The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World

View Live Map →

Why We Love It

World reference atlases are revered publications, known for quality, consistency, and magnificence. The Times Atlas of the World, first published in 1895, is on its 14th edition in the current format. With 132 map plates and more than 220,000 indexed names, it is marketed as The Greatest Book on Earth. We love it because it is a benchmark of cartographic excellence, exhibiting well-crafted and refined cartography.

Why It Works

As you might expect, the cartography here is exquisite. There is an almost unimaginable amount of detail packed into each map, yet the positioning of every element appears to have been carefully thought through. The balance and hierarchy of detail and nuanced symbology make the maps coherent. It is clear that tremendous effort goes into making each map page work in perfect harmony with the entirety of content.

Important Steps

The Collins Bartholomew team, supported by a global network of expert advisors, meticulously research geo-information required to create the maps, with particular focus on environmental change, infrastructure development, geopolitical/boundary issues, and place names.

The cartographers revise the base ArcGIS databases used to create the maps, remaining at all times mindful of the key principles of cartographic generalization and selection applicable to small- and medium-scale reference mapping.

Relevant layers of data for the area within the extent of each map is extracted from base data, projected, and processed through a standalone Maplex rulebase with 1,100+ individual rules to apply required cartographic symbology and place all labels.

Final tweaking of the map content, addition of page furniture, and creation of high-resolution, print-ready PDF files is performed using Adobe Creative Suite.



Vector data required to create the map base is extracted from Collins Bartholomew's ‘Explorer’ ArcGIS databases. Place names (including alternative name forms required for the index) are extracted from Collins Bartholomew's Locate Oracle database. Further details available at


Editorial policy is established and sound principles of cartographic design applied to develop the specification for the maps. This is then reflected in the data and Maplex (Esri’s labeling engine used in ArcGIS) rule base used to create the maps.


It typically takes one day to revise the base data in ArcGIS for one atlas map. Cutting, projecting, and processing data through Maplex takes one hour. Fine tuning the map and preparation of print ready files in Adobe Creative Suite takes two or three days.

Base Data


Take enough time to ensure that the base data is structured correctly and that it accurately reflects the editorial policy of the atlas.

Built-In Actions


Proof map data output early in the process so that errors can be fixed once only.

Map Author


Collins Bartholomew Cartographic Team


We have been in the business of map production for more than 175 years.

Start making maps with a free trial of ArcGIS.

Try ArcGIS →