Monday, June 17, 2013

Big-ass atlas

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is the book I dreamed about before I knew it existed. The Klencke atlas, as it is known, measures 5' 10" (1.78m) high by 3' 5" (1.05m) wide by 4" (11cm) thick. It had never been publicly displayed with its pages open until 2010, when the British Library featured it in an exhibition about cartography. The book, containing 42 maps, is so heavy that it requires 6 people to lift. The Library's head of antiquarian maps Tom Harper notes, "Even standing beside it is quite unnerving." Its reputation as the world's largest atlas – superseded only in 2012 – stood for 352 years. The Klencke Atlas was bound in Amsterdam in 1660 and presented by a consortium of Dutch merchants to King Charles II of England (1630-1685) to mark his restoration to the throne. It was kept in the king's cabinet of curiosities during his lifetime, donated to the British Library by a successor in 1828, and restored and rebound in the 1950s.

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