On The Map

Author of Just My Type , Simon Garfield, has turned his attention from letters to co-ordinates, with new book On the Map.

On The Map book cover
On The Map book cover

Uncovering ‘Why the World Looks the Way it Does’, as the title promises, the cartographically revelatory tome aims to expose how maps make and shape our history, through examples including the medieval Mappa Mundi, treasure maps, explorers’ maps and the much-imitated London tube map.

1908 London Tube Map
1908 London Tube Map

‘The first map I can remember using was a classic – the London Underground map. I used it on my journey to school, and as this only involved a single stop I often fantasised about visiting such exotic locations as Ruislip Gardens and Theydon Bois’, says Garfield.

‘Maps have been an integral part of my life ever since, and in On the Map I’ve tried to show how this has really been the case for all of us. My favourite map is the one they show on seat-backs on flights, that little on-screen airplane hopefully heading somewhere warm.’

Alongside such sweet anecdotes, the book is full of fascinating facts of just the sort that will undoubtedly impress everyone you care to regale them to. One of our favourites is about the London A-Z street-map.

1936 London A-Z
1936 London A-Z

To compile the book, creator Phyllis Pearsall placed 23,000 cards of London Streets into alphabetical order, hence the title. Which isn’t too exciting in itself, but at one point she accidently lost all the Ts out of her office window. She did redo them, but those living in say, Tottenham of Tufnell Park or Tooting must have felt pretty disorientated for a while.

Ebstorf dragons
Ebstorf dragons

We’re also rather taken with the map of ‘early dragon activity’, as shown on a thirteenth-century Ebstorf map; though we see the history of maps traced right up to the present day role of smartphone maps and Sat Nav in ‘shaping our brains.’

Beck Circuit Diagram
Beck Circuit Diagram

On the Map is published by Profile Books on 4 October priced £16.99

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