The acronym IATO refers to Italian Atlas to Order. It is a modern term for a bundle of maps bound together, often in a flexible binding and dating mostly between 1550 and 1570. It is a precursor of the Atlas as we know it, the first atlas being the “Theatrum Orbis Terrarum” of Abraham Ortelius in 1570. Its content of maps varied in numbers and selection according to preference and financial status. It is often referred to as Lafreri-atlas because Antonio Lafreri is known to have produced these map bundles in Rome at that time.
The Royal Archaeological Society of the Land van Waas in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium is the owner of IATO-Atlas 408. It is one of the about 60 remaining IATO atlases in the world and the only one in Belgium. Because it was in bad shape it was conserved and restored by us in 1994. Because the maps still are subject to study and handling, and the original binding is part of the threat to the survival of the atlas, the maps were mounted in acid-free board an boxed in ten acid-free boxes. However the original state has been documented thoroughly and at any stage the maps can be brought back into the original binding.