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The term ‘atlas’ was coined by Gerard Mercator in 1595 to describe his book of maps. He claimed that he chose the word “to honour the Titan, Atlas, King of Mauritania, a learned philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer”. Atlases are typically a collection of printed maps. They chart specific regions, the stars, or the entire Earth.

The world map from Ortelius' famous atlas. The map is on an oval projection and in original hand colour. The Earth is depicted surrounded by clouds.