Nearly two decades ago Rand McNally and Co. of Chicago published "The International Atlas" in cooperation with other overseas commercial map companies especially several with European headquarters. Although basically a collection of general reference maps, "The International Atlas" contained a substantial introductory essay illustrated with thematic maps, tables, and ground and aerial photographs. Except for its use of four languages in certain parts of the text, "The International Atlas" could well have served as the model for the two atlases being reviewed.
Both the "Prentice-Hall Great International Atlas" and "The Great World Atlas" published by American Map Corp. are aimed at an affluent, largely English-speaking American market. But like their prototype they both owe a great deal to foreign, especially European cartographic skill. One is always wary of a product that proclaims itself as "great," but when two new atlases make the same claim they inevitably invite comparison. However, here the two atlases will be compared only after each of them has been evaluated individually.
The maps that form the body of the "Prentice-Hall Great International Atlas" are from the well-known English map publisher George Philip and Sons, Ltd. although in this case the work was printed in the United States. As a leading producer of educational cartographic material, the clear style of the Philip's maps have become familiar to generations of schoolchildren in the United Kingdom and overseas areas influenced by that country, where geography is an important subject taught at all levels. Place names, major political boundaries, and transportation lines (rail and road) are shown on a background of landforms with contours, shaded relief, hypsometric (altitude-measurement) tints and, over the water bodies, isobaths (depth-contour lines). This section of the atlas, consisting of 145 pages, is preceded by a slightly smaller amount of front material and illustrated text. As well as including the usual table of contents, the front material provides the reader with statistics on climate and population, instructions on how to use the atlas, and even a description of map-making and printing. The illustrated essay which follows attempts to cover with text, colored pictures and maps the course of man's conquest of the Earth from prehistoric times to the present, and the new physical geography. Emphasis is given to expanding civilizations and particularly to European overseas discovery, and Earth evolution. The introductory material is balanced at the end of this large volume by a signature of 30 thematic (mostly economic) world maps, country by country statistics, and also an extensive gazetteer or index of nearly 150 pages.