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why do we call the book of maps an atlas

The ancient Greeks told tales about giant beings called Titans. The Titans one fought with the Greek gods and lost. So, the gods punished the Titans. AtlasБs punishment was to hold the sky up on his shoulders. He held the sky up for years and years. One Titan was named Atlas. Once, when Atlas was doing his job, Hercules came to him and asked him to find out some golden apples for him. Atlas agreed to help me, but asked to keep the sky untill Atlas returns. Hercules was almost as strong as Atlas, but it was a hard work for him.


Soon, Atlas came back. He saw Hercules with the sky on his shoulders and he thought, БI could leave Hercules here and walk away. Then I would be free forever. Б
Hercules realized what Atlas had in mind. So Hercules thought of a trick. БThis sky is so uncomfortable! Б he said. БHold it up for a minute while I put a pad on my shoulders. Then IБll hold it up again. Б So Atlas took the sky from Hercules. But then HErcules ran away, leaving Atlas with the heavy sky.


So, Atlas had to keep holding up the sky forever. In time, he turned into stone mountains Б the Atlas Mountains in northwestern Africa. Even now, Atlas still seems to carry the sky on his shoulders. About 500 years ago, Geradus Mercator made a book of maps. In the book, he told the story of Atlas. Ever since then, a book of maps has been called an atlas. So, now you know how Atlas the keeper of all the world got its name. The use of the word atlas in a geographical context dates from 1595 when the geographer published Atlas Sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura. (Atlas or cosmographical meditations upon the creation of the universe, and the universe as created. ) This title provides Mercator's definition of the word as a description of the creation and form of the whole universe, not simply as a collection of maps.


The volume that was published posthumously one year after his death is a wide-ranging text but, as the editions evolved, it became simply a collection of maps and it is in that sense that the word was used from the middle of the seventeenth century.


The neologism coined by Mercator was a mark of his respect for whom he considered to be the first great geographer and it is that King who is portrayed on the frontispiece of the 1595 edition, however, by the time of the 1636 edition, the frontispiece image had become the supporting the globe.

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