Thursday, November 08, 2007

Review of Oxford Atlas of the World: 14th Edition

Full Discloser: Oxford Press has decided this blog is important enough to send a free copy of their new atlas in exchange for a review of their new atlas. I agreed but promised them I would write an honest review with pluses and minuses. Here is the said objective review delivered to my readers.

First off, Catholicgauze has always enjoyed Oxford's products. The 14th Edition of the Oxford Atlas of the World continues the well known and respected line of atlases from the company.

Three Pluses
  • The Cartography: No one can deny Oxford's atlas is pretty. The shadding of elevations, environments, and bodies of waters creates a beautiful piece of art. Just look at one of the medium-low scale (closer up) maps of the European Alps or Japan to see what I am talking about.
  • Detail: While not the highest detail atlas of the world, Oxford does a good job showing maps on a national level. Detail is expressed in all the new features on the maps with new islands because of glacier melt being shown and the addition of new finished railroads and parks also seen on the maps.
  • The Extras: A deal breaker on atlases. Oxford has plenty of informative maps (economics, environmental quality, life expectancy, etc.). The gazetteer also stood up to Catholicgauze's rigorous test comparing locations to official American government data.

Three Minuses
  • The Price: At eighty dollars it is certainly not the most expensive atlas but it is up there. Many of Catholicgauze's original readers (students) will not be able to afford the eight pound giant. Maybe if Oxford could offer a condensed student edition it could attract a new market.
  • Place Names: For some reason geographers and cartographers like to sound cosmopolitan at certain times. Some atlas' call the Ivory Coast "Cote d'Ivoire" and East Timor "Timor Leste" while calling Germany "Germany" and not "Deutschland" or Italy "Italy" and not "Repubblica Italiana." Oxford uses English for country names but will use the local language for city names (though English place names will appear in parentheses). We speak English so why do we not use English in our atlases?
  • Size: With detail and all the extras, the atlas is a big boy. I have welded RPGs and MANDPADs which are more travel friendly. So one better have a large enough book shelf to store this beast.

If one can afford and properly store the 14th Edition of Oxford's Atlas of the World, then they will be set with a great atlas. All in all, Oxford has created a great medium-high level atlas.

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