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Historic Maps Collection

Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Acting Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections

In March 2009, with substantial funds provided by the Friends of the Princeton University Library, supplemented with money from Rare Books, the Historic Maps Collection acquired a copy of Belgian cartographer Philippe Vandermaelen’s Atlas universel, consisting of approximately 380 conically projected sheets of maps and 40 pages of statistical tables in six volumes. This folio-size atlas is remarkable for several reasons. It is the first atlas produced by the then new printing process of lithography. It is also the first atlas to show the whole world in maps using a large uniform scale—about 26 miles to the inch. Moreover, the maps are designed to be joined into a three-dimensional terrestrial globe with a diameter of approximately 7.75 meters (almost 25 feet). The library's Digital Studio joined in our project to digitize the sheets so that they could be made available, in high resolution, over the web. In addition, because of the projection of the maps, we felt that stitching the continental maps together and wrapping their "skin" over a generic globe would provide a unique viewing experience--creating a virtual 3D version of Vandermaelen's physical globe. This was achieved by the library's GIS librarian, with some help from the university's Media Center.