Step on the shoulders of giants as you explore the known universe with contemporary and vintage atlases. Geographical charts have been in use since the 16th century when Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius published the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, one of the first book of maps. Since then they have been used by people on journeys and those who would rather see the world from the safety of their own couches. Some special-edition atlases, such as Uranometria by Johann Bayer, display wonderfully ornate carved or engraved maps of what the heavens looked like in the 1600s. In modern times, a present-day atlas is an economical and interesting way of exploring the celestial bodies and the Earth.

Atlases can be defined as a collection of maps that are published in book form. These specialized volumes were popular with travelers for navigation and cartographic purposes. With the advent of global positioning systems and maps on smartphones and tablets, print atlases are used less for navigation and more for planning trips, leisure reading, and research. Vintage atlases are collector's pieces that not only show us the world as it was but also showcase the care and artistry of publishing methods of bygone eras. They are a glimpse into the past in more ways than one.

Fictional kingdoms are also displayed in atlases. Peruse The Atlas of Middle-Earth for a walk-through of Tolkien's mystical world for an unexpected adventure in the comfort of your own home. Fiction writers often use atlases and maps to inject more realism into their work. This lets their readers see and explore the peoples, kingdoms, and galaxies for a totally immersive experience.

Browse AbeBooks for contemporary atlases for use at school and college. This is a cost-effective solution for getting textbooks for geography and related courses. And, if you're studying world history as a formal subject or as an interesting hobby, buy atlases from the 20th century to see how the countries of the world have changed.