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The Atlas of the Prehistoric World - Douglas Palmer
Having had a clear out of books recently, I came across this Atlas of the Prehistoric World. It was originally published in 1999 though as it is about this specific subject, the times spoken about in the book have not changed.
This book is great for either reference or simply for pleasure. It contains some lovely illustrations among the information which is very clear and concise, making it an all round great read. It also covers a vast number of years in great detail, complete with a fantastic timeline and all the important changes, including the small ones which most books overlook.
There are three main sections to this book;
Section 1: The Changing Globe
This section contains a lot of maps and focuses a lot upon the geographic changes of the globe as a whole. A great informative section.
Section 2: Ancient Worlds
This section shows a chronological overview of the whole of the Prehistoric age with tons of facts about life in general both with the Earth as well as a huge focus on the animals such as the dinosaurs. Don't be fooled into thinking this is just about the dinosaurs - the Prehistoric age has a lot more about it which is both important and interesting and this is where you will find all about it all.
Sections 3: Earth Fact File
This section is packed full of factual information. Although I find this part very interesting, it is not a part to read when you are tired as there is so much information in text and not a lot of illustrations.
I am not sure how much I originally paid for this book though Amazon now have it for £6.90. I also found a copy on Ebay starting at £0.99p.
This is a great book, and goodness knows why it was hidden up in our attic (though that could be to do with the fact we have loads of books and not enough space!).
The Atlas of the Prehistoric World is just over a decade old now, having first appeared in 1999, and doesn't seem to have spawned a more recent edition, yet it doesn't look its age. A combination of the Discovery Channel's presentational ability and author Douglas Palmer's way with words make it a very attractive book. It's one that, despite the inevitable advance of scientific research in the intervening years (you won't find Homo floriensis - the so-called "Hobbits" - in this book), remains an excellent volume to keep close a hand whether for actual reference use or simply to enjoy flicking through.
Although it is not actually published by Dorling Kindersley, The Atlas of the Prehistoric World very much has that feel to it, with large, clear pages and a bright design utilising plenty of white space, as well as lots of very colourful (but usually also very clear) illustrations. My favourite is an extended sequence near the beginning of the book showing the progression of continental drift over the last 600 million years. Usually these things show a couple of stages only, but not here: there are more than a dozen, allowing the reader to see the subtle but important changes between, say, the early and late Cretaceous. There's a handy timeline at the top of each page to let you know where you are in prehistory.
The Atlas is divided into three main sections. The first, which consists almost entirely of the aforementioned continental maps, is called "The Changing Globe". Then we move on to "Ancient Worlds", which provides a chronological overview of the prehistoric age. There is a strong emphasis on life, and there are heaps of facts about, and drawings of, animals and plants. The dinosaurs are there, of course, and so they should be - but they're not allowed to push out the likes of the East Kirkton tetrapods (early land vertebrates) or the emergence of mammals; there's a interesting page on marsupials, for instance.
Finally there's the "Earth Fact File", which may have a rather dry-sounding title - and which does admittedly have lots of text and only small monochrome illustrations - but which is absolutely packed with information. It's not always arranged in quite the most easily found fashion (although, to be fair, this book does have a very good index) but if you want to read a short but clear explanation of amino acid racemisation (and who doesn't?) then this is the part of the book for you. There's even a list of geological controversies, covering things like Wegener's theory of continental drift. I'm not a specialist in prehistoric studies, but I didn't notice any factual errors.
The book's American origins don't show through to any irritating degree (and, thankfully, no space is wasted on so-called "intelligent design") and spellings are in British English. However, measurements are given with metric values relegated to brackets, which jars a bit in a book on a scientific subject. "0.4 inches (1 centimetre)" does look pretty strange! On a practical note, it's quite a heavy book; not quite coffee-table material, but getting on that way, and it's more a home reference than something to read on the train. Allowing for postage costs, you can pick up the Atlas for about £10 via Amazon Marketplace, and it's well worth the money.