Capital home to oversized atlas video

KENT BLECHYNDEN/Dominion Post

Alexander Turnbull library cartography curator Mark Bagnall with one of the world's largest atlas.

It's a long way from being the world's biggest capital, but Wellington can at least claim to be home to the biggest atlas.

The book, World, is so big that it arrived at the Alexander Turnbull Library in a crate weighing more than a quarter of a tonne.

Two people are needed to turn a page of the book, of which only 31 have been made. The original plates were destroyed, meaning no more copies can be produced.

Turnbull cartography curator Mark Bagnall would not reveal how much the library had paid for the atlas but said it was bought for a "good discount", below the usual price tag of $110,000.

The book grabbed the library's interest because Wellingtonian Roger Smith was the chief cartographer on the project, overseeing the work of 88 cartographers around the world to produce the final maps.

"Nowadays people look at maps on their phones and things. This is a chance to look at a proper map," Bagnall said.

While it will be next year before a proper display case is built and people can see the atlas in all its glory, from today spare pages that came with the atlas will be on display at the library.

When open, the atlas measures 1.8 metres by 2.8m. It weighs 150 kilograms.

The spine is made of steel, with the cover made of leather-covered wood. Each of the 128 pages is the thickness of a standard business card.

Sydney publishers Millennium House originally produced a smaller "blue" version, then a larger "gold" version - but after discovering a bigger atlas existed in Hungary, it produced this "platinum" version, recognised as the Guinness world record holder.

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"Publisher Gordon Cheers wanted a monument of our times - he wanted quality, not just the record," Bagnall said.

And, as befits an atlas, it took a worldwide effort to produce it over four years - published in Sydney, it was printed in Italy and bound in Hong Kong.

 - The Dominion Post

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