Changing Planet

Updating Place-Names for Our New 10th Edition Atlas of the World

For over 125 years the National Geographic Society has fulfilled its missions in many ways—one of the most visual has been through the publication of its atlases. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of our first edition Atlas of the World, NG’s Map Librarian, Michael Fry, addressed the many physical and geopolitical changes that have occurred on the planet since the 1963 printing of this landmark publication.

Map Publisher Edits

NGS 10th Edition World Atlas – Digital correction copy

Currently, we’re in the process of producing the tenth edition Atlas of the World, scheduled for publication in the Fall of 2014. Although the science of mapmaking has evolved with the times, the tried and true method of updating our maps and atlases has remained as relevant as ever. Take place-names, for example. Our first edition Atlas had a 127,000 place-names index—more than any other American atlas of the world at that time. When the ninth edition was published 47 years later in 2010, the number of indexed entries had grown to 150,000.

As many nations now recognize having more than one official language, and with the increased use of variant place-names, it has become somewhat challenging to keep on top of so many toponymic changes. Even more so when it comes to updating the Atlas plates (maps) and place-names index. In the past such updates would have been marked and indexed manually through the use of a correction copy (below), a function which is now performed digitally (above). Comments are now entered on a digital correction copy where they are used to update an atlas plate’s type layer along with our place-names database and related Atlas index.

Screen shot 2013-11-13 at 6.48.42 AM

                              NGS Collegiate Atlas of the World – Conventional correction copy

What the final place-name count for the 10th Edition Atlas will be is still to be determined. Based on officially recognized dual-naming conventions in Ireland and Scotland and Wales in the U.K., and the recognition of variant names in India and New Zealand—just to name a few—combined with the introduction of six new comprehensive plates, the final number of index entries will more than top that of the 9th Edition’s 150,000 benchmark.

Juan José Valdés
The Geographer
Director of Editorial and Research
National Geographic / National Geographic Maps



Juan José Valdés is The Geographer and National Geographic Maps' Director of Editorial and Research. He guides and assists the Map Policy Committee in setting border representations, disputed territories, and naming conventions for National Geographic. As NG Map's Director of Editorial and Research, he is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of its maps and map products.
  • Petrasovsky


    I heard that National Geographic is going to recognize Crimea as part of Russia ?

    I hope it is only hoax. Because the so called referendum is completely not legitimate and only Russia recognizes it.

    Crimea stays to be part of Ukraine.

    Petrasovsky, Slovakia (subscriber)

  • Ynhockey

    I would like to hear more about your policy on updating transportation networks: I got the new atlas in the mail today, and was disappointed to find out that railway lines in Israel were in their pre-2000 (!!!) configuration, without any of the many updates that were made in the network since that year. How does National Geographic update transportation network maps for each edition?

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