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The making of a scholarly research atlas: The historical atlas of Canada

Anne B. Piternick (Professor emerita at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia.)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 1 January 1994


In the fall of 1987, the first of three volumes of a scholarly research atlas—The Historical Atlas of Canada—was published to great acclaim. Describing the Atlas as “the most innovative, beautiful and successful single volume on the history of Canada, and indeed the most ambitious cartographic venture ever attempted in this country,” the Royal Canadian Geographic Society awarded gold medals to the volume's editor, R.C. Harris, and cartographer/designer, Geoffrey J. Matthews, as well as to the director of the whole Atlas project, W.G. Dean. The volume received many honors, including the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize for the best book of the year on Early Canada from the Canadian Historical Association and the George Perkins Marsh Award in Environmental History from the University of Utah. Reviewers described the volume in superlatives. American reviewers were equally generous in their praise. Petchenik (herself the editor of the Historical Atlas of Early American History) described the volume as “an amazing accomplishment” and commented that “Not only a country but a civilization has been enriched by this publication.” Konrad assessed the volume as “a unique statement unrivaled in its potential impact.” Shuman, a professor of library science, noted that “this atlas, when complete, should stand as a model to be emulated by all other nations, whenever possible.” Pye, writing in the [British] Geographical Journal stated that “it is difficult to imagine that it could be even remotely paralleled in the foreseeable future.” Volume III of the Atlas appeared in 1990 and again won plaudits. Reviewers obviously felt that the high standards set by the first volume had been maintained.


Piternick, A.B. (1994), "The making of a scholarly research atlas: The historical atlas of Canada", Reference Services Review, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 45-55.




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