A new web mapping resource launched today that is designed to provide free vector and raster map data specifically for the use of cartographers. Natural Earth is an effort of volunteers that are supported by the North American Cartographic Information Society, with assistance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison cartography lab, Florida State University and others.
The site makes freely available both vector and raster map data at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales. The stated goals are to provide cartographers with easily accessible data for small-scale world, regional and country maps, and to improve overall geographic literacy. In addition to datasets, the site has a map gallery where you can download high-resolution artwork that you can build upon, including: Natural Earth with colors based on land cover (above image), Natural Earth with shaded relief, Natural Earth with shaded relief and water, and Natural Earth with shaded relief and drainages.
Read more about the details behind the datasets on the Natural Earth blog.