An atlas is a book of maps, oft comprehensively covering a region, or the world entire. The advent of such an effort is relatively recent, given the ancientness of the mapmaking endeavor -- the earliest such efforts have been dated back nine thousand years or more -- but, naturally, those ancient maps outlining the oldest city bounds were carved directly into walls, and so not exactly well-suited for collection and reproduction in folio pages. Instead, maps bound and reproducible would have to sit and wait, twiddling their collective metaphorical thumbs for centuries on down the line until paper and printing improved by a proportion permitting that maps be lain flat, one over the next. Christopher Columbus sailed with no atlas, but with a collection of separate charts, most probably kept rolled and bound with twine. But, legend holds that the first bound atlas to be compiled -- a Turkish assemblage in the year 1570 -- included a direct copy made from a map of the New World sketched by Columbus himself.

Modernly, atlases have progressed by leaps and bounds with innovations such as using pink and yellow and spring green shades to demarcate different countries nestled side-by-side. Oh, and, naturally, using more and more accurate pencilings of landforms until that entire art was sped into obsolecense by the easy availability of satellite images suitable for imitate transposition into the map form. But, as with so many other things, there exists a high possibility that the relentless march of technology spells the death of mass-produced printed atlases. For now, we have Google and Mapquest and others, which provide a single, continuous and never-ending cartographical platform, and we have mobile devices which guarantee that you'll need never again pick up a tome made from a tree. But, as with the printed dictionary, thesaurus, and telephone directory, we shall at least be able to look upon the atlas in the museum collection and lament, "well, you had a good run."