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Theatre of Old Maps

The author grew up near the birthplace of the famous cartographer Gerard Mercator. Inspired by this great scientist and artist he also went to study Physical Geography (BSc) and Cartography (Masters). This website and its products are the result of more than 30 years of experience in Cartography, GIS and IT, both as a teacher and developer. For more information visit my official website: t-o-maps.com.

The author grew up near the birthplace of the famous cartographer Gerard Mercator. Inspired by this great scientist and artist he also went to study Physical Geography (BSc) and Cartography (Masters). This website and its products are the result of more than 30 years of experience in Cartography, GIS and IT, both as a teacher and developer. For more information visit my official website: t-o-maps.com.
Historical e-Atlas Wales
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Historical e-Atlas Wales

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Wales in 33 historical maps: 1150-2010 (110 pages). The name Wales (and Welsh) derives from the Germanic root Walh (plural Walha). The name refers to the Celtic tribes known to the Romans as Volcae, being used to identify all Celtic inhabitants of the Roman Empire. The Welsh name for Wales is Cymry. The word is descended from the Brythonic word combrogi, meaning “fellow-countrymen”. The Latinised form is Cambria. It has survived in various geographical names; e.g. the Cambrian Mountains, which cover much of Wales. (They also gave their name to the Cambrian geological period.) The name Cambria was also used on the earliest printed maps of Wales, at the end of the 16th century. On later maps it would become Wallia (Latin) and Wales (modern English).
Remote Sensing: how satellite images are made
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Remote Sensing: how satellite images are made

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Remote Sensing: how satellite images are made (1972-date) This concise presentation (16 pages) shows how satellite images are generated. It focuses on Landsat, the longest running project for earth observation. The entire process is explained: from the reflected sunbeams on the earth surface to the colours on the screen.
Historical e-Atlas Iceland
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Historical e-Atlas Iceland

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Iceland in 34 historical maps: 1528-2010 (112 pages). Iceland means “Land of Ice”. The Old Norse name is Ísland. On early maps the Latin name Islandia is mostly used. Iceland is clearly depicted on the famous map of Scandinavia (1539) made by Olaus Magnus. The first separately printed map of the country appeared a few years later. The first full colour map was published by Ortelius in 1590. In the course of history numerous native cartographers turned up and produced a string of great maps of the country. E.g. Gudbrandur Thorlaksson (c.1590), Thordur Thorlaksson (1668), Eiriksson (1780), Gunnlaugsson (1849) and Thoroddsen (1900).
Historical e-Atlas Canada
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Historical e-Atlas Canada

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Canada in 41 historical maps: 1507-2010 (126 pages). The name Canada is derived from the Algonquin word Kanada, which means “village”. The name appeared for the first time on French world maps in about 1540. The name Quebec was used on early maps to identify newly discovered parts of Canada. The name was introduced by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1608. The name Quebec is derived from the Algonquin word kébec, meaning “where the river narrows”. (Referring to the St. Lawrence River near modern Quebec City.) The name Canada originally only referred to a small area being part of a larger Eastern region called Nova Francia (in Latin), after it had been colonized by the French. After their independence from the UK, in 1867, the name Canada was soon adopted for the whole country as we know it today. The first separately printed maps of Canada did appear not until the 19th century.
Historical e-Atlas Israel
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Historical e-Atlas Israel

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Israel in 37 historical maps: 150AD-2010 (118 pages). The (Latin) name Israel refers to the Jewish people and their nation. It originates from the Hebrew Bible as an appellation given to the biblical patriarch Jacob. The exact meaning of the name is uncertain. Most likely its original Hebrew name Yisra’el is derived from the words sara® and El, meaning “he who fought or contended with God”. The name was given to Jacob and extended to his descendants. They came to be known as the Israelites, eventually forming the tribes of Israel and ultimately the kingdom of Israel. Since the formation of the independent Jewish state, in 1948, it’s the official name of the country. Being the heart of the Holy Land numerous maps of the country have been made in the course of the history of cartography. On early (medieval) maps, based on the T-O concept, Israel and its capital Jerusalem were regarded as the centre of the world. Even until the end of the 18th century cartographers incorporated biblical events and figures in their maps, referring to the time of the Old and New Testament.
Historical e-Atlas Denmark
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Historical e-Atlas Denmark

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Denmark in 34 historical maps: 1375-2010 (112 pages). The name Denmark probably means “Flat Borderlands”. Most likely it is derived from the Proto-Indo-European word dhen (meaning “low” or “flat”) and the Old Norse words merki (“boundary”) or mork (“borderland”). Although out of shape, the country is clearly visible on the first maps based on Ptolemy’s descriptions (c.1480). It looks like an appendix North of Germany. On the famous overview map of Scandinavia, made by Olaus Magnus (1539), the border of Denmark is depicted more accurately. One of the first separate maps was included in Sebastian Munster’s encyclopaedia (1544). The first separately printed (hand-coloured) map, based on the work of the Danish Cartographer Marcus Jordan (1552), was published by Ortelius in 1570.
Historical e-Atlas Portugal
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Historical e-Atlas Portugal

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Portugal in 31 historical maps: 1375-2010 (106 pages) On ancient maps the Latin name Iberia is used to identify the Spanish peninsula (Spain and Portugal). It is derived from the Greek word Iberes, meaning “the Celtic people of Spain”. But it may also refer to the river Ebro in Spain. Most likely the name Portugal means “beautiful port”. The first part refers to the Latin word Portus. The second part may be derived from the Greek word kallis. Spain and Portugal were already described by Ptolemy in his Geographia (150AD). The accompanying maps were worked out again by European cartographers at the end of the 15th century. The coastline was drawn in more detail on 14th century Portolan charts (nautical maps). The first separately printed map of Portugal appeared in the 16th century (about 1560).
Historical e-Atlas Iran
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Historical e-Atlas Iran

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Iran in 39 historical maps: 1154-2010 (122 pages) Iran refers to “Land of the Aryans”. The term Arya is from a Proto Indo-European root, generally meaning “noble” or “free”. Iran was formerly known as Persia in the west, until Shah Reza Pahlavi officially asked the international community in 1935 to name the country by the name Iran. The name Persia comes from the ancient Greek word Persis , which is a translation for what the Persians around the world called Pars, a region in the south of Iran. Urban civilization in Persia dates back at least 9000 years.
Historical e-Atlas China
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Historical e-Atlas China

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China in 41 historical maps: 1137-2010 (126 pages). The most commonly theory suggests that the name China refers to the Qin dynasty, which ruled China from 221 till 206 BC. The name China was adopted by Martin Martini and other 17th century (European) cartographers. On earlier maps the name Cathay, based on Marco Polo’s Italian name Catai, was used to identify the northern part of present-day China. The (eastern) coastline of China was not yet depicted on early European (world) maps based on Ptolemy’s descriptions. The large wall maps of Cresques (1375) and Fra Mauro (1450) were the first European world maps showing the extent of China to the east. On the other hand, a few centuries earlier, Chinese cartographers had already produced some remarkably accurate maps - at the time - of China and surroundings. The first separate maps of China, printed by Europeans, appeared in the 16th century.
Historical e-Atlas India
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Historical e-Atlas India

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India in 40 historical maps: 1467-2010 (124 pages). The name India is referring to the Indus river (or Sindhu) and has been in use in Greek since Herodotus (4th century BC). An alternative name is Hindustan. In the 19th century, the term as was only used to identify the northern part of present-day India. India was already described by Ptolemy in about 150AD. The accompanying maps were worked out at the end of the 15th century by European cartographers. The size and shape are not very accurate on these maps. The island of present-day Sri Lanka is relatively large and positioned at the south-west side. From 1502 onwards (Cantino map and later) India is finally depicted by its characteristic V-shape, due to new chartings by Portuguese explorers.
Historical e-Atlas South-Africa
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Historical e-Atlas South-Africa

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South-Africa in 38 historical maps: 1490-2010 (120 pages). The name Africa may be derived from the Phoenician word afar, meaning “dust”. The name Africa Terra (Land of the Dust) was introduced by the ancient Romans to identify the northern part of the continent that corresponds to modern-day Tunisia. On classical Greek maps (e.g. Strabo’s world map) the name Libia was mostly used to identify the third known continent. Waldseemuller’s large map of 1507 - being partly based on Ptolemy’s ideas and new discoveries - was one of the first world maps depicting the whole continent, including the South-African coastline. On the earlier world map of Martellus (1490) the southern part was truly out of shape; on Cantino’s world map (1502) it was corrected on account of information provided by Portuguese explorers. The first separately printed maps of the southern part of Africa appeared in the 16th century.
Historical e-Atlas Greece
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Historical e-Atlas Greece

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Greece in 41 historical maps: 150AD-2010 (126 pages). The name Greece means “Land of the Greeks”. The Latin name as introduced by the Romans is Graecia. Its origin is uncertain but it may be derived from the Proto-Greek word grauj (‘old age’) or the Proto-Indo-European word gere (‘to grow old’). The Greeks themselves called their country Hellas. This name refers to Hellen (son of Deucalion and Pyrrha), a figure found in ancient Greek mythology. Greece was already described by Ptolemy (ca. 150 AD) and other classical Greek and Roman scholars. The coastline and their numerous small islands were mapped more accurate on Portolan charts of the 14th and 15th century. The first separately printed maps appeared in the (early) 16th century.
Historical e-Atlas Mexico
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Historical e-Atlas Mexico

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Mexico in 36 historical maps: 1527-2010 (116 pages). The origin of the name Mexico (Mexihca) is uncertain. Most likely it means “navel of the moon”, based on Nahuatl metztli (moon) and xictli (navel).* It may also be derived from Mexihco, the name of the ancient Aztec capital, given by the Spanish colonists. At the end of the 16th century and early 17th century the name Mexico was also used on maps to identify large parts of present day United States. The Latin name Nova Hispania (New Spain) was used for a smaller region centred around the present-day capital Mexico City. On the world map of Ribero (1527) the eastern coastline of present-day Mexico is depicted remarkably accurate. On the atlas maps made by the Dieppe school (1547) the western coastline is also shown. One of the first separately engraved maps of Mexico was made by Italian cartographers in 1561. Numerous copies of other European cartographers would follow. *Nahuatl is a language spoken by the native inhabitants of Mexico
Historical e-Atlas Argentina & Chile
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Historical e-Atlas Argentina & Chile

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Argentina and Chile in 39 historical maps: 1502-2010 (122 pages). The name Argentina refers to the Río de la Plata (Latin: Argenteus), meaning “Silver River”. It was given by the explorer Sebastian Cabot in the 1520s after acquiring some silver trinkets from a local tribe (the Guaraní). The origin of the name Chile is uncertain. It may be derived from the Mapuche word Chili , meaning “where the land ends”. (The Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and south-western Argentina, including parts of the region Patagonia.) The name Patagonia (Patagão), covering large parts of present-day Argentina and Chile, was introduced by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (1519-1522 voyage). It means “Land of big feet” referring to the huge people he reported to have seen. The southernmost part of South-America was first drawn on the famous Cantino map (1502), followed by a more accurate map of Ribero in 1527. The first maps of Argentina and Chile resembling the modern maps nowadays did not appear until the midst of the 19th century. This was after their independence from Spain in 1810 (Chile) and 1816 (Argentina).
Historical e-Atlas Austria
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Historical e-Atlas Austria

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Austria in 32 historical maps: 1493-2010 (108 pages). Austria (German Österreich) means “Eastern March”. In Medieval times it was named in Latin: Marchia Orientalis. It is a former eastern prefecture of the Duchy of Bavaria, established in 976. The borders of Austria would change numerous times in the course of history, as shown on the maps in this atlas. In ca. 1560 the first separately printed map was published by the Hungarian cartographer Lazius. His map was used by famous cartographers, among them: Ortelius, Mercator and the Blaeu family.
Historical e-Atlas Sri Lanka
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Historical e-Atlas Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka in 36 historical maps: 1154-2010 (116 pages) The name Sri Lanka means “Holy Island” (from Sanskrit). Its former name is Ceylon, from Ceilão (Portuguese) and Zeilan (Dutch). It probably refers to “land of the lions”. On classical maps, based on Ptolemy’s writings, it was called Taprobana. This refers to “the island of King Rawana”. In the 16th and 17th century numerous separate maps appeared based on information of Dutch and Portuguese explorers. The capital city Colombo became an important harbour through the establishment of trading posts by Dutch, Portuguese and British colonists.* NOTE: Sri Lanka and Colombo were already known to the Chinese and Arabs since the 8th century.
Historical e-Atlas France
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Historical e-Atlas France

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France in 43 historical maps: 150AD-2010 (130 pages). The name France refers to Land of the Franks. The name means “Land of the free People”. The name may also be derived from the word frankon (spear), one of the weapons used by its warriors. On earlier maps the Latin name Gallia (Land of the Celts) or Gaul (Land of Foreigners) was used; during the 17th century the name Francia came into use. In the oldest classical descriptions (e.g. Strabo, ca. 20BC) the name Celtica is used to identify the region covering present-day France. France was also described by Ptolemy in his Geographia (150AD). The accompanying maps were worked out again by European cartographers at the end of the 15th century. Its coastline is depicted more accurate on the Portolan charts of the late middle ages, when the Mediterranean region was a centre for navigation and trade. The first printed separate maps of France appeared in the early 16th century.
Historical e-Atlas Italy
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Historical e-Atlas Italy

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Italy in 43 historical maps: 150AD-2010 (130 pages). The name Italy (in Latin: Italia) can be traced back to ancient times for the peninsula, though it was initially designated for the region of the lower part of Southern Italy by Greek settlers. Most likely it is derived from the ancient word Viteliu, meaning “land of young cattle”. Italy had been a rich agricultural country since ancient times. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Lombard invasions, Italia gradually became the collective name for various sovereign entities present on the peninsula. Italy was already described by Ptolemy in his Geographia (150AD). The accompanying maps were worked out again by European cartographers at the end of the 15th century. It is also depicted on the Portolan charts during the late middle ages, when the Mediterranean was a centre for navigation and trade. The first printed separate maps of Italy appeared in the early 16th century. The city of Rome was most likely founded in 752 BC. It was once the capital of the Roman Empire (27BC - 476AD) and is now both the capital of Italy and the seat of the RC church.
Historical e-Atlas Nigeria
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Historical e-Atlas Nigeria

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Nigeria in 35 historical maps: 1490-2010 (114 pages). Nigeria is named after the river Niger that flows through the western part of the country, ending in the Atlantic ocean. It means “flowing water” and may be derived from the native word Ni Gir or N’eghirren (Tuareg). The Cantino map (1502) was the first world map on which the coastline of this western part of Africa was depicted relatively accurate. Due to lack of information the inland was often filled with fictitious elements. On 17th century and later maps (e.g. Blaeu) the name of neighbouring country Benin was used to identify large parts of present-day Nigeria. During the 18th century the African maps looked rather empty again (e.g. Anville), because cartographers applied a more scientific approach and showed only features that were actually verified. The first separately printed (atlas) maps of Nigeria did not appear until their independence from the UK in 1960.
Historical e-Atlas Russia
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Historical e-Atlas Russia

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Russia in 44 historical maps: 1375-2010 (132 pages). The name Russia, or Byzantine Greek Ro(s)sia, means “Land of the Rus” (or Ros). Most likely it is derived from the Old Norse word for “rower” (or seafarer). Its first usage dates back to the early middle ages. On earlier maps the (Latin) names Moscovia and Tartaria were used. Moscovia identifies the western (European) part and Tartaria the eastern or Asiatic part. On the Mappa Mundia of Cresques (1375) and Fra Mauro (1450) the name Rossia is used. The modern name Russia came into use in the 16th century. The first separately printed maps of Russia appeared in the 16th century. Most of the maps were focused on the European part (Moscovia). During the 17th century the coverage was extended to the east.