QUESTIONS & ANSWERS WITH GORDON CHEERS, CREATOR OF EARTH
Where does your interest in maps and the globe stem from?
When I worked for Penguin over 20 years ago, we published a large book called Explore Australia (a title that was scattered throughout with many maps) and I always wondered what a book with the same concept would look like on the whole Earth.
How did the idea for EARTH come about (and when)?
All those years ago, I tried to convince Penguin and then other publishers to produce a book the size of EARTH. Each of those publishers thought it would be too expensive to produce, and it wasn’t until 2005, when I set up my own company Millennium House that we were able to bring this long-held ambition to fruition.
Why is it such an important and relevant publication?
EARTH has the largest maps of any atlas ever published, and because the maps are so large, they can be more detailed than any atlas ever published. Mixing country text, photos and maps at this size makes EARTH a unique publication, and I think, for the reader, makes it possible to dream of travelling the world. In fact, one of the first images in Earth shows two people holding hands and we like to think of this as us taking the reader by the hand on a journey around the world.
How difficult was the printing process? How long did it take?
There were all kinds of unexpected problems, and a great number of test versions before we achieved the magnificent final version. We started off using standard paper but found that the pages kept ripping because the book size was so large. As we kept testing the book, we kept increasing the thickness of the paper until it was the right weight. This meant that the cover then also had to be increased in thickness and strength to cope with the weight of the paper. We then had to add metal corners to the cover to stop these getting bent, and finally had to add a leather cover for durability. Lastly, we wanted a book that would survive for future generations and so we gilded the edges of the pages in silver. This gilding prevents air getting in and ensures that our EARTH will still be around 500 years from now. As for how long did it take over 150 people worked on this project many for more than 6 months, so if you added up all their time, it would amount to over 60 years... Fortunately the task was divided and we had more than 60 cartographers, over 55 writers and 40 editors prepared to dedicate a part of their life to EARTH.
Why did you decide to make it only a limited edition publication?
I believe there are three things that will guarantee the survival of a book that it is well respected, well produced, and cherished. If EARTH uses the best team of writers, cartographers and editors, and it is printed to last more than half a century, and lastly, as a limited edition it becomes cherished, then it is guaranteed that EARTH will be around 500 years from now.
What are your plans for future publications?
We certainly won’t be producing any more big books as we have all now achieved the pinnacle of our careers.
What is your favourite photograph in the publication, and why?
I am torn between two images the image of the tribal New Guinean men in traditional dress and the African Himba mother and her children. As an Australian, I find each of these images so exotic and evocative of different cultures that they make me want to learn more about the world we live in and travel to destinations near and far.
Judging from the photographs in EARTH, what are some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues
Our maps of Antarctica and the Arctic show the reduced area of ice at the poles. In EARTH, we have sections on Climate Change, Natural Hazards, and Precipitation with their complementary imagesthese say as much about climate change as the text.
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Gordon Cheers, Publisher of Earth, talks about it’s creation
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