Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Atlas.

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
King of Maurita’nia in Africa, fabled to have supported the world upon his shoulders. Of course, the tale is merely a poetical way of saying that the Atlas mountains prop up the heavens, because they are so lofty. We call a book of maps an “Atlas,” because it contains or holds the world. The word was first employed in this sense by Merca’tor, and the title-page of his collection of maps had the figure of Atlas with the world on his back.   1
“Bid Atlas, propping heaven, as poets feign,
His subterranean wonders spread!”
Thomson: Autumn, 797–8.



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