Atlas of the World. Oxford. 304 pages. $80.
Since early childhood, I have been an enormous fan of maps and especially of atlases. Nowadays, anybody with an inexpensive computer can get programming that is usually far more efficient and effective in finding routes and places than are maps printed on paper. Still, wandering through an atlas -- and there has never been a greater one than Oxford University Press' -- is a rare experience of fantasy, learning and beauty. This newest edition, the 11th, is graced by lots of new material, including stunning satellite photographs. With 176 pages of exhaustive maps of every geographical region, and, as one example, 67 maps of cities, is a replete invitation to the imagination. Those delights are nourished by the book's immense compendium of statistics, geographical data, gazetteers, graphs, charts, flag illustrations and more. Pricey, of course, but a magnificently produced example of quality publishing.