The first world atlas to be published was the Theatrum orbis terrarum (Theatre of the world) in 1570. The Flemish cartographer, Abraham Ortelius’ orignal collection was in Latin and contained 70 maps on 53 pages. Between 1570-1612, numerous updated editions were published including those in six other languages: German, Dutch, French, Spanish, English and Italian.
Although the word ‘atlas’ here is retrospective (i.e it did not exist as a term in Ortelius’ time), the collection was the first time maps had been presented in this way.
NB – the lower case letters for the orbis terrarum are correct (see Britannica Macro Encyclopedia).
Source: P. 54, Geographical magazine, July 2005. http://www.artelino.com/articles/abraham_ortelius.asp http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/gnrlort.html