Editions One to Nine of the Times Atlas of the World Comprehensive Edition were based on the Five Volume, Mid Century Edition using hand engraved copper plates, and I strongly reccommend anyone interested in fine maps to obtain a clean second hand copy of one of these earlier editions (bearing in mind that many library copies are sold due to the theft of some of the plates)as I prefer the map style to that of the newer digital editions (just compare the plates showing Sicily with Mount Etna and those of the Grand Canyon to see how much better they looked).The Tenth Edition (origionally called the Millenium Edition) was completely redrawn using digtal techniques. This Thirteenth Edition is an update of the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Editions, the main difference being the introduction of town plans as included in the Concise Edition. Also, the Alaska plate, missing in the Tenth Edition, was reinstated in the Eleventh Edition.
The main difference between the old copper plate editions and the new computer drawn editions is in the slight swing away from Western Europe with a more even balance with Eastern Europe, and the loss of the superb 1:5,000,000 plates of the whole of Russia which first became available in the Five Volume Mid Century Edition and were based on those from the newly published Atlas Mira. The new editions are still very heavily biases towards Europe (mostly at 1:1,000,000 and 1:2,500,000) and North America (USA and S Canada at 1:2,5000). Much of the rest of the world is at 1:5,000,000 and less (Russia is now at only 1:8,000,000 and Arctic Canada is at 1:12,500,000). Also, contour lines are absent on the newer digital maps and I think this gives them an out of focus appearence compared to the old, copper plate maps. I would love to see an atlas with the whole world at 1:2,500,000 (including Arctic Canada). Such an atlas would be physically possible, especially if all the superfilous encyclopaedic entries and photos were removed, but would it be economically viable? I doubt it! Most people still judge a world atlas by how well it maps their own country and continent. The AA published a much smaller format world atlas about ten years ago that managed to map the whole world at the uniform scale of 1:4,500,000World Atlas (AA Atlases)
. Dispite the fact that this beat the Times Atlas for minimum world scale (who could only manage 1:12,500,000 for Arctic Canada), the AA World Atlas soon went out of print. People would look at Europe at 1:4,500,000 and exclaim "rubbish!"
Sheena Barclay's statement on the Times Atlas video that "at 2,100,000 place names,100,000 more than any other world atlas" is not entirely true. Only last year, I purchased a new copy of the Atlas Mira (mentioned above) now published as 'The World Atlas' in English, from Omni Maps in the USA, (ISBN 5-85120-055-3) but strangely, unavailable in this country and not even listed on the Amazon website, which also has 220,000 entries. However, this atlas is not nearly as up to date or reliable as the Times Atlas, (it spells 'Aberystwyth' as 'Aberystwith') and is a lot more expensive. Another even bigger world atlas the Earth AtlasEarth: The World Atlas
, is hugely expensive at £3,700, and mainly consists of photographs and text. Dispite its huge size and price and the undoubted beauty of its maps, the index consists of only 111,000 place names. The only other atlas that can compete with the Times Comprehensive for size of index is the Rand McNally, The New International World Atlas: 25th Anniversary Edition
an American Atlas with 177,000 place names. Another large American Atlas is the National GeographicNational Geographic Atlas of the World
, a political atlas with 149,000 place names. The page size of 1410 square cm is second only to the Earth Atlas at 2,220 square cm, and the maps are beatifully drawn, but coverage of areas outside of North America and Antarctica is disappointing. The other large world atlas which is readily available in Britain is the Philips Universal Atlas Philip's Universal Atlas of the World (Philips Atlas)
which has a similar map area to the Times (both 28 square metres), but this is even more polarised towards the USA, has a poor coverage of Asia, Africa and South America, and has an index count of only 120,000. This is not necessarily a bad thing as due to the lower concentration of place names on the maps, they are easier to read than those of the Times Atlas. One of the criticisms of the Times Atlas maps is that they are often cluttered and difficult to read. Take Poland at 1:1,500,00 for instance. The map is far too cluttered, and would have been much better over two plates at 1:1,000,000.
In conclusion, dispite the criticisms mentioned above, the Times Atlas Comprehensive Edition is the finest World Atlas available in this country, and thus comes highly recommended. For anyone who already owns the Tenth to Twelfth Edition, I would not personally bother to update it with the new one, (much smaller and cheaper atlases are available to update boundary changes etc.) but would rather supplement it with one of the other atlases mentioned in the review.