A Look At Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas
A brainwavez.org Literary Feature

South Africaby Mandy J Watson
Posted: 15 June 2009

In 500 years' time what will the legacy be that we have left on this planet? With wars, clashing religious ideologies, and climate change threatening to decimate the world as we know it Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas, with its detailed descriptions of countries and cultures as they stand today may become one of the few remaining published records of the time we spent here during one of this planet's most tumultuous periods.

Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas

Earth - The Comprehensive World AtlasOne of the highlights of this year's Cape Town Book Fair is the showcasing of the new, limited-edition tome Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas. This up-to-date atlas profiles all 194 countries of the world, divided into geographical regions, and also features sections on Earth from space; stats and data about our world, such as where different energy sources are located; and information about wildlife and habitats. The atlas is brought to life with spectacular maps and photographs, as well as four gatefolds that are each around two metres wide.

This is not a review, because I don't have a copy of the book and therefore couldn't sit down with it at my leisure to examine it but I did spent about half an hour over two days at the Cape Town Book Fair looking at it, asking questions, and taking reference photographs so I have at least spent a bit of time with it (and probably more than most journalists will).

I'll start on the outside, and work my way in. The book is massive. You cannot miss it and, for those that can afford it, it will become a centrepiece of their private libraries. The dimensions are 610x469mmm (and it's approximately 3cm thick) and the book weighs 19 kg. However, put it in its hand-bound preservation case made of hard wood covered in leather and you have a weight of around 35 kg so you'll be glad to know that you receive a stand with the purchase. Finally, the edges of the pages are coated in silver to protect them from oxidation as the book is designed to last at least 500 years.

Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas: France profile

Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas: Australia map

Inside, the book is categorised according to geographic region by continent, which is a bit unwieldy for people that like the alphabet (although there is a comprehensive index at the back) but useful in this context because you can see how countries that are situated geographically next to each other are similar and also how they differ, which makes for interesting comparative reading. Each profile is richly illustrated with photographs, many of which were sourced from National Geographic and the maps are up to date. Each country profile lists a brief history and information about the economy, political structure, agriculture, architectural landmarks, and customs and traditions of the people. There are also timeline details of milestone events from a country's history listed in a separate box for at-a-glance information.

Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas: gatefold

Within the book are also four amazing gatefold photographs for you to discover. Each, as mentioned, is around two metres wide. I saw three of them - "Earth From The Night Sky", a composite photograph by NASA in which you see the entire planet at night; a spectacular composite of the Earth by day; and a foldout of the galaxy. (Unfortunately, I don't know what the fourth one is.)

Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas: Hurricane Felix, 2007

Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas: zebras in Kenya

The book took 20 years to put together and was compiled by a team, headed by Gordon Cheers, of around 100 experts (40 cartographers and 60 geographers). Their expertise and attention to detail shows. The book was whittled down to just over 800 photographs from an initial selection of 100 000 photographs and I don't envy anyone that task. There are also 355 up-to-date maps on about 160 pages (many span an entire two-page spread).

Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas: Phra Achana, Thailand

Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas: Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea

Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas is available in a limited edition of 3000 copies, 2000 of which are "Royal Blue" copies, which will be sold in stores (and is what I saw), and 1000 of which are "Imperial Gold" copies, which can only be purchased through the private collections agency of the Australian publishers, Millennium House. Each book is numbered, signed, and issued with a certificate of authenticity.

Now the damage, as masterpieces such as this are not cheap: should you want one, the cost for your signed, limited-edition volume will be $4800 [?], or roughly R42 000 for South Africans. Because this puts it out of reach of, well, almost everyone, the book has also been issued in a (physically) smaller edition, Concise Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas. The contents are almost identical although in this edition you won't get the gatefolds. The price is much more reasonable, at a recommended retail price of R650 [?], although Briza Publications is running a special at the Cape Town Book Fair and you can get it for R500 [?], which I highly recommend you do.

Goodnight Earth

Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas will take your breath away. It is a book designed to focus on the wonders of our planet, not the horrors, and it succeeds - magnificently.

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Key Facts
Title: Earth - The Comprehensive World Atlas
ISBN: 978-1-921209-14-7
Publisher: Millennium House (distributed by Briza Publications in South Africa)
Edition: First (and limited to 3000 copies)
Year: 2008
Format: Hardcover, full colour
Pages: 576
Dimensions: 610x469x30mm (WxHxD)
Genre/Keywords: atlas, non fiction, world

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