29 May 2009

Old Times Atlases - What are they Worth?

When a lovely old atlas such as an early edition of the famous Times Atlas of the World is discovered in the loft or handed down from an elderly relative, one of the most frequently asked questions has to be — is it worth anything? The answer to this question depends on many factors such as its age, rarity, collectability and condition.

We have created a concise fact sheet with further information and useful weblinks regarding valuation, see the What are they worth? PDF (390 KB).

For background details and images of landmark Times Atlases see the Times World Atlases website History and Heritage section.

David Jamieson, Map Librarian/Archivist, Collins Geo

21 May 2009

Bartholomew Half-Inch to One Mile Maps, Dating Guide

One of the most common queries I get as Collins Geo’s Map Librarian/Archivist is to find a date for a Bartholomew Half-Inch series map. This can be problematic. When there is no actual date printed on the sheet there are a number of indicators that can be used to help establish the likely publication date of the map.
These are:
*Bartholomew company address given on the map
*Abbreviated date code used on some sheets
*Cover title of the map
*Price
*Series name and sheet number.

The abbreviated date code is the only one of these that will indicate a definite year of publication. If this is not present, then a combination of the other indicators can often be used to arrive at an accurate publication date.

For a more detailed description of these indicators see A Brief Guide to Dating the Bartholomew Half-Inch to One Mile Maps (PDF 203KB). While the notes provided in this guide have been compiled in an attempt to make it as simple as possible to date a map from the series, it must be stressed that in some cases it may only be possible to establish an approximate date of publication.

This in turn raises a question in my mind – ‘Why do some of the Half-Inch sheets have dates or codes and some have neither?’ Your answers or comments please.

David Jamieson, Map Librarian/Archivist, Collins Geo

18 May 2009

An Esperanto Atlas, Anyone?

It seems amazing to me now, but if you went to high school in England in the 1980s you were allowed to give up all foreign languages at age 14. In the pursuit of an easy life, that’s exactly what I did, opting instead to do Business Studies. I’m sure all of that basic accountancy has been useful over the years (although my bank manager might have a different opinion) but I know having a working knowledge of at least one more language other than Geordie-Scots Anglo-Saxon would have inevitably been more valuable. Despite this obvious handicap, it is amazing to look back over the last twelve months and think that I have worked on no fewer than six atlases in which English is not the main language. In (English) alphabetical order these were Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, French, Norwegian and Romanian.

Non-English language atlases
Clearly the old adage that “everyone speaks English these days” isn’t entirely true, no matter how much influence our cousins from across the Atlantic cast around the globe. In the world of atlases, especially at Collins Geo, there has never been more interest in non-English language products. With this in mind we are always striving to create an international atlas, one that can be used in as many markets as possible, or at least one that is easy to adapt to different markets. But is it possible to create a genuinely international atlas? If not in English could Collins Geo make an Esperanto atlas? It would certainly make my job a lot easier and after all, the translations already exist; Munkeno for Munich for example. Or could we even consider Volap√ľk as the starting language (now there’s something to Google or wiki).


Times Universal Atlas of the World, English, Norwegian & Dutch versions.

Native and international name forms
Even with one of these “neutral languages”, is it actually feasible to have a whole atlas in one single language? It might seem obvious that Norwegians would like to be able to read their atlases in Norwegian, or Frenchmen would like theirs in French, but the simple desire to be able to read in one’s native language is not the only reason for translation. These days many different issues from user accessibility to political correctness must be considered, and more and more the solution might not simply be the publisher’s host language. Indeed, there are often many more languages being used on a map than first meets the eye. Most Times atlases use local name forms wherever possible, so that means even though these atlases are published in English, they routinely have Spanish names (Sevilla instead of Seville), Italian names (Roma instead of Rome), and so on. (The English conventional names will always appear as well, in brackets or at any rate in the index). Mind you, not all atlases produced in the UK follow this policy. Many of them promote the well known “conventional” forms such as Seville and Rome as the main names. This can be especially true if the atlas is for a younger audience where everyday usage and the geographical locational function of the atlas are often vastly more important than the niceties of language.

Times Universal Atlas, Dutch edition. Has a low proportion of local names, opting for the Dutch versions e.g. Turijn and Milaan, with no reference to their local name forms.

Times Universal Atlas, English edition. Takes a “middle way” using English conventional names for Turin and Genoa and showing the local versions in brackets.

Times Universal Atlas, Norwegian edition. Uses a high proportion of local names, e.g. Torino and Milano and translates major international features such as France (Frankrike).





Translation and transliteration
While decisions on which names to translate and which to leave in local form are often subjective, taken by the individual atlas publishers considering company policies and final user requirements, some languages always need to have a form of translation to be comprehended at all. Most Europeans for example, would find text in any of the Chinese languages largely unintelligible, as the Chinese characters bear no relation whatsoever to the letters of the Roman alphabet. In these cases the word needs to be converted (sometimes phonetically spelled out) for the user in their own language. This process is called transliteration. The process aims to be very precise, so that it can be a two way process, effectively meaning each version of the word acts as a code to create the other version. To make matters more complicated, there are different transliterations for different languages to account for things like differences in phonetics, after all people in Spain pronounce “Jesus” differently to people in the UK.

Place name policy
All of this is complicated by individual needs and desires of the people making and buying the final atlases. Collins and Times atlases have place naming policies decided by an impartial Policy Committee. Other publishers have vested interests in names being shown one way or the other. Sometimes they relate to ease of use, as mentioned above, but sometimes more unusual reasons drive these decisions. One such example can be seen at work in the Afrikaans atlas I worked on this year. This atlas was published alongside an English language atlas into the South African market. For the Afrikaans product, every single English name found around the world was translated into Afrikaans, irrespective of local language; thus many lake names in Canada were translated into Afrikaans while Spanish lake names were left in Spanish. This was done to produce a visible difference between the Afrikaans and English atlases in markets where political sensitivities dictated this to be more important than a standardised policy for all languages in the same product.

An atlas for all languages or just one?

With all of these issues in play, creating an international atlas is almost impossible. Conversely, saying an atlas (other than the most basic atlases) is in one language or another is also ingenuous. The only actual elements of an atlas which are definitively translated into the users language are those descriptive pieces of text found in the introductory paragraphs of thematic pages, or instructional items like how to use an index. Unfortunately, although there are people in Collins who can translate these elements, I’m not one of them so I rarely pick up any useful language skills from the atlases I work on. Ultimately, it means that if I went on holiday to Romania and I fell out of a boat into a lacul, I could try to swim to the nearest insula, but I wouldn’t know how to shout for help as I did so…

Keith Moore, Head of Cartographic Services, Collins Geo.


If you have any comments or opinions on name forms used in atlases please click on the comments link below.

15 May 2009

The Times Comprehensive Atlas, Booklist Review

"Discussion continues about the demise of atlases. There is a great temptation to use the Internet for geographical queries, and usually an answer may be found quickly and easily. But questions of authority and accuracy remain, questions that can be resolved by taking the time to use the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World. It is a recommended source for any library or individual who can afford it."

Extract from a review of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World 12th edition by Christine Bulson in May's Booklistonline.

13 May 2009

Map Addict by Mike Parker

'My name is Mike and I am a map addict. There, it's said …'


Maps not only show the world, they help it turn. On an average day, we will consult some form of map approximately a dozen times, often without even noticing.

Map Addict really catches the current mood regarding all things cartographic. Recently, there has been a huge growth in mapping on the web, creating massive interest in maps and their application. Mike's book has just been published by Collins, with some mapping information and assistance provided by ‘their cartographic crew in Glasgow’.


There are some fine, dry tomes out there about the history and development of cartography: this is not one of them. Map Addict mixes wry observation with hard fact and considerable research, unearthing the offbeat, the unusual and the downright pedantic in a celebration of all things maps. In Map Addict, we learn the location of what has officially been named by the OS as the most boring square kilometre in the land; we visit the town fractured into dozens of little parcels of land split between two different countries and trek around many other weird borders of Britain and Europe; we test the theories that the new city of Milton Keynes was built to a pagan alignment and that women can't read maps.

Mike Parker is 'a marvellous guide: enthusiastic, generous and lucid', Jan Morris.

'An historical aside from Mike Parker is worth a monograph from others', New Welsh Review.




Discuss Map Addict at bookarmy.com:
'I'm a big fan of maps and can easily lose an hour or two with a cup of tea and a good world atlas to gaze over. Here, Mike Parker taps into some of the most exceptional maps ever to be produced, along with sharing a number of highly amusing anecdotes from his own childhood map addiction. An absolute must for any fan of maps or anyone looking for humorous nostalgic non-fiction.' TimBroughton

New Comprehensive Road Atlas Ireland Review

Our recently published Collins Comprehensive Road Atlas Ireland has been reviewed on Amazon:

"The only atlas worth having in 2009.
As things stand, this road atlas is undoubtedly the best around. It is compact and clearly laid out using attractive colouring. Importantly, the spiral binding is sturdy. There is an extremely useful "Places of Interest" section showing many of the major spots worth visiting. The road atlas itself is of the usual high Collins standard - extremely user-friendly and clear. An excellent addition is the section on cities at the back of the atlas. Belfast, Cork, Dublin and Limerick all have a comprehensive street map, as well as detailed information on all attractions therein."

Read the full Amazon review by S. O'Donnell (Cork, Ireland).

7 May 2009

Map of the Month May 09 - A Lady's Cruise

I've bidden my time, putting up what I hope have been interesting and surprising items from the Bartholomew Archive Printing Record. But now comes the time for one of my all time favourite maps.


This is what I call the Constance Gordon-Cumming map but which is actually and gloriously called:


Not much to look at maybe but a world of wonder for those of us interested in the pioneering efforts of pioneering women.

The images that the title of this map evokes for me are pretty farcical. But even when I've managed to get beyond my initial amusement there still remains two questions. Just what was a lady was doing in a French Man-of-War and why would she be cruising around in it? These questions become irrelevant though when you realise that the lady in question is Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming as Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming was no ordinary lady.

Constance Gordon-Cumming was born in 1837, the year Queen Victoria acceded to the throne. Gordon-Cumming would go on to encapsulate something of the spirit of adventure and exploration that we have come to associate with the period. She was the twelfth child of an aristocratic family and as such enjoyed great wealth and great connections, necessary evils at a time when leisure travel was almost exclusively an aristocratic concern.

Constance's legacy to us is her expressive paintings, the output of a self-taught artist and of course her travels and travel writings. She earned the disdain of her male contemporaries for her determination and independence; she often travelled alone for instance. Now we might happily shrug our shoulders at this but travel in Constance's time was nothing like what we enjoy today. No airlines, no travel agents, little assistance and occasionally, little precedent. Yet in spite of this she was a prolific traveller notching up far flung destinations such as Australia, America, China, and Japan.

This map, printed by Bartholomew on 7 December 1881 accompanied the book of the same title. In it she recalls the story of her travels most especially around the South Seas accompanying the bishop of Samoa.

The book, as with most of her others, was received with little praise either at the time or indeed today. Perhaps lacking a certain something her works are unlikely to adorn any best-seller lists. But that doesn't really matter to me. What I like about Constance is her spirit, her determination and her refusal to acquiesce in playing the role society expected of women. She did as she pleased and seemingly didn't care. I greatly admire this attitude especially at a time when it would have been very difficult for her to avoid the harsh and unflattering criticism which was surely levelled at her.

It's fair to say that her wealth facilitated her lifestyle but then, not all wealthy women shared Constance's attitudes to life. It may be said that she never really produced anything of any great worth as a result of her travels but then, she did invent a system which allowed blind and illiterate Chinese Mandarin speakers to read Braille. All in all she has earned my admiration and I find it a shame that Constance has today become an overshadowed and somewhat forgotten woman.


By Karla Baker, archivist at the National Library of Scotland Map Collections, Bartholomew Archive and author of the Bartholomew Archive blog. Original post on 27 March 09, reproduced by kind permission.

All images reproduced by permission of the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland.