (1843-60). The atlases issued by BI 1892-1945 were all based on material taken from the Meyer encyclopaedia or the Meyer travel-guides. The first large-format atlas published by BI after World War II was "Meyers Grosser Weltatlas" (1970).

Certainly worth mentioning is the "(Vollständige) Hand-Atlas der neueren Erdbeschreibung ... " by Karl Sohr (a fictitious figure according to some sources, to other sources however a really existing person) and Heinrich Berghaus (1797-1884), published by Carl Flemming in Glogau, Germany (liquidated 1932): 1st edition 1842-44; final (9th, incomplete) edition 1902-06. Another example of excellent Flemming cartography is "Ullsteins Weltatlas" (1923/1927).

The great, celebrated 19th century cartographer Heinrich Kiepert (1818-99) edited, as said before, the mammoth atlas of the Weimar Geographical Institute. But his most important activities he developed with publisher Dietrich Reimer, Berlin. Generally known is his "Atlas antiquus" (1859), which appeared in many languages and found its way all over the world in hundreds of thousands of copies. He also issued the "Neue Handatlas" (1860, 3rd edition 1896).

A monument of cartography is "Andrees Allgemeiner Handatlas" (after R. Andree, 1835-1912), published by Velhagen & Klasing in Bielefeld and Leipzig, Germany (founded 1835, taken over by F. Cornelsen in 1954, now fully merged into the Cornelsen company). The 1st edition appeared in 1881, the final in 1939, the most comprehensive (8th edition, 5th printing) in 1930 (more than 300,000 names!). Main cartographers were A. Scobel (1851-1912), G. Jungk (†1932), R. Köcher, E. Umbreit (†1904), A. Thomas (†1930), H. Mielisch (†1925), and K. Tänzler (†1944) although production of a number of maps was contracted out to geographical institutes like Peip, Wagner & Debes, Sternkopf, Sulzer. Other well-known titles of Velhagen & Klasing were Putzgers (after F.W. Putzger, †1913) Historischer Schulatlas (1877, as Historischer Weltatlas 100th ed. 1979), Grosser Volksatlas (1935) and Grosser Wehratlas(= Great Military Atlas, 1937).

Last but absolutely not least of the German atlases of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century: "Debes' Neuer Handatlas" (after E. Debes, 1840-1923, 1st ed. 1895, 4th ed. 1913 - 2nd printing 1914) of the "Geographische Anstalt von Wagner & Debes". This atlas appeared since 1935 as "Columbus Weltatlas", enlarged by maps of Columbus Verlag P. Oestergaard (= 5th edition; 8th ed. 1941) with a number of (concise) editions published after World War II. "Wagner & Debes" however, mainly produced maps to order, for example those in the Baedeker travel guides or the Pierer and Herder encyclopaedias.

While the centre of cartography in Germany during the first half of the 19th century was the rural Thuringia, after 1870 these activities were concentrated in Leipsic when companies like Velhagen & Klasing, Bibliographisches Institut and Wagner & Debes settled in this book-trade capital. This continued until the end of World War II, when the book-trade quarter of Leipsic was razed to the ground and the remaining firms were expropriated by the communist regime.

Based on a long tradition, Austrian cartography offers high quality, chiefly by the institutes Freytag & Berndt (later Freytag-Berndt & Artaria) with the Freytag Welt-Atlas and the Hickmann Geographisch-statistischer Universal-Atlas, and Ed. Hölzel with the well-known Kozenn-Atlas, a school atlas, published in many countries as a world atlas.


Only a few map publishers stuck to the British reputation after 1850: Bartholomew and Johnston in Edinburgh and Philip in London. Bartholomew's best known titles are "The Citizen's Atlas of the World" (1898, 10th and final edition 1952) and above all "The Times Survey Atlas of the World" (1922, with 112 maps and more than 200,000 names, for many years the pride of British cartography, and its development: "The Times Atlas of the World. Mid-Century Edition" (5 volumes with 120 map sheets, 1955-59, issued in one volume 1967; published in many international versions). A 10th, "Millennium" edition, appeared 1999, and shows completely different, computer-made maps. The number of titles brought out by W. & A.K. Johnston is numerous, particularly "The Royal Atlas of modern geography" (1861) and "The Cosmographic Atlas ..." (1884) should be mentioned.

Widely known are Philips' "New Handy General Atlas" (1920, 4th ed. 1934), "New Imperial Atlas" (1922, 95 maps, 100,000 names, 252 shillings, so more expensive than the complete Encyclopaedia Britannica) and "International Atlas" (1931, 5th ed. 1945). In general these works do not offer the high standard of the German atlases in the same period. It is peculiar that British atlases show an enormous variety of titles although they present material which is only slightly different: "The Victoria Regina Atlas", "The M.P. Atlas", "The Multum In Parvo Atlas of the World", "The Unrivalled Atlas", "The Graphic Atlas".

Among the French atlases "Atlas universel de géographie" (1912, 2nd edition 1923, with more than 130,000 names) by Vivien de Saint-Martin & Schrader heads the list. Although elementary and less comprehensive, Schraders "Atlas de géographie moderne" (1889), "Atlas général Vidal-Lablache" (1900), and "Atlas Niox", are fully acceptable. On the contrary, the "Atlas International Larousse Politique et Économique" (1950), though rather voluminous, is of little importance.

During the 19th and 20th centuries Dutch cartography has produced little original work. The 19th century world atlases of Witkamp and Kuijper are largely imitations of Sydow's or Stieler's Schulatlas. The 20th century Dutch world atlases (leaving school atlases aside) are mainly translations of foreign works, e.g. by Bartholomew, Rand McNally, Bertelsmann. Very elementary are the home-made atlases of Elsevier (1950 and later) and Kompas (about 1935-60) with awkward lettering and relief. The maps in the "Bezige Bij" atlas (1951) are of Belgian origin. From the same source comes the world atlas issued in parts by various newspapers around 1940, which is very comprehensive, compared to the Dutch atlases just mentioned, but of the same moderate quality.

Swiss cartography concentrated on road maps and produced no world atlas of importance after the Ziegler atlas of 1851. A well-known publisher of maps and plans is Kümmerly & Frey in Berne.

Though many excellent world atlases appeared in Germany after World War II (practically all fitted with the predicate "gross", but not half as comprehensive as the pre-war Stieler or Andree atlases, e.g. "Der Grosse Bertelsmann Weltatlas" (1961) and its derivation "Bertelsmann Atlas International" (1963), the already mentioned "Meyers Grosser Weltatlas" (1970), "Herders Grosser Weltatlas" (1968), the real great "Die Erde - Meyers Grosskarten-Edition" (1978) and (in the former GDR) "Haack Grosser Weltatlas" (1968), no German hegenomy in the field of atlas cartography existed any longer.

This role was taken over by Great Britain with "The Times Atlas of the World" (1955-59) and the United States with Rand McNally's "International Atlas" (1969) and its successor: "The New International Atlas" (1981). Their maps are not really attractive; either by hybrid lettering (Times) or by a wrong choice of type (Rand McNally): the characters suggest road maps. The application of roman type, as in the well-known Hammond atlases, must be regarded as less successful.

The impressive three-volume Spanish "Gran Atlas Aguilar" (1969/70), yet in road-map cartography, has a large map area and a relatively small name density. It is one of the most comprehensive atlases of modern times.

Although initially Russian cartography could not glory in original work - the "Atlas Marxa" (1905), for example, is merely a translation of Debes' Neuer Handatlas - the large "Atlas Mira" (= world atlas, 1954, 2nd ed. 1967, 3rd 1999), with some 200,000 names, also in English translation of the last two editions as "The World Atlas", meant a very special achievement. A similar Russian project "Bolshoi Sovietskii Atlas Mira" remained incomplete owing to wartime.

All these post-war works are exceeded by the Italian "Atlante Internazionale del Touring Club Italiano", initially brought out in 1927, which maintained its traditional image of superior lettering and relief after 1945. It has some 245,000 geographical names. Similar though less extensive is the "Grande Atlante Geografico" of De Agostini (1922, 5th ed. 1959), also published in West-Germany as "Goldmanns Grosser Weltatlas" (1955, 2nd ed. 1963). Finally, attention should be paid to two less known, medium-sized atlases of excellent quality. In contrast to the works above, which mostly lack thematic maps, both have a large number of them. The atlases meant are the Polish "Atlas swiata" (= world atlas) of 1962/63, published in England as "Pergamon World Atlas" (1968), and the "Československý vojenský atlas" (= Czechoslovak military atlas, 1965/66), with maps showing the course of many historical battles.