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So I'm not looking at an Atlas or a Compendium or a Travel Guide - I'm picturing those children's books (though doesn't need to be children's) just titled things like "Nigeria" or "Learning About Fiji", etc.

Basically a non-fiction book that contains a basic outline of a country, its people, languages, maps, history, celebrities and interesting trivia, etc.

My efforts on google for "biography of a country", "alternative to atlas", etc have not been fruitful. Thesaurus just offers things like "directory" (too vague without a qualifier), "guide" (same), "annals" (would be fun to use but not the correct meaning here). Wanting specifically a word that means "book of a country".

The specific reason is that I have a small library with a collection of these books for both adults and children from various publishers and we need a name for it - not just "exploring the world" or something, but a succinct one-word name for the type of book we're referencing whether for children or adults...because frankly if there's some archaic or underused word for these types of books...we want to give it exposure. "Oh, have you checked the section with all the ethnobiblios?" or whatever.

2 Answers 2

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Such a book is called a chorography. (Not to be confused with choreography.) As Wikipedia explains:

The term also came to be used, however, for written descriptions of regions. These regions were extensively visited by the writer, who then combined local topographical description, summaries of the historical sources, and local knowledge and stories, into a text. [...] Peter Heylin in 1652 defined chorography as "the exact description of some Kingdom, Countrey, or particular Province of the same", and gave as examples Pausanias's Description of Greece (2nd century AD); Camden's Britannia (1586); Lodovico Guicciardini's Descrittione di tutti i Paesi Bassi (1567) (on the Low Countries); and Leandro Alberti's Descrizione d'Italia (1550).

TfD defines it more generally in this sense as:

a systematic description and analysis of a region

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  • Much thanks, that's almost perfect for our needs - and it taught us a new word at the same time! I'm assuming the singular noun for the book would be "chorograph" - a study in chorography...but oddly enough a "chorograph" is apparently a device for drawing triangles and never used to refer to such a book.
    – Al Jebra
    Commented Feb 25, 2023 at 6:00
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    @AlJebra It works like the word "biography," which can refer either to the general field of writing about people's lives or to a specific written work.
    – alphabet
    Commented Feb 25, 2023 at 6:14
  • "Chorography, as defined by Ptolemy in 149 AD, is a form of visual literacy qualitatively describing the inherent attributes of place and region. Ptolemy categorically stated chorography could only be rendered by a skilled artist, designating chorography to be a pictorial representation rather than written text. "brill.com/display/book/edcoll/9781848880078/BP000016.xml Not really the right word IMO.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Feb 25, 2023 at 19:24
  • @PhilSweet That was the earlier meaning, referring to cartography and physical geography. But as the Wiki article linked above states, the usage has expanded to cover works exactly like the ones the OP cites.
    – alphabet
    Commented Feb 25, 2023 at 20:13
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There isn't such a word as far as I know. Not every concept has a word coined for it. The term, biography of a nation can serve as a substitute. I don't know of anyone that has used it but Karen Armstrong wrote, The Bible: A Biography - a similar use.

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    The OP specifically asks for any word, even an obscure, obsolete one with the express purpose of popularizing it, that means what they want. Saying "it doesn't exist" because you haven't come across it doesn't cut it, especially since a word does, in fact, turn out to exist. If you had made a good faith effort to find a word, or the OP had stipulated they wanted a popular or easily recognized word - or simply didn't stipulate that they didn't - then you would have a case, and might not have gotten downvoted (it wasn't me, as you do make a valid point - not every concept has a word)
    – No Name
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 9:12

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