Monday, January 19, 2015

Geographical Sources: Use and Evaluation P- 05. Information Sources, Systems and Services

इस ब्लॉग्स को सृजन करने में आप सभी से सादर सुझाव आमंत्रित हैं , कृपया अपने सुझाव और प्रविष्टियाँ प्रेषित करे , इसका संपूर्ण कार्य क्षेत्र विश्व ज्ञान समुदाय हैं , जो सभी प्रतियोगियों के कॅरिअर निर्माण महत्त्वपूर्ण योगदान देगा ,आप अपने सुझाव इस मेल पत्ते पर भेज सकते हैं -

Geographical Sources: Use and Evaluation

P- 05. Information Sources, Systems and Services *

By :R Arora,Paper Coordinator

    1. Introduction 
    2. General Reference Sources 
    3. Specific geographical information sources 
  Collapse  3.1 Gazetteers 
  Collapse  3.2 Maps, Atlases, and Globes 
  Collapse  3.3 Travel Guides 
  Collapse  Learn More 

1. Introduction

Man has always been curious to know about the world he lives in. More and more persons are getting interested to know about the places they would like to visit. There are many occasions during the course of reading, writing, or in daily life to know more about a place, which a person has come to know about.
Due to such reasons, in libraries and information centres, there is an increasing demand for geographical information, for example about climate, natural resources, plants, animals of the world, country, region, longitude, latitude, etc. In order to make such information available to the users geographical sources of information are being acquired by all types of libraries. It may be stated here that geographical sources of information constitute an essential part of the reference collection, more so as a part of secondary source of information. These are extremely valuable in making available factual geographical information to the users, and hence suitable for solving regular inquiries on the reference desk.

 We can broadly group the geographical sources of information into two categories.

2. General Reference Sources

This category includes encyclopaedias, yearbooks, almanacs, etc, which also contain geographical information, for example maps of various countries and regions of the world, brief description of important places, and some geographical information about longitude, latitude, etc. But, with these sources a librarian is not in a position to answer the possible questions of geographical nature. Hence libraries acquire specific sources for this purpose, which offer detailed and specific geographical information.

3. Specific geographical information sources

As can be inferred from above, this category of sources are designed to offer specific as well as detailed geographical information. This category can be sub-divided a follows.
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3.1.1 Concept and Definition

A gazetteer may be defined as a geographical dictionary, differing from the index to an atlas in that it is usually more comprehensive. A good gazetteer includes names of towns, villages, rivers, mountains, lakes, and other geographical features, population, longitude, latitude, and in some cases brief or even long entries tracing the history, economic, and political features of the particular place.

A. L. A. Glossary of Library and Information Science defined it “as a geographical dictionary”. Even it has been called as a “dictionary of places”.

A more descriptive definition has been used by the Wikipedia, which defines a gazetteer as:
“... a geographical dictionary or directory used in conjunction with a map or atlas. They typically contain information concerning the geographical makeup, social statistics, and physical features of a country, region, or continent. Content of a gazetteer can include a subject's location, dimensions of peaks and waterways, population, GDP and literacy rate. This information is generally divided into topics with entries listed in alphabetical order.”

Gazetteers have been in existence since long. ‘Imperial Gazetteer of India’ was popular source of detailed geographical and related information during British period in India. They were rather encyclopaedic in nature. Gazetteers whether old or current are important depending upon the purpose for which they are looked up. The older editions come to be handy source of information for places whose name has undergone changes. Older editions also contain certain historical facts which are not included in revised editions or new gazetteers.

The term gazetteer has been used in two senses, one as the index to the atlas, and the other as an independent publication. Here a logical question can be raised, why acquire a separate gazetteer in the library, when geographical information is also available in the index to the atlas. The answer lies in the amount of information in the separately published gazetteer, the handy nature of the gazetteer. In comparison to the index to atlas, the gazetteer as a separate volume (or a multi-volume publication) provides:
  • Detailed geographical information,
  • Provides information on more and even far more smaller places,
  • Physically often, it is easier to use by a user, and
  • It is easier to manage as a publication in the library & information centre, for example in shelving, binding, etc.

3.1.2 Usage

Information about a place, continent, country, state, district, town, or a village, etc is generally searched in gazetteers. Users get historical, social, cultural, political, population statistics, industrial, and administrative details about a place in the gazetteers. 

3.1.3 Type

The sub-types of the gazetteers depend upon its coverage of geographical area. Gazetteers are often distinguished as international (or world), national, and of a smaller geographical entity i.e. region, district, city, etc.

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3.1.4 Evaluation


Like other reference sources, for example encyclopaedia, dictionary, etc, the gazetteers are evaluated before their acquisition in the library. For this purpose the following criteria can be used for evaluation of a gazetteer. Authority:

Authoritativeness of the work can be judged on the bases of the reputation of the publishers, authors and other contributors. Academic qualifications, specialisation, and experience of authors, compiler, and other contributors are taken into consideration to judge this aspect. Scope:

 Scope refers to the limitations of the work as stated by the compiler / author (likely in the preface of the work) with regard to the geographical area covered (like international, national etc), and other limitations of any other kind. For example ‘Webster’s geographical dictionary’ is an international gazetteer but it excludes towns under 1500 population in the U.S. and under 25000 in Japan, China, etc. Items of information:

It is important to know about the items (type) and amount of information included for each geographical entity covered in the gazetteer. The information about a geographical entity expected is name of place, pronunciation, location, area, population, geographical and physical description, economic and historical data, etc. Detailed information enhances the value of the gazetteer. Accuracy and Currency (Up-to-dateness):

This aspect of information about a place is extremely important and makes or mars the value of a gazetteer. Random checks of some places known to users / librarian should invariably be made to verify this aspect. Arrangement:

Usually the alphabetical arrangement is followed in arrangement of entries. However depending upon scope of the gazetteer the arrangement can also be alphabetic-classed, wherein broader areas (for example countries) can be arranged in a classed manner and within each broader place, entries can be alphabetically arranged. Some other variations are also possible in arrangement. Special features

 As a special feature there may be a variety of information included in the gazetteers, for example some of them may include maps (coloured or black & white), list of changed place names, etc. These form an added attraction, and are helpful in finding such information for users in the library, which may be difficult to locate elsewhere. 

On the bases of evaluation, the librarian will be in a position to take a decision, whether a particular gazetteers is worth acquiring for the library reference collection. Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary, Third Edition

Alternate Text Chamber’s World Gazetteer

This is the first revised edition published since 1965, compiled by Dr David Munro and his team in 1988. Cambridge University Press is a reputed publisher of a variety of documents, including reference books. It provides reliable and authoritative information. As evident by name, it is also international in scope and provides comprehensive geographical information about places.

This contains about 2000 entries with detailed information on pronunciation, location, area, population, geographical and physical descriptions, topography, history, economic activity, statistical information, and key dates, etc. The arrangement of all entries is alphabetical in one sequence. It includes 150 maps. Imperial Gazetteer of India

The Imperial Gazetteer of India was first published during British period in 1881. It is of great historical value, and still continues to be of immense reference value to the users. The New Edition (published in 1908, 1909, and 1931 has:
Vol. 1 – 4: covering the geography, history, economics, and administration of India.
Vol. 5 – 24: covers all entries in alphabetical sequence.
Vol. 25: is an Index to the volumes, and
Vol. 26: is a comprehensive Atlas.

Sir William Wilson Hunter made the plans of this gazetteer, starting in 1869. The first edition was published in nine volumes in 1881; and the second edition was in fourteen volumes (1885–87). The ‘New Editions’ were published by the Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. Now, the multi-volume set of the gazetteer is available online in the Digital South Asia Library (, and on the Digital Library of India site ???( Later on a reprint of the gazetteer was published by the publisher Today & Tomorrow Printers and publishers, New Delhi.

A parallel series of publications known as the Imperial Gazetteer of India: Provincial Series were also prepared. Many of them are still available in larger libraries (like University of Rajasthan Library at Jaipur). Some of these are also available for use on the Digital Library of India site. For example some of these are:
Imperial Gazetteer of India Provincial Series Rajputana, 1908.
Imperial Gazetteer of India Provincial Series Punjab, 1908.
Imperial Gazetteer of India Provincial Series Eastern Bengal and Assam. 1909.
Like ‘provincial series’, there were gazetteers published for each districts in the ‘district series’.

After independence, the first four volumes of the gazetteer have been revised and published as ‘the Gazetteer of India, Indian Union’. Its preface has been written by Humayun Kabir. It has been published by Publications division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India.. 1965 - 1978.
Vol. 1: Country and people.
Vol. 2: History and culture.
Vol. 3: Economic structure and activities.
Vol. 4: Administration and public welfare. The volumes include tables, several maps (some folding and coloured).

The authority of the gazetteer is well established as it has been published by the Government of India. With national scope, it provides historical, ethnical, agricultural, industrial, administrative, information, etc about India and its people. For further reading it provides a detailed bibliography. Each of the four volumes has a separate index. The index is very useful in locating information. District Gazetteer

After independence, the Government of India formulated a scheme in 1955for revising district gazetteers. The States of India while implementing the scheme, created gazetteer units / departments, which have been responsible in compiling district gazetteer in each State. Now, as a result most of the districts in India have a district gazetteer giving detailed information.  

District gazetteers include comprehensive information with necessary background data, statistical data, and ancillary details on the historical, archaeological, political, administrative, economic, commercial, industrial, agricultural, sociological, cultural, and other aspects of district and life of the people, with maps, charts, tables, list of such divisions as taluquas, villages, etc. Some examples can be seen as district gazetteers in Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, etc.

3.2.1 Concept and Definition

Maps and atlases are a major source of geographical information. These are used by the specialists as well as the laymen. A map is a representation of certain boundaries of the earth on a flat surface showing countries, bodies of water, cities, etc. On the other hand an atlas is a collection maps, tables, charts, etc, whereas a globe is a spherical representation of the earth.

According to ALA Glossary of Library & Information Science (1983), a "a map is a representation normally drawn to a scale and on a flat medium of a selection of material or abstract features on, or in relation to, the surface of the earth or another celestial body."

The definition given by Raleigh Ashley Skelton, former Superintendent of the Map Room of British Museum is: “A map is a graphic document in which location, extent and direction can be more precisely defined than by the written word, and its construction is a mathematical process strictly controlled by measurement and calculation.”

Whereas the Library of Congress includes in it all forms of cartographic material added to the collection i.e. including flat maps and charts, collection of maps in atlas form, terrain models, globes, etc.

More often the maps are collected and bound in the form of a volume, like a book, is termed as atlas. Atlas may be an independent publication or it may have been issued along with one or more volumes of text.

A map and a globe are not very different except for the physical shape. A globe is also a geographic image of the earth in a spherical form. It is often a hollow spherical metallic ball, with a world map on its surface. Very often for easy viewing, it is mounted on an axle permitting rotation of the globe. The globe can be called a near natural representation of the earth using a suitable scale.

3.2.2 Type

In general the maps are grouped in two broad categories as shown in the chart below.
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Traditional definitions require a topographic map to show both natural and man-made features. A topographic map is a detailed and accurate graphic representation of cultural and natural features on the ground. In a general map the variety of phenomena—geological, geographical, political—regularly appear together, whereas a thematic map is meant to focus on a specific theme. The thematic maps use the base data, such as coastlines, political boundaries, and places, only to portray context for mapping the theme. General maps display the base data, such as landforms, lines of transportation, and settlements, etc. Thematic maps emphasise spatial variation of one or a small number of geographic features. These features may be of physical phenomena such as climate or human characteristics such as population density, etc. While general reference maps show where something is in space, thematic maps tell a story about that place (e.g., city map).

Each category may be further divided as shown in the chart, but these divisions are only indicative and not exhaustive in nature. Again each of the category or sub-group can be covering the whole world i.e. may be international, national, regional, or may cover a smaller area.

There can be other ways of cross classifying maps. One can visualise satellite image map as different from the one made by cartographer.
• Political Maps: Political maps mainly show the state and national boundaries of a place. They also display the locations of cities, etc, both large and small.

• Physical Maps: Physical maps show the physical features of a place, like like mountains, rivers, lakes, etc. Water-bodies are always shown with blue colour, mountains and other elevation changes are shown with different colours. Generally brown shades are used for higher elevations , whereas green colour shades are used for lower levels.

• Topographic Maps: Like physical maps, topographic maps show physical landscape, but these use contour lines in place of colour.

• Economic or Resource Maps: These maps display specific type of economic activity and / or natural resources in an area, using different symbols or colours.

• Road Maps: These are most common maps. These display major and minor roads. These also show airports, city locations, and other features of common interest, like parks, places of visit, monuments, etc.

• Thematic Maps: These maps display a special or specific theme or special subject. These usually do not portray features like rivers, cities, highways, etc. In case some of these features are shown these are only contextual and these improve the theme for which map is prepared. 

3.2.3 Uses

Maps and atlases are used by common men as well as specialists both for work and pleasure. Government employees (staff) need them for a variety of administrative purposes, viz., town / country planning. Commercial and industrial firms use them for transport, setting up of factories, depots, and offices. Students and research workers consult maps to get information relating to various subjects, like geography, geology, demography, land use, topography, etc. In libraries, maps are used in answering various reference queries on geography, helping users make travel plans, etc. Thus, maps and atlases are useful to all people in the society.

A physical map is usually referred for visual location and identification of some part of the world, country, region, city, town, mountain, water bodies, deserts, etc or any other geographical area, and information. Thematic maps on the other hand are used, for a particular theme, like rainfall, rail-roads, political boundaries, bridges, etc. A political map normally limits itself to political boundaries of different countries, state, etc. The economic and commercial maps record general information, business facts, agricultural facts, import and export, etc.

Thematic maps are meant to serve purposes, like: they provide specific information about particular locations, they provide general information about spatial patterns, and they can be used to compare patterns on two or more maps.

3.2.4 Evaluation

Maps and atlases to some extent can be evaluated like other reference sources, for example encyclopaedia, dictionary, etc. But, this category of documents requires special skills with which a normal librarian may not possess. Cartographic techniques (like scale and size, projection, location key, etc) are also a point of consideration while selecting maps or atlases for library. We may consider using the following checkpoints while evaluating these. Authority:

Like other reference books reputation of the publisher is of importance. Authority can be established by reviewing the experience and the qualifications of the cartographers and the editorial team members of the atlas. Normally countries have their own cartographic agencies / institutions. As in India, we have the Survey of India, National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization, Calcutta, and the National Remote Sensing Agency. These are reputed agencies. Likewise other countries have agencies of repute. There are some commercial publishers with high reputation, like Rand McNally, C. S. Hammond, and John G. Bartholomew, and the Oxford University Press, among others. Scope and Items of Information:

Scope refers to the limitations of the work as stated by the editorial team in the preface / forward, etc with regard to the geographical area covered (like international, national etc), and other limitations of any other kind, for example the type of maps included, etc, or the information availability i.e. longitude, latitude, area, population, astronomical data, roads, etc. One should make a check whether the atlas has all the features, information, etc as stated in the preface, etc. Accuracy and Currency (Up-to-dateness):

This aspect of information about a place is extremely important and makes or mars the value of the maps and the atlas. With time countries or places are bound to undergo changes, change in names of places, or changes in topographical features, new dams, new roads, changes in city boundaries, etc. As a librarian / user one should make checks of some known changes to verify this aspect. One may also like to see the copyright of some of such maps where changes are most likely. To keep is collection current, the library should also plan to acquire (at least every few years) revised edition of atlases. The library should also retain individual maps from National Geographic magazine until new editions of atlases are acquired. Arrangement:

For this aspect one needs to look into the way the maps are arranged. The arrangement may be on the bases of continents, or countries within continent, and so on. It may be according to the themes of the maps. The arrangement is depicted in the table of contents. But, just a helpful arrangement of maps is not sufficient. An atlas must have a suitable index. An index to the maps, their location, and the names of places in the maps, names of the features in the maps, or the names of say streets in a city, and so on is essentially required in the atlas. Whether the index refers to the grid or the exact longitude latitude coordinates, and the page number both? Does the index contains names of rivers, mountains etc in addition to place names? All such information if available enhances the value of the atlas. The index in all atlases should serve as a gazetteer. In the index, availability of information about pronunciation, transliteration, and cross references for varied spellings used is very helpful. Special features:

There are a variety of features to be observed in the maps and atlases evaluation, viz. scale, projections, colours, symbols used, grid systems, font types and size, marginal information on maps, binding of the atlas, etc. Librarian while evaluating, should try to check such features, which improve readability of maps, location of places in the maps, information available, adequacy of index, balanced coverage of different parts of the world (i.e. lack of bias towards a particular geographical area), etc. An information packed atlas may not be a quality work. As William Katz (1969) said many atlas publishers “attempt too much and end up doing too little”. An informative atlas may be a good buy for an individual, but a library should concentrate on quality of maps and index more. The reason behind this is that library users have access to encyclopaedia, almanacs, and directories, and thus an atlas need not be used to replace the utility of these other reference sources.

Scale: Scale is indicated on the base or a corner of the map and is often expressed in ratio with the original, viz. 1 / 1, 000, 000, or say about 1 inch = 16 miles. The larger the scale the more readable the map is. However, some atlases do not use the same scale for all the maps.

Projections: The earth is nearly spherical and to show it on a plane surface requires some techniques which are known as projections. A variety of projections have been developed to effectively present the earth surface. Atlases / Maps specify the projections used.

Location Key/Grid System: Location of a place or a feature in the map is done with the help of latitude and longitude, in terms of degrees, minutes and seconds. Many of the maps are sub-divided into squares / rectangles called grid. With the help of grid square number the index points out the location of a place/ feature in the particular map.

Binding: Since, an atlas is heavy and often stays for a long time in the collection, it must have a good binding. The two facing pages in an atlas must open fully to afford proper view of the map. Usually the good atlases do have a good binding.

Very often the atlas with more maps, a good and large index, a good printer / publisher, and a reputes cartographer is a good atlas. It may be added that a single atlas may not be enough in a library. Often a few good atlases with origin from different areas (besides one’s own country) say USA, UK, and Europe from reputed publishers may be required to create a balanced collection. A library, depending upon requirements of the users, may also think of acquiring single large maps for different geographical areas.

3.2.5 Typical Examples

As already identified the maps and atlases can be categorised under General and Topographical, and Special or Thematic, with further sub-grouping as international, national, or regional / local. The times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, Ed 13, UK, 544 pages, 320 col. plates, (ISBN: 978-0-00-741913-5). The Times Atlas has been frequently updated since its first publication in 1967. Now in its 13th edition, it is an important quality at

, Ed 13, UK, 544 pages, 320 col. plates, (ISBN: 978-0-00-741913-5).
The Times Atlas has been frequently updated since its first publication in 1967. Now in its 13th edition, it is an important quality atlas of the world. Some features of this atlas follow. It contains up-to-date maps and thematic information. The atlas is relied trusted by the governments, and international organisations. Major changes in this edition include about 7,000 place name, most notably in the Russian Federation, China, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Afghanistan, an illustrated section on current issues from climate to economy, the new country of South Sudan, 37 city plans added for major cities around the world, new satellite image of Antarctica, some other features like flags and year of independence for countries, national parks and conserved areas, additional abandoned settlements, etc.

The reference mapping has been updated with thousands of changes reflecting recent geopolitical and geographical change around the world. The index has over 200, 000 place names and geographic features. The index also includes alternative spellings for place names and former names making searching easy. It has included a historical mapping section with a “unique collection of maps from the last 150 years of Times atlases” to “illustrate the rapidly changing world”. I hs used the services of reputed team of cartographers from Collin Bartholomew.

The detailed thematic information included contains contributions from experts. A few topics included are migration, the global impact of recession, migration, and polar-regions. Locations are indexed by map page and grid system, latitude and longitude. It makes fairly large scale in maps. The binding quality is good.

Its publishers HarperCollins has issued an apology for an error, since the publication of “the Times Comprehensive Atlas 13th edition on 15th September 2011, controversy has raged about the depiction of Greenland in the Atlas. The editorial team at Collins Geo have apologised for an incorrect claim ...” A new map was later prepared and made available as an insert, and even can be downloaded for Greenland. This shows a responsible publishing practice. The New International Atlas, Chicago. Rand McNally

The New International Atlas. Chicago: Rand McNally, 25th Anniversary edition, Rev. 1998 edition. 1 v. (various paging) with index. ISBN: 0528836935.
It is Rand McNally’s effort to produce a world atlas of good quality. It has thematic maps, continental maps, and regional maps, followed by appendixes. It also gives a glossary of geographical terms; world information tables (area, population, political units), and a comprehensive list of the world's major cities. The maps are available with different scales. It has a good index (gazetteer) with more than 150,000 entries. It uses effective shading to show relief.

Some other international atlases of interest are:
  • The Atlas of the World, by Oxford University Press.
  • Oxford Hammond Essential Atlas of the World. Oxford [England], Oxford University Press, c1994. 1 atlas (167 p.) : col. ill., col. maps. Scales differ. ISBN: 0198692528.
  • Hammond Atlas of the World [electronic resource]. [Maplewood, N.J.] : Hammond Inc., c1997. 1 CD-ROM ; 4 3/4 in. + 1 instruction guide (8 p. ; 12 cm.), Contains three main activity sections--the atlas, the almanac, and the thematic section. It has digital maps. National Maps and Atlases

As stated earlier most of the countries have national cartographic agencies, which prepare maps reflecting national standards and specification. In India "Survey of India" and "National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation" and "Geological Survey of India" are such agencies.

In addition, there are international agencies like United Nations Commission on National Atlases, International Geographical Union, Commission on National Atlases, etc, which offer help to different countries in the preparation of maps. These provide help in the standardisation of the contents of the maps. National Atlas of India

National Atlas of India, National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation, Edited by Prithvish Nag. 1995.10 Vol.

This is the most comprehensive atlas of India. It contains 300 plates in all. The vol. 1 contains plates on administrative, physical, forest types, parliamentary constituencies, and physiographic divisions, etc. The vol.2 include physical and geomorphological Maps, vol. 3 on climate and water, vol.4 land and agriculture, etc. A brief list with indicative contents is given below. More details on content of each volume can be viewed on the site given below. An abridged English language edition is also available. Some volumes of National Atlas of India 2nd Edition are near completion, i.e. VOL III, IV, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X. Abridged editions in other Indic languages are under preparation. Some other national atlases of interest are:

Page Contents 

The National Atlas of United States of America. Washington: U.S., Geological Survey, was published in 1970. Later on authorisation by the Congress in 1997, the USGS coordinated and lead the effort of more than 20 federal agencies, resulting into This is the new National Atlas of the United States®. which provides a comprehensive, maplike view into the enormous wealth of geospatial and geostatistical data collected for the United States. The National Atlas includes electronic maps and services that are delivered online.

Postcode Atlas of Britain and Northern Ireland [Hardcover], Collins UK, Hardcover: 224 pages, New edition edition (5 Jan 2012), ISBN-10: 0007443072, ISBN-13: 978-0007443079.


National Atlas of China/ ed. by Chi-yun Chang. Associate editors: Hsu Shengmo [and others] Cartographers: Chang Hui [and others]. --Taiwan: National War College, 1960-67. 5Vol. (v.1 Taiwan. - v.2 Hitsang (Tibet), Sinkiang and Mongolia. 2d ed. 1964. - v.3. North China. 2d ed. 1966. - v.4. South China. 2d ed. 1964. - v.5. General maps of China. 2d. ed. 1967). Local Maps and Atlases

In addition to state or country maps, and atlases, there is a regular requirement to have local maps to display the physical features and thematic specifications. Some examples of such local atlases are given below. If these are not up-to date, they do not serve the intended purpose, and hence currency of atlases is important.  

The Atlas of Uttaranchal by Prithvish Nag and Gopi Nath Saha; National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation (India) English. Ed 2, 2003, Kolkata : National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation, Dept. of Science & Technology, Government of India.

Delhi Atlas: revised & enlarged guide to the city and its colonies, Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (New Delhi, India); Delhi Police. Ed 2. 1996, New Delhi: Institute for Studies in Industrial Development.

Hyderabad and Secunderabad by Vishnu Maps Publications (Firm). English. 2004. Chennai: Vishnu Maps Publications.

Alternate Text
West Bengal in Maps, by National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation; English. 2001. Kolkata: National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation, Dep. of Science and Technology.

 Recently National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation has completed the following two atlases onUttaranchal Atlas (In English ), Prathamik Manchitrabali (In Bengali) also. Special or Thematic Maps

As stated earlier these maps display a special or specific theme or special subject, economic, political, land use surveys, rainfall, railroad air routes, minerals, climate, production of different crops, language, population, religion, etc. These display useful data on the subject. Like other maps / atlases these too need to be kept up-to date regularly. Some examples of thematic maps are given below:
  • Historical Atlases
Historical atlases are important to learn about the changing political boundaries of the world, progress of major wars and battles and routes followed by explorers.
The Times Atlas of World History is a historical atlas first published by Times Books Ltd, was later a branch of Collins Bartholomew, which is a subsidiary of HarperCollins. Now the name has changed to The Times Complete History of the World. It contains large full colour plates and commentary on each map or set of maps. it includes about 600 maps covering the period 3000 BC to 1975. Its latest edition is the eighth edition, published in 2010.
Alternate Text

The Atlas was first published in 1978 in London, UK, edited by Geoffrey Barraclough. The third edition was edited by Norman Stone, then Geoffrey Parker the fourth, and Richard Overy has been editor from the fifth to the present eighth edition (2010). Also, since the fifth edition the atlas was completely updated with digitalized maps and renamed as The Times Complete Atlas of World History.
Muir’s Historical Atlas: Ancient Medieval and Modern/ ed. by R. F. Treheme and H. Fullard. 10th ed. London: Philip, 1976. (2 vol. in one). It shows historical changes in the world from 15th century BC to 1965. (Published June 1969 by Barnes & Noble, 136 pages, and edited by Ramsay Muir. ISBN: 9780064950169.
Other examples could be seen in
Atlas of Modern World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Historical Atlas, by William Robert Shepherd. 9th ed. New York: Barnes and Nobles, 1964.
Maps of Mughal lndia, drawn by J. B. J. Gentil; ed. by Susan Gole. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers and Distributors, 1988. (Text: English, French, 60 pages, February 15, 2003, ISBN-13: 978-8185054506). It contains 21 maps showing the 21 Subas of Mughal Empire which were drawn by Gentil when he lived in India).
  • Economic and Social Atlases
The atlases on economic and social atlas contribute current knowledge for the economists, sociologists, industrialists, etc. The following example illustrates such an atlas.

Atlas of Global Development: A Visual Guide to the World's Greatest Challenges.4th edition, by World Bank. Paperback; 2013. ISBN: 978-0-8213-9757-2

This revised fourth edition of the ‘Atlas of Global Development’, based upon authoritative data from the ‘World Bank's World Development Indicators’. It provides information on areas such as poverty, population growth, and food production to climate change, foreign direct investment, and international trade. Every topic is presented by colourful world maps, tables, graphs, and photographs. It offers the latest, authoritative statistics — key social, economic, and environmental data for 208 countries and territories.
In addition, the Atlas provides information about targets for the Millennium Development Goals; definitions, sources, notes, and abbreviations of commonly used terms; country comparisons for key development indicators; and a selection of related web links for each map.
The Atlas comes with an interactive companion online atlas, the ‘World Bank e-Atlas of Global Development’, that allows users to customize maps and graph statistical series. “Features include worldwide mapping, timeline graphs, ranking tables, comparative mode, the ability to export and share graphics, and easy navigation and ... a companion mobile app will allow users a robust mobile experience, providing a new and unique take on how we view global development issues.”

A social and economic atlas of India. S. Muthiah [ed. in chief]: x, 254 pp., map [in end-pocket]. Delhi, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

This atlas provides information on India's habitat, society, and economy, through maps, charts, and tables. It shows the land and people of India, the available resources, infrastructure developed to utilise these resources in a few sections, e.g. the land, the people, the climate, the natural resources, the infrastructure, the produce, the tourist vista, the national economy, etc. Skilled cartographers and authoritative sources have been used to produce this work.

There are numerous areas where special and thematic atlases have been produced in India and other countries. A few have been listed below:

Administrative Atlas – 2011. Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Government of India. It can be downloaded from
The Administrative Atlas of India 2011 contains “the present administrative set up in the country as existed on 31st December, 2010. There are 35 States/Union Territories in the country. ... there have been significant changes in the number of Districts since the last Census. 47 new Districts have been created during this decade taking the total number of Districts from 593 to 640. A map has been specially added to depict the newly created Districts during the period from Census 2001 to 2011.”
The task of preparing the Atlas has been entrusted to the Map Division under the guidance of Shri R.C. Sethi, Additional Registrar General, India, Shri Deepak Rastogi, Deputy Director General and the overall supervision of Dr. A.P. Singh, Deputy Registrar General (Map). A list of the officers and officials associated with this task is given separately in the atlas. 
Many thematic maps can be seen on the net. Even Google maps providing shortest route, a thematic online map, between two stations is very helpful. provides many such maps.
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Similarly there are thematic maps on the following sites:
On site again we find many thematic maps.

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3.3.1 Concept and Use

Travel guides inform and help travelers with details about different geographic places or tourist destinations. The guides provide a variety of information like addresses, phone numbers, hotels, restaurants, car rentals, places of visit, weather conditions, places to visit, local activities, places of adventure or tracking etc. Many guides have been available for all parts of the world. With the tourism industry flourishing and with a heavy competition there are a variety of publishers in the field.
With increase in use of electronic sources, especially on mobiles (or other hand–held devices) with apps, and a number of dedicated sites on the net dealing with such information, often the printed travel guide publishers have electronic version of guides, which could be downloaded in hand-held devices for use. They have websites to present latest information. An example of Fodor has been taken below providing printed as well as electronic information sources as well as website to offer latest information. 

3.3.2 Evaluation

Tourism has become a big industry and it is natural that information sources for travelers continue to proliferate at a fast speed. Travel information sources of a wide variety and quality are being produced. And, the publishers efforts are to cover both native / domestic, international travelers. For a librarian it is often a bit difficult to decide the source of information to be acquired from amongst the multiple choices of travel guides from a variety of sources. Further, getting guides for many regions and a balance collection development is always an issue.
Many a publishers have become highly reputed in this field and are thus the obvious choice. A few such examples are given below. Important features to be considered are the variety of information included and its systematic arrangement, maps, illustrations, the currency of information, and its index. The currency and accuracy of information is essential so that the travelers are not misled. 

3.3.3 Types

Travel Guides are often categorised as ‘One time guides’, and ‘Guides in series’. The former are published to introduce an area rich in history, ecology, or even of monuments. The ‘Guides in series’ help tourists in planning their travel program. This category of guides requires continuous revision, and hence is published in series.
In ‘Guides in series’, naturally the currency of information is extremely important. It is from this pressing need that with the availability of ICT, the publishers have developed travel guides in electronic format, which can be downloaded as an e-book and used with the help of a variety of palm tops, smart phones using apps, and other hand-held devices. With continued demand and development, there are now dedicated websites to cater to the tourists on the move, as the websites can afford to keep the information current and can be accessed quickly on the move.
A few examples below will illustrate the types of travel guides. Tiposo is a travel information site and provides information using apps with android mobile software.
It states “One travel guide for the whole world. It's free and works offline. Get inspired by the suggestions provided by our app based on your location, ...”
 The site states, that it has been founded by and for travellers, and “delivers up-to-date information, detailed maps, and intelligent recommendations for more than 15,000 destinations in 200 countries around the world. … consider location, time, weather and … personal preferences to deliver custom, real-time recommendations of places to go and things to see.”

Some features of the Android travel guide are:  a downloaded guide works offline, each guide includes a country map and detailed city maps for the top cities, information about the major sights, great restaurants, different nightlife options, currency converter, phrasebooks for the non-English locations, weather forecast (updated when online), etc.

Its guide to India has similar features: the background of India, a map highlighting all the cities and national parks, city guides for Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Agra, etc, with of sights, restaurants, things to do, etc, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu phrasebooks. Fodor's Essential India.

Trade Paperback Pages: 536 Published: May 2013.

3.3.3..4 Fodor's Essential India eBook

Alternate Text Fodor’s England 2013. Trade Paperback Pages: 888. Published: December 2012.

Fodor’s England 2013. Trade Paperback Pages: 888. Published: December 2012. Fodor's Amsterdam's 25 Best. Trade Paperback Pages: 128. Published: February 2011.

Fodor's Amsterdam's 25 Best. Trade Paperback Pages: 128. Published: February 2011 Other publishers of travel information are:

Forbes Travel Guide (formerly known as Mobil Guide or Mobil Travel Guide), is a “series of travel guides for hotels, restaurants and spas. In 2011, Forbes Travel Guide published its last set of guidebooks and on November 15, 2011, launched its new online home,, which covers more than 250 international destinations, including Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, Singapore, Shanghai, London, etc. combines Forbes Travel Guide’s Five-Star travel ratings system with insights and perspectives from Forbes Travel Guide’s own inspectors.”

Footprint Travel Guide is the imprint of Footprint Handbooks Ltd, a publisher of guidebooks based in Bath in the United Kingdom. Particularly noted for their coverage of Latin America, their South American Handbook, first published in 1924, is in its 89th edition and is updated annually. Their publications now cover more than 200 destinations.

Insight Guides are based in London. They produce travel guides, maps, and globes. Insight Guides was founded by Hans Johannes Hofer. Hofer's first book, published in 1970, was based on the island of Bali, and was funded by a local hotel there. Now they publish more than 400 guide books on over 100 destinations.

In Your Pocket (IYP) is a European city guide publisher and online tourist information provider. As of April 2008, it publishes city guides to 68 destinations and provides free online information to over 100 cities in 23 countries in Europe.

National Geographic Traveller is a magazine published by the National Geographic Society in the United States. It was launched in 1984. Local-language editions of National Geographic Traveller are published in Armenia, China, etc. A UK edition has been launched in December 2010.

On its site they provide a wide variety of geographic information, including that for travellers. India Guide is just an example. Therein it provides background of the country or the area covered. For India Guide( information is provided under the headings: Facts, Maps, Photos, and Videos. It gives quick facts, like population, capital, area, language, religion, currency, life expectancy, GDP per capita, etc.

Similarly other publishers / sites like WikitravelWikivoyage can be used for travel related information.

Web links

<>  The Digital South Asia Library.
<> The Digital Library of India site is a mine of information for reading books.
< >  Briney, Amanda. Thematic Maps: Thematic Maps Display Data on a Map. Geography at
<> Greeland maps and Views of Greenland to replace the map included in the Atlas.
<> Content description of National Atlas of India/National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization (10 Vols-Set), NA & TMO, 1995, 10 vols.

<> The Times Complete History of the World in Wikipedia.> Administrative Atlas – 2011 can be downloaded from this site. The work has been done by Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Government of India. > The Fodor’s site provides information about travel guides, its electronic versions, etc.

<> National Geographic site provides a wide variety of geographic information including travel guides and related information.


  1. American Geographical Society initiated Current geographical publications (CGP) listing. It has been a non-profit service to the scholarly community since it was initiated in 1938 by the American Geographical Society. Beginning in 2006, the format has been changed to include the tables of contents of current geographical journals. (Now by University of Wisconsin, UWM Libraries at Milwaukee). This is a good service and provides an insight into geographical information.
  2. Cobb, David A. Geographical sources. In Richard E. Bopp, Linda C. Smith, Ed. Reference and information services: an introduction. Ed 3. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, c2001. P. 460-479.
  3. Katz, William A. Introduction to reference work. Ed 6. New York, McGraw-Hill, c1992. 2 vol.
  4. Kenneth L. Winch, Ed. International maps and atlases in print. Bowker Publishing Co., 1974.
  5. Larsgaard, Mary Lynette. Map librarianship: An Introduction. Libraries Unlimited; 1998. ISBN-13: 978-1563084744.
  6. Pawan, Usha and Gupta, Pawan Kumar. Sandarbh Sewa evam Suchana Sewaen (in Hindi). Ed 2. Jaipur, RBSA, 1998.

Interesting Facts

<The Greenland ice controversy in 13th Edition of the Times Atlas> It was pointed out that this edition depicted 15% less ice in the Atlas. As a result there was a huge conroversy amongst the scientists and crtographers, resulting into an apology from the HarperCollins, the publishers of the times Atlas. They prepared a new map after using large database of  data on the subject, and contacting a number of scientists, etc and adopted measures for future. The revised map can be downloaded. 
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