Barrington Atlas
July 16, 2003 5:30 PM   Subscribe

The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World provides beautiful detailed topographical maps of the ancient world. A mammoth undertaking in production over 12 years with 160 scholars and cartographers (with help from MapQuest) and estimated to cost over $5 million it is the largest and most accurate Ancient World Atlas ever. Composed of 99 maps (examples) the Atlas is easily available to the layperson. "If you're gripped by Hannibal and want to sort out which way you think he went through the Alps, you'll have enough of a clear landscape to do it. If you want to follow St. Paul around the eastern Mediterranean, you can."
posted by stbalbach (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is on my Amazon wishlist, but sadly no one has bought it for me.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 6:47 PM on July 16, 2003

If researchers created An Atlas of the Pre-Colombian World of the same quality, I would be very happy.
posted by quam at 7:04 PM on July 16, 2003

By "easily available" you mean " anyone with $500 to spare." It is indeed a beautiful atlas, but I think I'll stick to the one at the Mid-Manhattan branch of the NYPL, thanks.
posted by languagehat at 7:13 PM on July 16, 2003

this probably makes me dense, but: is this of mythical terrain, or real? (i ask because there a professor recently made a family tree of mount olympus, so...)
posted by pxe2000 at 7:13 PM on July 16, 2003

Paper copy for $150 or Paper + CD-ROM copy $350 or library for free.
posted by stbalbach at 7:41 PM on July 16, 2003

The concept has merit.
posted by y2karl at 8:01 PM on July 16, 2003

Which ancient world? The Roman and Greek worlds weren't so ancient. And has the world's topography shifted much in the last 2 or 3 thousand years to require a specialized topo map? - this is not to knock the post, by the way. I think that anything which leads humans towards consideration of timeframes longer than the 5 minutes necessary to devour a big bag of Doritos is worthy indeed.

[ and besides, I used to spend time myself poking thousands of bits of cardboard representing military units, which fought during WW2, around on a six by ten foot paper map.......there were lots of rules, too.....*sigh* ]
posted by troutfishing at 8:15 PM on July 16, 2003

is this of mythical terrain, or real?

It's the real world!

And has the world's topography shifted much in the last 2 or 3 thousand years to require a specialized topo map?

Shifting shorelines are probably one of the most important such cases, where what moderns have figured out does make a difference. But on the whole, the topo information is the unoriginal part of this project (i.e., without grabbing this from existing databases, they couldn't have begun), and it's the placement of towns, roads, and other features that took most of the immense brainpower that went into this.

You have to consider that until this, if you were interested in a good map of the Greco-Roman world, you went to a 150 year old German book, and that since then archaeologists have discovered zillions of sites and reinterpreted the lay of the land through new excavations, aerial surveys, and bunches of other new methods.

Still, except for the hardcore, it's a library book, one that any map-lover will love to drool over, though—it really is beautifully produced.
posted by Zurishaddai at 8:24 PM on July 16, 2003

stbalbach, the $150 item you've linked to is only the directory, in two-volumes: it's the hardcover version of what comes on CD-ROM with the atlas itself, which is the $350 item. Order the directory and you won't get any maps. languagehat's $500 quote is accurate.
posted by mcwetboy at 5:35 AM on July 17, 2003

Your right about the $150 being only the directory, but $350 will buy the whole atlas plus directory on CD-ROM. $500 gets the directory additionally cloth bound. Still, a lot of money, but most people with an interest can afford it. The previous authoritative work was German from the 19th C and cost $4000.
posted by stbalbach at 6:38 AM on July 17, 2003

Still, a lot of money, but most people with an interest can afford it.

*attempts to refrain from saying anything political*
posted by goethean at 8:48 AM on July 17, 2003

Yeah, I was going to comment on that but it rendered me speechless.
posted by languagehat at 9:45 AM on July 17, 2003

Still, a lot of money, but most people with an interest can afford it.

I can't. Wish I could.
posted by Tin Man at 10:58 AM on July 17, 2003

ok.. sorry to alienate anyone on money.. the point is this. The previous material was available in German and cost $4000 only serious academics would buy it. The new material is now available at $350 an order of magnitude cheaper and opens it up to a wider hobbiest audience. When you think how much money is spent on hobbiest non-essential items in the computer field or whatever your hobbies are $350 is not the same as $4000 in terms of "a lot of money".
posted by stbalbach at 11:08 AM on July 17, 2003

It would be nice to see the retail price of important scholarly works like this subsidized even more generously. But if this had been produced in Europe, it would cost tenfold as much. I mean, for this price of this huge and sumptuous brand-new atlas, you could get generation(s)-old monochrome books of text like Slater's Lexicon to Pindar (orig. pub. 1969, 563 pp., $210 at discount, thanks to De Gruyter for making inaccessible a book that belongs in the hands of everyone who ever bothers trying to read Pindar in Greek) or the standard edition of the Presocratics (orig. pub. a century ago, 3v., €218).

Plus, there's always the chance that, now that this has already been purchased by every serious library on earth, some version, perhaps electronic, will become more cheaply available. For example, the price of the five-volume standard lexicon of Biblical Hebrew (something normal people could never have afforded in print volumes from the Dutch publisher, Brill) has fallen to 160 bucks for the CDROM.

For better or worse, the Barrington Atlas's price represents a lot of subsidy. Such projects deserve more, and if a source of $$$ really wanted to make a priority of making such instruments of learning available to honest-to-goodness ordinary people, it could.
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:57 AM on July 17, 2003

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