Male figure used as a column to support an entablature, balcony, or other projection, originating in Classical architecture. Such figures are posed as if supporting great weights, like Atlas bearing the world. The related telamon of Roman architecture, the male counterpart of the caryatid, is also a weight-bearing figure but does not usually appear in an atlas pose.
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Mountain system, northwestern Africa. It extends some 1,200 mi (2,000 km) from the Moroccan port of Agadir in the southwest to the Tunisian capital of Tunis in the northeast. It comprises several ranges, rising to various elevations, including the High Atlas in Morocco; the Tell, or Maritime, Atlas, which runs along the coast from Morocco to Tunisia; and the Saharan Atlas in Algeria, located farther inland and running adjacent to the Sahara. Among these ranges are situated numerous plateaus and plains that support diverse ecologies. The system's highest peak is Morocco's Mount Toubkal, elevation 13,665 ft (4,165 m).
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In Greek mythology, the strong man who supported the weight of the heavens on his shoulders. He was the son of the Titan Iapetus and the nymph Clymene (or Asia) and the brother of Prometheus. According to Hesiod, Atlas was one of the Titans who waged war against Zeus, and as punishment he was condemned to hold aloft the heavens.
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The earliest atlases were not called by that name at the time of their publication, as it was introduced in 1595 by Gerardus Mercator.
The first book that in hindsight could be called an atlas was constructed from the calculations of Claudius Ptolemy, a geographer working in Alexandria circa A.D. 150. The first edition was published in Bologna in 1477 and was illustrated with a set of 27 maps, though scholars say that it is not known whether the printed maps were engraved versions of original maps made by Ptolemy, or whether they were constructed by medieval Greek scholars from Ptolemy's text.
From about 1544, many maps were produced, especially in the important trading centers of Rome and Venice. Each publisher worked independently, producing maps based upon their own needs. The maps often varied dramatically in size. Over time, it became common to bind the maps together into composite works. Although the term atlas was not in use in 1544, these works are now called "IATO" atlases - (Italian, Assembled to Order) or more frequently "Lafreri atlases" after one of the leading publishers of the period.
Abraham Ortelius is credited with issuing the first modern atlas on May 20, 1570. His Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, contained 53 map-sheets covering the countries of the World. This work was the first book of its kind to reduce the best available maps to a uniform size. It was an immediate critical and commercial success.
However, use of the word "atlas" for a bound collection of maps was not to come into use until the 1595 publication of Gerardus Mercator's "Atlas, Sive Cosmographicae Meditationes De Fabrica Mundi ..." (Atlas, or Description of the Universe) (Duisburg, 1585-1595).
In works of art, this Atlas is represented as carrying the heavens or the Celestial Sphere, on his shoulders. The earliest such depiction is the Farnese Atlas, now housed at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli in Naples, Italy. This figure is frequently found on the cover or title-pages of atlases. This is particularly true of atlases published by Dutch publishers during the second half of the seventeenth century. The image became associated with Dutch merchants, and a statue of this figure adorns the front of the World Trade Center in Amsterdam.
The first publisher to associate the Titan Atlas with a group of maps was Lafreri, on the title-page to "Tavole Moderne Di Geografia De La Maggior Parte Del Mondo Di Diversi Autori ...". However, he did not use the word "atlas" in the title of his work.
History of atlases
Historical atlases online