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The Book as Knowledge: Social Sciences

Social sciences are disciplines that explore human nature. Some areas like history and linguistics overlap with humanities.

This page includes anthropology and archaeology; economics; gender and sexuality; geography; law and political science; psychology; and sociology.

Anthropology and Archaeology

Anthropology and Archaeology both involve the study of human activity.

Americana are books written about the Americas. From stories of Native Americans to the plight of the buffalo, these books reflect the history, geography, and cultural heritage of the North, South, and Central America.

America's Ancient Treasures by Franklin Folsom was published by Rand McNally in 1971.

The Cahokia Atlas (1989) by Melvin L. Fowler is an historical atlas of Cahokia Archaeology


adamsScottish economist Adam Smith (1723-1790) wrote An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Published in 1776, it is a work in classical economics describing how a nation's wealth is built touching on topics like division of labor and free markets. According to Downs (2004, 28), The Wealth of Nations was written at a time when England was ready to expand the commercial and industrial economy.

Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) published An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798. An economist, he was concerned with population growth and stressed that sooner or later a population will face famine and disease. His book impacted the thinking of people like Charles Darwin and Russel Wallace.

British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) argued for peace in his book The Economic Consequences of the Peace published in 1919. The book was a bestseller worldwide helping to consolidate American public opinion and promote involvement in the League of Nations.

Gender and Sexuality Studies

bettyThe Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) written by British women's rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) is known as the first feminist text. Written in response to those that felt that women shouldn't be educated, the work argued the importance of human respect for all.

Betty Friedan (1921-2006) published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. Sparking a second wave of feminism in the United States, the book shared the results of her research on the widespread unhappiness of women in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The image on the left is the cover to The Feminine Mystique.

Written in 1949, The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) explores the treatment of women throughout history. The book marked the start of a second wave of feminism.

The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort (1972) has sold over 10 million copies.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray has sold more the 50 million copies.


From atlas and gazetteers to travel books, the area of geography has an interesting history.

The image below shows a folded map of Venice from the 15th century from Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam.

wide map


Atlas and Map Books

Although maps had been produced since ancient times, it wasn't until the printing press that they could be mass produced.

During the late 16th and early 17th century, cartography was growing in popularity. This trend is connected with the time period known as the Age of Exploration. European cartographers drew maps based on observations made by explorers and new surveying techniques. In the late 16th century, these collections of maps were known as caertboeck, map books or chart books.

Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia was a popular cartographic publication during the 15th and early 16th centuries. By tracing different versions of this work, it's possible see changes that resulted from explorers. For instance the voyages of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and Amerigo Vespucci all impacted maps produced in the 16th century.

The image below by Johann Ruysch shows the new world view in a 1507 reprinting of Geographia.


The image below by Martin Waldseemüller shows the continents of North and South America in a 1513 edition of Ptolemy's Geographia.

map 1513

Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594) was a cartographer best known for his world maps. Mercator was the first to use the term atlas for a collection of map in the late 16th century. It caught on in the 17th century. Mercator encouraged Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) to compile the first modern atlas in 1570. Titled Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the atlas contained 70 maps. Mercator published his own atlas in 1578.

The image below is the Ortelius World Map from 1570.

world map

The first printed sea atlas also known as a nautical atlas was published by Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer (c. 1533-1606) in 1584. Titled Spieghel der Zeevaerdt or Mariner's Mirror, the chart book included both nautical charts and sailing navigation instructions for the coastal waters of Europe. The book was a success and a second part was published in 1585.

The image below shows a sea map of Portugal from Mariner's Mirror.


Cornelis Claesz was a publisher in Amsterdam. He was noted for publishing atlas and travel journals. Willem Barentsz (c. 1560-1597) was a Dutch cartographer and explorer. Claesz published Barentsz's nautical atlas in 1595.

The image below by Cornelis Claesz is from a 1598 Dutch edition.


Since the 16th century, the plans of private estates, towns, and cities have been bound into books by people like topographer Georg Braun (1541-1622). In Civitates orbis terrarum (1572-1617), Braun provided information and a bird's-eye view of major cities around the world.

The image below shows the city of Zurich.


Pieter van den Keere (1571- c. 1646) was a Dutch publisher of maps and globes. He produced a series of 44 plates for the British Isles that were produced in a 1617 edition of Britannia of William Camden by Willem Blaeu. They were later produced in a miniature version in what became known as a "miniature speed atlas".

The image below shows a map of Lincolnshire from a miniature speed atlas from the 17th century.


Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) was a publisher of atlases along with other works. Atlas Novus was published in 1635. A later version Atlas Maior was published in volumes starting in 1645 and ultimately contained 594 maps. It was the most expansive book published in the 17th century.

The image below left is the title page from Atlas Novus (1645) and the image on the right shows a page from Atlas Maior (1655).

bleauatlas maior

A Description of the Sea Coasts (1690) by William Hackes is also known as the "Buccaneer's Atlas". This work incorporates Spanish charts captured by Bartholomew Sharpe, an English privateer.

The image below shows Bombay from A Description of the Sea Coasts.


During the 18th century, the accuracy of maps increased. French geographers focused on the scientific aspects of cartography using original surveys from explorers and missionaries to enhance their works.

Atlas Universel was published in 1757 by Gilles Robert de Vaugondy (1688-1766) and his son Didier. They combined older sources with new techniques in surveying to create accurate latitude and longitude on their maps. Like Ortelius and Mercator, their maps were well sourced.

The image below by Robert de Vaugondy (1750) is titled Amérique Septentrionale.

us map

A pocket atlas is an atlas of printed maps small enough to fit into a pocket. Intended for travel, these books often contained fold-out maps. Mathew Carey (1760-1839) was a Philadelphia publisher who produced the first pocket atlas in 1796. Titled Carey's American Pocket Atlas (1801) it contained 19 maps including the United States and each state along with descriptions.

The images below show Carey's American Pocket Atlas (1801).

pocket atlasmassachusetts

Celestial or star atlas were in demand in the 17th and 18th centuries. The early guides were intended for astronomers. In 1822, Alexander Jamieson published A Celestial Atlas containing 30 maps.

The image below is from A Celestial Atlas.


During the late 18th and early 19th century, many sea atlases were produced based on the voyages of James Cook, Charles Wilkes, and others.

In the early 19th century, specialty atlas were introduced. For instance the Atlas Designed to Illustrate the Abridgment of University Geography: Modern & Ancient by Adrian Balbi and Comprehensive Atlas: Geographical, Historical, & Commercial (1835) by Thomas Gamaliel Bradford (1802-1887) include a wide range of topics.

The image below left shows the vegetation at various elevations and the lengths of rivers around the world. The image below right shows the relative height of buildings around the world. Both are from the Comprehensive Atlas.


A historical atlas is a book using maps to trace changes over time. While they are called atlas, they often contain large sections of text. In many cases, they also include timelines and other visual elements.

Illustrated historical atlas became popular in the second half of the 19th century. For instance Andreas & Baskin published the Illustrated Historical Atlas of Indiana and individual atlas for counties like An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Noble County Indiana.

The image below shows the title page, map, and images of Noble County Indiana.

noblenoble cocourthouse

Alfred T. Andreas (1839-1900) was a pioneer in the development of illustrated county and state atlases that became popular in the second half of the 19th century. He began by publishing illustrated historical atlas of Illinois including An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Hancock County, Illinois (1874). In 1875 he published the Illustrated Historical Atlas of Iowa (1875). His books often included panoramic maps and town scenes in addition to traditional maps.

The image below left is from the An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Hancock County, Illinois (1874). The image below right from the Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa shows Council Bluffs, Iowa.

hancockcouncil bluffs

In addition to historical atlas, archaeological atlas were also produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Archeological Atlas of Ohio by William Corless Mills (1860-1928) shows the locations of prehistoric remains, Indian towns, and Indian trails.

The image below shows a map of the distribution of Indian earthworks in Ohio reflecting the high Indian occupation of the area.

ohio map

In 1903 the third edition of the Atlas to the Historical Geography of Europe by Edward A. Freeman was published including a series of maps showing Europe during different time periods.

The image below shows Greece and the Greek Colonies.


Many publishers found that reprinting map collections or map articles published in newspapers and magazines could be lucrative. For instance, Harper's Atlas of American History (1920) by Dixon Ryan Fox was reprinted from The American National Series.

The image below shows the "Distribution of American Indians" from Harper's Atlas of American History (1920).


Historical atlas were often part of a home library. For instance, The Everyman's Library published beautifully illustrated book titled A Literary and Historical Atlas of North & South America in 1911 and An Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography in 1925 and

A national atlas shows maps and information about a particular country. In the United States, the United States Government produces a public domain atlas. The first National Atlas of the United States titled Statistical Atlas of the United States Based on the Results of the Ninth Census 1870 was published in 1874 under the direction of Francis A. Walker the Superintendent of the 1870 Census. Editions were produced by Henry Gannett the Chief Geographer at both the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Geological Survey between 1874 and 1920. The next edition was produced in 1970. The current version was created in 1997.

The image below is from the 1920 Statistical Atlas of the United States. It shows the percent of increase or decrease in population by counties.


In addition to the national atlas, many government agencies have been involved with creating atlas. This was particularly true around the turn of the 20th century. The Forest Service Atlas (1908) is an example.

The images below are from the Forest Service Atlas (1908). Below left shows the location of national forests and on the right shows the income from grazing, timer, special uses, and other.

forest servicereceipts

A road atlas book containing a collection of road maps covering a specific area. Although spiral bindings are popular, lay-flat bindings are more durable.

In 1876, Rand McNally produced The Business Atlas containing maps and information related to business planning. It continues to be published today as Commercial Atlas & Marketing Guide.

Rand, McNally began creating a pocket atlas in the late 19th century.

The image below shows the title page and images from the New Pocket Atlas (1893).


The New Automobile Road Map of New York City & Vicinity (1904) published by Rand McNally was the first comprehensive road atlas.

Many types of atlas were produced in the late 19th and early 20th century. William Hughes (1817-1876) created Bible Maps, or A historical and descriptive atlas of scripture geography in 1854. The Bible Atlas; a manual of Biblical geography and history, especially prepared for the use of teachers and students of the Bible, and for Sunday school instruction, containing maps, plans, review charts, colored diagrams and illustrated with accurate views of the principal cities and localities known to Bible history (1910) by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut (1843-1930) is an example of a specialty atlas. Others include the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land (1915).

bible atlas

The Goode's School Atlas was first published in 1923. It became a standard text in high school and college geography.

Herbert Bayer (1900-1985) was a graphic designer known for his World Geo-graphic Atlas published in 1953. Published in the United States, the atlas was published distributed by the Container Corporation of America to more than 150 colleges and universities. The book was viewed as a great work of graphic design. The atlas used many new techniques such as Fuller's Dymanion map, that represents the globe on a flat plane. The atlas also incorporates infographics and foreshadows the environmental movement.

The image below by Herbert Bayer is from World Geo-graphic Atlas.


The California Water Atlas (1979) is an example of a publication printed by a state. The State of California published the book to draw attention to the "compelling water issues" facing the state.

The images below are from The California Water Atlas.


Philip's Atlas of World History (2002) is an example of a recent example of a historical atlas tracing world history through maps, photographs, and other images.

The image below is from Philip's Atlas of World History (2002).



A gazetteer is a directory or dictionary containing and index of place names including cities, towns, and geographic features that often contains maps and coordinates of these locations. This geographical directory is often used along with maps or it may contain a full set of maps. Gazetteers often contains demographic information, social statistics, and later, advertising. These books have been a valuable resource for historians studying specific places at specific time periods.

Gazetteers have existed since ancient times. John Norden (1548-1625) published the Speculum Britanniae (1596) that contained a list of place names from throughout England. John Speed (1552-1629) published the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine containing the elements of a gazetteer in 1611. In 1673 Laurence Echard published The Gazetteer's: or Newsman's Interpreter: Being a Geographical Index. Many others were produced in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The first post-revolutionary American gazetteer was Gazetteer of the United States by Joseph Scott in 1795. Jedidiah Morse published Geography Made Easy (1784), An Abridgement of American Gazetteer, and New Gazetteer of the Eastern Continent (1802).

The image below is from New Gazetteer of the Eastern Continent (1802).


The General Gazetteer: or, compendious geographical dictionary by Richard Brookes and

Throughout the 19th century, gazetteers were popular around the world particularly in Britain and the United States. They were produced for countries as well as local areas. For instance, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Devon by William White was published in 1878. The Illinois State Gazetteer and Business Directory for the Years 1864-1865 is an excellent example.


Travel Books

Travel books have been published since the 15th century. They often contain foldout maps and other images.

peregrinPublished in 1486, the Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam was written by Bernard von Breydenbach and illustrated by Reuwich. The wealthy Breydenbach brought Reuwich along on his journey to visit the Holy Lands. Erhard Reuwich was a Dutch artist who designed woodcuts and printed early books in Mainz. This book was the first printed illustrated travel book.

The book features five fold-out woodcuts including a five-foot-long panoramic view of Venice. It also includes maps and images of animals. The book became a bestseller being reprinted thirteen times over the next 30 years. First printed in German, the book was quickly translated for editions in Latin, French, Dutch, and Spanish.

The image on the right shows a page from Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam.

Cornelis de Bruijn (1652-c. 1726) published books based on his tours of Rome, Jerusalem, the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Persia, and other locations. His illustrated books contained observations about the plant, animals, architecture, and people.

The image below is of Bethlehem by Cornelis de Buruijn around 1698.


Travel guides became popular in the 19th century. Rand McNally was known for publishing highly illustrated handbooks, atlas, and directories. Rand, McNally & Co.'s Pictorial Guide to Chicago: What to See and How to See It (1886) provides detailed information and illustrations for those interested in visiting Chicago.

The Handbook of the World's Columbian Exposition (1893) published by Rand, McNally & Co.'s contained maps, plans, and illustrations related to the Chicago world fair.



Law and Political Science

spiritWhile some books dealing with the topic of political science focus on the theoretical aspects of the field. Others were written with social change in mind. According to Downs (2004, 28), The Prince (1532) by Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) "was written for the express purpose of freeing his beloved Italy from foreign oppression".

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) published Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil in 1651. Focusing on the structure of society, it's an early example of social contract theory.

Earlier works often lay the foundation for future generations of writers and philosophers. For instance, the works of Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbs influenced a generation of twentieth-century Fascists.

The Spirit of Laws by Charles de Secondat, Montesquieu (1689-1755) was published in 1748. A treatise on political theory, the book was originally published anonymously to avoid censorship. Although it was added to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, it was widely read. Montesquieu spent 21 years researching the book that focused on a wide range of topics including law, society, and anthropology.

The image on the right is the title page to The Spirit of Laws.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) published Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754) and On the Social Contract (1762). These books stressed the importance of social and political structures that support the will of the people.

America was ready for primed a revolution when Common Sense (1776) was published by Thomas Paine (1737-1809). In The Rights of Man (1791), Paine wrote a defense of the French Revolution.

The Federalist (1788) by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay was a compilation of 85 articles and essays plus eight others published to promote ratification of the United States Constitution.

John Stuart Mills (1806-1873) wrote On Liberty, Considerations on Representative Government, and Utilitarianism (1859) to apply his ethical system of utilitarianism to society and the government.

Alexis de Tocquerville (1805-1859) published Democracy in America in two volumes in 1835 and 1840. This French text focuses on the seven hundred years leading up to the democratic revolution. The author described the reasons he thought democracy was succeeding in the United States while it was failing elsewhere.

While Civil Disobedience (1849) by Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) reflected the time period when it was written, its impact continued to be felt by future generations in the form of the work by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) along with Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) wrote Communist Manifesto in 1848 focusing on class struggle, the problems with capitalism and the potential of communism. He also wrote Das Kapital (1867) against the poor working conditions in English factories during the mid-nineteenth century. Marx used this as a real-world example readers could see around them. However the true impact of the book wasn't felt until many years later when it influenced another generation of writers like Vladimir Lenin's The State and Revolution (1917) and Hitler's Mein Kampf (1925/26).

Although Influence of Sea Power Upon History (1890) by Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914) didn't cause the global naval military race of the turn of the twentieth century, it certainly provided fuel for national discussions and pressure to act.

Lewis Corey (1892-1953) was a founding member of the American Communist Party and published The Decline of American Capitalism in 1934 and The Crisis of the Middle Class in 1935. He was viewed as an intellectual who was later a target during the McCarthy period.

Guerilla Warfare (1961) by Ernesto Che Guevara (1928-1967) was written as a guidebook for the oppressed of the world who wished to stage a revolt. It became an instruction manual used by thousands living in oppression.

Law Books

A law book is a book containing legal opinions, case law, or government regulations.

To learn about law dictionaries, go to Law Dictionary Collection from Tarlton Law Library.

To learn about rare books associated with law, go to Boston College Law and Yale Law School.

Read ONE of the following three articles on law books:
Cohen, Morris L. (2003). An historical overview of American law publishing. International Journal of Legal Information, 31, 168-178. IUPUI students can view the article online.
Hoeflich, M. H. (1998). Legal history and the history of the book: variations on a theme. University of Kansas Law Review, 46, 415-431. IUPUI students can view the article online.
Parrish, Jenni (1979). Law books and legal publishing in America, 1760-1840. Law Library Journal, 72, 355-452. IUPUI students can view the article online.


The Principles of Psychology by William James (1842-1910) was published in 1890. Trained as a physician, he was the first professor to offer a course in psychology in the United States. His methods included analysis, introspection, experiment, and comparison.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) published Interpretation of Dreams in 1899. An Austrian neurologist, he was the founder of psychoanalysis.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) wrote Psychological Types in 1921. Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology. His book categorized people by psychological types.

In Beyond Freedom and Dignity published in 1971, American psychologist B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) argued that belief in free will and individual moral autonomy inhibits the ability to modify behavior members of society for the better.

Educational Psychology

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) wrote Emile: or, On Education (1762). This treatise focused on the importance of educating the whole person. The book inspired a new educational system during the French Revolution.

John Dewey (1859-1952) published How We Think (1910), Art as Experience (1934), and Experience and Education (1938) among many other books on education and social reform. He advocated progress education and liberalism.



The Course in Positivist Philosophy by Auguste Comte (1798-1857) wrote a series of texts published between 1830 and 1842. Comte is known as the founder of sociology. These works provided the basis for positivism.

German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920), published a number of books including The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in 1905 and other works dealing with economic sociology and the sociology of religion.

Italian sociologist and economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) published The Mind and Society in 1916. The book explored the concept of the elite social class.



Cohen, Morris L. (2003). An historical overview of American law publishing. International Journal of Legal Information, 31, 168-178.

Cormack, Bradin & Mazzio, Carla (2005). Book Use, Book Theory: 1500-1700. Available:

Darnton, Robert (Summer 1982). What is the history of books? Daedalus, 111, 65-83.

Downs, Robert Bingham (2004). Books the Changed the World. Penguin.

Hoeflich, M. H. (1998). Legal history and the history of the book: variations on a theme. University of Kansas Law Review, 46, 415-431.

Keighren, Innes M. (2010). Bringing Geography to Book: Ellen Semple and the Reception of Geographical Knowledge. I.B. Tauris.

Lounsberry, Barbara (1990). The Art of Fact: Contemporary Artists of Nonfiction. Greenwood Press.

Parrish, Jenni (1979). Law books and legal publishing in America, 1760-1840. Law Library Journal, 72, 355-452.


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