The famous French geographer Vidal de la Blanche once wrote that "man and his environment are more intimate than a snail and his shell." With this in mind, one cannot possibly explore the rural landscape without understanding first the physical makeup of the land, followed by the various forces of human nature that have swept across it - some futile, others as devastating as a forest fire. This book is a weighty volume, but this in no way precludes the reader from dipping and browsing. Every one of the 352 pages is a mine of information in words and images, and you cannot let the book fall open without learning about, for example, "lazy beds" and the history of the potato, or the soot houses that were used extensively up to the early twentieth century for the manufacture of ash fertiliser. Ireland's ties with the land are traced from the very beginning of the physical landscape up to the modern era. And Ireland's history is not without its' tragedy; in particular the Great Famine in 1845-47 - and the country has been occupied by non-Celtic peoples more often in the last thousand years than not. The Vikings, Normans and English have all had their part in the shaping of the rural landscape - none more so, possibly, than the English Plantations. However, the Atlas walks the straight and narrow of historical reference and avoids the pitfalls of sentimentality, charting a neat course through the early farming methods of land clearance through to the organised estates of the landed gentry which are still with us today. Dotted throughout are literary gems such as the excerpt from Seán O'Faolaín's poem "An Irish Journey" in which "...our history has seemed to fade from the land like old writing from parchment". With this book, the various editors have compiled what will in time be recognised as one of the most important sources of information about Ireland ever written. The regional case studies at the end of the book are in themselves superb reading. For anyone who requires a reference on the subject, the Atlas is a must. Even as an indicator of how we affect change in the landscape around us, this book is an eye-opening education. As an American agronomist once said: "we have changed the world, and then we wonder why everything doesn't stay the same."