Largest Atlas in the World Created using ArcGIS

Caitlin Dempsey


Earth Platinum, the largest atlas ever printed, was released in February 2012 by Millennium House, Australia. Only 31 copies of the 330 pound, leather-bound book exist and each are priced at $100,000. The book measures 6ft by 9ft and has been recognized by Chris Sheedy of the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest atlas in existence. The book contains 128 pages and requires at least two hands, or in some case multiple people, to turn the pages.

Earth Platinum has surpassed the previous holder of the world record for largest atlas, the famous Klencke Atlas (which measures about 5′ 9″  by 6′ 3″ when opened). The Klencke Atlas is housed in the Antiquarian Mapping Division of the British Library in London and held the title for largest atlas worldwide from 1660 until the publication of Earth Platinum. Published as a one-off over 350 years ago, the Klencke Atlas is reported to contain all geographical knowledge of that time, just as Earth Platinum does today.

Klencke Atlas
Klencke Atlas

Though published in Australia, Earth Platinum was complied from work by more than 88 cartographers from across the globe. Each Earth Platinum was printed in Italy and bound by hand in Hong Kong. The atlas contains both maps and gigapixel photography. Featured in Earth Platinum are large orthographic maps depicting each continents political and physical attributes, maps of each ocean, the poles and highly detailed regional maps. The book also contains a double-page spread of the world’s national flags.

The Earth Platinum Atlas, officially the world's largest atlas.
The Earth Platinum Atlas, officially the world’s largest atlas.

Roger Smith, Chief Cartographer, EARTH Platinum project (see comments below) explains the role of ArcGIS software  and other software in the process of creating the atlas:

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ArcGIS was indeed used in the project but only to organise and collate the varied vector source data that went into the EARTH Platinum maps. Maplex was also used (with mixed success) to export the first coarse cut of label placement. No other ESRI products were used. The raster relief mapping was created using Global Mapper, Natural Scene Designer and Adobe Photoshop. All of the cartographic artwork and editing was done in a vector graphics environment using Adobe Illustrator, with Avenza Map Publisher also used in a support role.

Damien Demaj, the the chief cartographic consultant on the atlas project noted that using ArcGIS “was the best stable environment to use with such a massive amount of data.

Earth Platinum was produced using a process known as Gigapan. The Gigapan process is capable of compiling hundreds of images into one cohesive image. The project was spearheaded by Australia’s leading custom mapping service Demap, who started the process from scratch more than two years prior to its completion. National mapping organizations from around the world were consulted and participated in the construction of Earth Platinum, each adding their own local knowledge of each region to the work.

The world’s current largest atlas contains 61 pages of maps, with each map measuring 54 square feet, as well as 27 images of famous locations formed through the Gigapan process. When presented with the final copy of Earth Platinum, many of its creators marveled that the size of each map allowed viewers to truly gage the scope of each location. Millennium House managing director Gordon Cheers noted at the June 2012 unveiling in Abu Dhabi“Children today have more access to maps than any generation before them, and yet many people say that our children know less about the world’s geography than their parents did.”

If you don’t have $100,000 on hand to procure one of the 31 copies of Earth Platinum, you could try your hand at getting on of the 2,000 copies of Earth Blue or 1,000 copies of Earth Gold. Each book features similar content, with special features reserved for exclusive use in Earth Platinum, and is featured in a different size.

An update from Gordon Cheers, the managing director of Millenium House with additional video on the making of the atlas:

Here’s a 3 minute  BBC TV link from over a month ago on Earth Platinum the worlds largest Atlas as it arrived at the British Library:

If you get a chance check out Paul Russell’s 2 minute video on how a Earth Platinum gigapan photographic image is made:

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.