How to Make an Atlas More Interesting With Postcards

Updated on December 11, 2017
SheilaMilne profile image

I have been collecting postcards all my life as my father did before me. I now have many thousands of them, both vintage and modern.

Illustrating an Atlas Using Postcards

I wanted to find a way to introduce my granddaughter to the elements of geography as well as provide some entertainment, and I hit upon the idea of an illustrated atlas. Obviously you can buy illustrated atlases but it's much more fun, and incidentally more instructive, to make your own. It's a great occupation for a winter's afternoon.

I thought about what to use for illustration but of course I have the ideal resource: postcards! And plenty of them. There is an added benefit too because it's yet another way of storing/displaying your postcards. In effect, you are making yourself a postcard album, arranged geographically. However, you could also use pictures you cut out of magazines or photos you have available for this project. As someone mentioned in a comment, tourist brochures would provide great photos.

The photos in this article are all my own.

Choosing the Atlas

At first I was going to pick up the first second hand atlas I could find locally so I went touring around all the local charity and secondhand shops. I looked through so many atlases that I feel I've become an expert!

You need one which isn't too big. If it goes into too much detail for each country, it might be difficult to find illustrations relevant to each page. The one I chose is very roughly 30 cm by 20 cm (or 12 inches by 9 inches). Not every country has a page to itself and while maybe that would have been better, I had to go with what I could find.

In the end the most important thing, though, was the binding. A hard bound book would be very inflexible and wouldn't accommodate very many postcards. Even a soft back, although it would bulge more easily, still wouldn't allow for very many inserts before it would bulge out of shape and never close. I decided a spiral bound one would be ideal and that's what I used. The spiral gives a great deal of flexibility.

Spiral bound atlas
Spiral bound atlas

Preparing the Atlas

As well as the spiral giving more flexibility for card (or picture) inserts, it is easy to tear out unwanted pages. It dawned on me that there is a large index at the end and that in this case, for my purposes, it really isn't a necessity. So I decided that I would tear it out.

It hurts me to mutilate a book but I decided it was for the greater good. As you can see, here is another advantage of having a spiral binding, because it's very easy to remove the pages without leaving any trace of the dreadful deed. It's quite a simple matter to pull out the pages, but I'd advise you to pull just a few at a time. If you try to pull too many at once, you are in danger of bending the spiral and it's virtually impossible to get it back into shape.

Atlas index
Atlas index

A Few Bits and Pieces You Will Need

You could of course attach the cards directly on to the pages but I prefer to use plastic protectors for the cards. It saves the cards from being damaged and it allows you to change them from time to time if you feel like it.

These, some sticking tape, a pair of scissors, are really all you need. This is a simple project!

Ultra Pro Gaming Generic 8232182321, Multi, One Size
Ultra Pro Gaming Generic 8232182321, Multi, One Size
This is a fairly large size. I suggest you prepare yourself with a variety of sizes so that you can use different sizes of pictures. They really do look better if the postcard or photo fits into the sleeve quite neatly.

Choosing Your Postcards

This is the fun bit! You need to choose appropriate cards for each page. It is also the most time consuming part of the process, for me at least, because you discover cards/pictures/photos you had forgotten about. It's a slow process but also very enjoyable. Then there is the great debate about which images are going to look best or give the most typical impressions of the country in question.

Personally I believe your best choice is to use single views even though I know many people do like multiviews. I don't know if it is because my eyesight isn't what it used to be, but I find it hard to look at several small pictures on one card.

You can go on debating which to choose almost indefinitely so this is one of the reasons I advocate using plastic envelopes for the cards, so that you can switch them around to your heart's content if you change your mind later on..

Assembling the Cards

Click thumbnail to view full-size

For myself I found it easier to attach the cards (or the plastic sleeves if you are using them) to the outer edge of the pages but if your fingers are more nimble than mine, I dare say you could also attach them to the inner edge. You could alternate sides of course and so make room for more cards by avoiding having the extra thickness all in one area.

The idea is to allow postcards to be flipped over. This can be so that you can see the stamps or read the message as well as the image. Alternatively you could use twice as many cards by inserting them facing in opposite directions in the protective sleeves. If you are using photos or other images maybe cut from magazines, it may well be better to insert them back-to-back because the other side will be blank in the case of photos, or have unrelated text if from a magazine..

Finding, selecting and arranging the cards in the correct position is fascinating and really very educational. I learnt a lot in the time I spent putting this together, not least where countries are in relation to each other. I may have had a vague idea before I tried this project, but I'm slightly ashamed to admit I wasn't always right!

Side on View

You can see here how the atlas looks with only a few postcards inserted. The pages are starting to separate and make the cover bulge. You can imagine how much fuller it's going to get so you really do need to have the flexibility of spiral binding and the extra space left by removing index or other superfluous pages.

Finding a Suitable Atlas

I spent longer than I should trying to find the right atlas until I thought of eBay and that is exactly where I found exactly what I needed. It's well worth a look.

Of course it doesn't have to be a world atlas. It just depends on what illustrations you want to use and what you have available.

© 2014 SheilaMilne

Have You Ever Made Anything Like This? Do You Have Any Thoughts on the Process or Useful Tips?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 

      5 years ago from Lakewood New York

      What a fun way for kids to learn and explore. Thanks for your very creative idea :)

    • GonnaFly profile image


      5 years ago from Australia

      This looks like it would be an excellent idea for homeschoolers. I would have loved to do this with my children, but they've finished their homeschooling now.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      No, but I wish my parent or grandparent had devised such a great exercise to help me learn about the world! Great idea.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      What a fun idea. I love to travel and i collect postcards. I think I will give this one a try.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @StrongMay: Actually, I have a collection of maps from the places I've been. Maybe I can utilize those!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I love this idea! I like to travel a lot and send postcards to family, but now you've inspired me to pick some up for myself!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      A great idea. You might also include some pictures cut out of tourist brochures if you aren't interested in keeping them. They could be glued onto some of the atlas pages.

    • Scott A Butler profile image

      Scott A. Butler 

      5 years ago from England

      This looks incredibly fun. Much more fun than my scrabble coasters. Thank you for sharing this lens. :)

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      5 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      What a fun and clever idea! I bet your granddaughter loved it. Just looking at all the photos would no doubt entertain. Enjoyed this very much.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)