The Reader’s Digest Great World Atlas of 1961.

I acquired the Reader’s Digest Great World Atlas of 1961, first edition, yesterday at a very old bookstore in Bangalore.


It’s an amazing addition to my collection of maps. Interestingly, I couldn’t find any information about the atlas on the Internet.

The atlas was ‘planned’ under the direction of the famous geographer Frank Debenham. With involvement of the British and Foreign Bible Society, British Broadcasting Corporation, FOA, WHO, Information Service of India and numerous other organizations and individuals, the atlas is spread out in four sections.

Paradise is somewhere in the far east. Jerusalem is the center of all nations and countries, and the world itself is a flat disk surrounded by oceans of water. So the monks, map-makers of the Middle Ages, saw the world they lived in.

Jerusalem was considered to be the center of the world, while the geographic center was first calculated in 1864, revised in 1973 and finalised in 2003 by Andrew J. Woods. The atlas attempts to fix these wrong notions by collecting the sum of knowledge from the explorations and scientific discoveries at that time.

The first section called the Face of the World portrays some fascinating relief maps like the ones below. They are structurally and geographically to the utmost detail that I’ve seen in any of the old representations.

reliefreleif 2

The atlas employs various projections like the Conic, Lambert’s Azimuthal Equal Area, Bonne and the Van der Grinten projection. The following map of oceans is better depicted in the Van der Grinten projection.


And the following interesting illustration about continental drift.


There are more to the atlas than these. I hope to post them when I find time to read through this amazing record of history.