Cartographers try to keep up with coup

September 15, 1991|By Glenn Kessler | Glenn Kessler,Newsday

Mapmakers of the world, unite!

Such might be the cartographer's lament in these turbulent times. In the space of two days recently, a city of 5 million people changed its name and three new countries were recognized. Who knows what else might happen this week -- or next?

Rand McNally, the world's largest independent mapmaker, stopped the presses on its newest atlas.

The latest atlas of Hammond Inc., alas, was already done, but the company is not ripping up the pages. Instead, it will send out the books with a supplement to update them.

Rand McNally of Skokie, Ill., decided to stop printing its "New Cosmopolitan World Atlas" Aug. 26 because it was especially proud of this year's volume. "It was a completely new design, with new maps," said Bonnie Ryan, a spokeswoman. "Just as we started printing, the coup took place."

When the presses started rolling again on the afternoon of Sept. 9, the newly independent countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were surrounded by differently colored borders, signifying their status as sovereign nations separate from the Soviet Union. Leningrad, meanwhile, will be indicated both by that name and as St. Petersburg.

Hammond had always hedged its bets by placing the three Baltic republics in a separate box, complete with their flags and a note explaining that the United States did not recognize their incorporation into the Soviet Union.

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